Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board endorses November ballot measures

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At its regular meeting Monday, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board endorsed a “Yes” vote on November ballot Measure U1, which would increase taxes to fund city efforts for increased affordable housing.

Additionally, the board endorsed a “No” vote on competing Measure DD.  Both measures were proposed to raise taxes for landlords of multiple rental units, but while Measure DD raises the gross receipts tax from 1.081 percent to 1.5 percent, Measure U1 raises it to 2.88 percent.

“There has been some confusion,” said rent board Commissioner Asa Dodsworth. “There is absolutely no question that it will raise double, perhaps closer to triple than what Measure DD will raise.”

Commissioner Judy Hunt noted the strains the taxes could place on landlords and asked the board to consider the difference between the large landlords making huge profits and those struggling.

But Jesse Townley, chair of the rent board, noted in response that Measure U1 exempts landlords of Section 8 housing, Shelter Plus Care units and rent-controlled units from the tax increase, as opposed to Measure DD, which contains no exemptions.

The motion passed 8 to 1 with Hunt opposing.

Among other items, the board also endorsed a “Yes” vote on Measure AA, which would prevent owner move-in evictions of families with children during the academic school year and require a relocation assistance payment for all owner move-in evictions.

The relocation assistance payment would be set at $15,000, with an additional $5,000 added on for evictions of those who are elderly, disabled or low-income, as well as families with minor children and tenants who have been living in a unit before 1999.

It also passed a motion to increase funding for the Eviction Defense Center and the East Bay Community Law Center, in response to rising demand of their services due to an increase in eviction cases. The motion included contract increases of $27,250 for the Eviction Defense Center and $15,000 for the East Bay Community Law Center.

“There’s a whole bunch of ways in which your extra support will go towards furthering our mission of keeping Berkeley tenants — the most vulnerable Berkeley tenants — in their homes,” said Marc Janowitz, an attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center.

The rent board also approved a request to Berkeley City Council to amend a section of Berkeley’s Municipal Code pertaining to relocation for tenants with disabilities.

When a building operator cannot repair an elevator malfunction within 24 hours of notice, they must provide alternative housing to tenants physically unable to use stairs. The current cost of the temporary housing to the building operator cannot exceed $75 per day or a $750 maximum.

According to Commissioner Paola Laverde, with this limit, temporary housing at its current rate can only be provided for about four nights. The motion passed unanimously and will be sent to City Council for review.

Contact Edward Booth at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.