On Sunday evening, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board celebrated 40 years of rent control and held a convention for pro-tenant candidates running for rent board commissioner positions.
Several people who have been involved with the rent board spoke about the history of rent control in the city, including Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Additionally, 13 candidates are running to be on the pro-tenant slate for the commissioner position, with each stating their case to Berkeley residents as well as past and current members of the board during the event.
“Our housing crisis has turned into a housing emergency,” Arreguín said during the event. “Now is the time for the rent board to lead.”
Arreguín added that housing should be considered a human right.
Max Anderson, a former City Council member, spoke about the history of Berkeley’s rent control and discussed how there is momentum for change to have more affordable housing.
“We have to seize this moment; otherwise, the moment will pass, and we will have lost the opportunity to do something,” Anderson said during the event.
The 13 prospects for rent board commissioner introduced themselves to the convention.
Some candidates have experienced housing insecurity and agreed on the need for affordable and accessible housing in Berkeley.
“As a housing justice advocate, I believe my personal experience in looking for affordable housing is needed to help make housing affordable and accessible,” said candidate Dominique Walker during the event.
Walker added that homelessness in the Bay Area is increasing and she wants to challenge the “racist history” of redlining.
Candidate Thomas Lord said he was disappointed with the previous slates of progressive rent boards in their efforts to help low-income communities with housing costs.
“The so-called progressivism was supposed to help and didn’t,” Lord said during the event. “This board needs to get on the ground and talk to people who are most affected by this.”
In the Q&A portion of the event, the contenders were asked how they would approach asking public officials to support a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, or TOPA.
Most candidates agreed that community organizing and pressuring public officials to act on the tenants’ behalf are essential to passing TOPA.
“Collaborating with community groups is a must and should be prioritized,” said candidate Mari Mendonca during the event. “Officials are under pressure, and they need to be pressured more by the community.”
The candidates were also asked how they would approach rehabilitation and decarbonization of older housing units in Berkeley.
Many prospective candidates agreed that it is necessary to educate tenants on their rights and provide funding for landlords to have regular inspections on their housing units to check for any health-related issues including mold.
Voting for the new commissioner slate started July 5 and will end July 12 at midnight.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that voting information would be available on the city of Berkeley’s website. In fact, voting instructions were available on the convention website.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there was one rent board commissioner seat open. In fact, there were five seats open.