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Redwood City renters rally against steep rent increases

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Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain said Monday city staff will look into complaints by a group of residents and affordable housing advocates who say renter’s protections passed by City Council last year are insufficient.

Renters of Duane Street Apartments and their supporters rallied outside City Hall Monday before speaking out during public comment at the council meeting. They say the property’s new owners are seeking rent increases from 66 to 230 percent because renter’s protection laws have failed to protect them.

Amid an ongoing crisis in the supply of affordable housing on the Peninsula, City Council passed two ordinances last year aiming to protect renters. One of the ordinances, which took effect Jan. 1, requires landlords to provide tenants with at least a 1-year lease and prohibits rents from being increased until after the 1-year lease period ends. The ordinance offers leeway for renters and tenants who agree in writing to briefer lease terms. The second law provides relocation funds in the case of certain evictions.

On Jan. 1, tenants at the Duane Street Apartments said they were offered one year lease terms under the new ordinance, but with massive rent increases. One tenant says her rent will increase by 120 percent, from $1,040 to $2,300, if she accepts a one-year lease; or by 140 percent, from $1,040 to $2,500, if she stays month to month.

In a rally notice on the Faith In Action website, tenants complained the rent increase notices followed months of construction on vacant units at the 26-unit property.

“The laws are unfortunately so riddled with loopholes that they do not merit the name protection,” said Daniel Saver, senior housing attorney at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.   

In a statement, the property’s management company Homewood Ventures cited high property taxes and needed upgrades and repairs as reasons for the rent increase. Owners “held off as long as possible to increase rents while staying in compliance with [Redwood City’s] new ordinance,” the statement said.

Ten units with pre-existing tenants have been offered one year leases, according to Homewood Ventures. Some of those tenants haven’t received rent increases since 2014, while others have yet to see an increase during their tenancy, the company said.

“We are already in discussions with several tenants that are interested in the one year lease, and others that are inquiring about the terms and discounted pricing we are offering them for the renovated units,” the statement says. “We have also given the tenants a tiered rental increase option with 90 days instead of the required 60 days notice, should the tenant choose to stay on a month to month basis.”

Homewood Ventures says it has met with city officials regarding the buildings and plans and “will continue to work with them, as well as the tenants.”

After public comment at council Monday, Mayor Bain told renters and advocates, “we heard you.”

“We’re going to talk with our staff, take a look at our ordinances, make sure they are applied correctly, and if there are changes that need to be made we’ll take a look at those as well,” the mayor said.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include statements made by Homewood Ventures, property management company for Duane Street Apartments.

4 Comments

  1. Lol….one resident hasn’t had a rent increase in 4 years and is now shocked to be getting one? Do renters honestly think landlords are just made of some infinite pile of money? If you don’t like it, go buy a house 🤷‍♂️ YOU go take the risk of owning property

  2. Also failed to mention said tenant went without a working toilet in their unit for a year with the previous owners. We were’ given keys to empty units to use the toilet. I personally was on a walker from double knee surgery. When I woke up in the middle of the night I had to walk with my walker to the other side of the dark buiilding, go up stairs, and into a dark unit just to relieve myself. So yah… there’s way more to the story. We also don’t have legal levels of electricity, no amenities, and previous owners had our heaters on illegal timers for my entire tenancy.

    We’d get heat from 6-8 in the morning and 8-10 at night. I have RA and had flare-ups constantly from the freezing temps in my room. The city would come out and make them take the timer off. The city would leave. They would put it back on the timer right after. You can research the building and see the tenants complaining about it every year around December. Finally county came out and cited the hell out of the previous owners. But I’d like to say the original owner Mrs. Maltzer was amazing. It wasn’t until her passing that we ended up in a slumlord situation overrun with rodents and safety hazards.

    City Code Enforcement can’t let things like that slide but then when there is a new owner tell us we need to be patient because the building fell into a state of disrepair. NO. they *allowed* the building to fall into disrepair but not enforcing standard health and safety guidelines.

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