Berkeley landlords can now offer housing to people displaced by hurricanes Harvey, Irma

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Berkeley will temporarily offer housing for hurricane victims at below-market rents because of a motion passed by the Rent Stabilization Board on Monday.

Action item 6A1 allows landlords to rent to people displaced by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The item was passed, with seven board members voting in favor, while the remaining two members were absent from the meeting.

“Given the number of disaster victims displaced by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it would be helpful to give Berkeley landlords a viable option to provide temporary housing for them and still retain rights to market rate rents following the initial term,” said Jay Kelekian, executive director of the Rent Stabilization Board, in the proposal.

The item, which is now in effect, was able to pass because of Regulation 1017, which was adopted by the board after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The regulation allows landlords to open rent at a temporarily lower rate to displaced tenants.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, UC Berkeley took in about 75 college students who were displaced by the storm, allowing them to continue their studies for a semester until their schools reopened.

Item 6A1 comes at a time when the city and campus communities have been affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Some UC Berkeley students have expressed concerns for their family and friends living in the area. Recently, Berkeley Fire Department also sent some of its firefighters to Texas and Florida to help assist with relief work.

The proposal, written by Kelekian, said landlords may increase rent to the market rate at the end of the temporary agreement, so long as the agreement states the amount of rent that will be charged.

Kathryn Snowden, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, said in an email that she felt that because the city cannot properly house the homeless in the area, it is not prepared to house individuals from across the country.

“There are plenty of people who need help today who are living in tents in Berkeley and perhaps some attention should be paid to them,” Snowden said.

At the meeting, the Rent Stabilization Board also passed a motion to make a committee to create and send a letter opposing the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to a government official who has the ability to effect change.

But Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil said he disagreed with the motion because he believed it would not create real change. He suggested sending the letter to an official who can actually change the rescission.

“If we’re gonna do something symbolic, let’s do something for real,” Soto-Vigil said.

The board is scheduled to meet again Oct. 16.

Jessíca Jiménez covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.