Candidates running for the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board in the upcoming November elections gathered at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters to answer prewritten and audience questions about affordable housing and landlord-tenant relations Wednesday evening.
About 30 people attended the event at Berkeley City College and listened to responses by six candidates — Maria Poblet, Paola Laverde, Soli Alpert, James Chang, Judy Hunt and David Buchanan. They discussed issues including Berkeley’s housing crisis, homelessness and disparities between rent control prices and housing market rates.
The remaining two candidates — William “Three Hundred” Caldeira and John Selawsky — did not attend. Five of the nine positions on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board are up for grabs this November. Of the eight candidates running, four are incumbents.
“Seeing the diversity within the panel was an inspiration for me because it shows me that there are a lot of passionate people and the democratic process is alive around here,” said Berkeley resident and forum attendee David Flores.
Each candidate introduced themselves with a brief opening statement and proceeded to answer preset and audience questions posed by the League board president Adena Ishii, who moderated the forum.
Various candidates, including Laverde, emphasized housing as a “human right.” Laverde said Berkeley has enough housing to provide for the homeless if property owners would tackle the problem. She added that rent control is also needed to protect tenants.
Proposition 10 — which will undo limitations of rent control as instituted under the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act — was frequently brought up during the forum. While Chang supports Prop. 10, some candidates, including Buchanan, oppose it. If passed, it would remove restrictions placed on local governments to pass rent-control laws. Those who oppose the proposition say tenants will be forced out of their housing because of increased costs for landlords and tenants.
The candidates come from a variety of backgrounds and intend to represent various communities within the city. Alpert, a candidate and UC Berkeley student, stressed the importance of educating college students about their rights as tenants before they rent an apartment for the first time. Buchanan, on the other hand, intends to bring a landlord’s perspective to the table, if elected.
According to the city of Berkeley website, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board’s mission is to protect tenants against “unwarranted” rent hikes and evictions while also providing an equitable resolution for property owners.
This forum was also videotaped and will be available online on the League of Women Voters website for those who were unable to attend.
“More people should be interested in the rent board,” said Toni Mester, a member of the League of Women Voters. “(The) housing crisis is the biggest issue.”