The League of Women Voters of Berkeley Albany Emeryville hosted a candidacy forum Thursday for Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board candidates.
With all eight candidates in attendance, the forum allowed them to discuss issues such as affordable housing and rent control. In addition to answering questions provided by organizers, the candidates were given the opportunity to elaborate on their own platforms in light of the discussions posed.
“I wouldn’t be a Berkeley resident still if it weren’t for rent control,” said Nathan Mizell, a rent board candidate and UC Berkeley graduate. “I know first hand, as a student and someone who’s navigated the housing crisis and seen my friends deal with the crisis, how serious it is and how much our policy must reflect this seriousness.”
Candidates were asked a series of questions submitted by the public and screened by facilitators. The inquiries ranged from how they would expand and protect rent control for vulnerable communities to what can be done to protect renters after the effects of the pandemic.
One topic of discussion during the forum was the eviction moratorium and how candidates would provide a solution for the problem.
Rent board candidate Wendy Saenz Hood Neufeld, former city of Berkeley home owner and current tenant, noted that the rent board must take an active role in guiding both tenants and landlords on how to continue following the moratorium.
“We’re in very uncharted waters in a lot of ways and I think we have to show that we are trying to do the best for everybody,” Saenz Hood Neufeld said.
Candidate Carole Marasovic said during the meeting that “anti-displacement” must be the top priority in addressing the issue. She added the rent board cannot rely on the state of California to continue to provide funding.
Another topic introduced during the forum was the financing of candidates’ campaigns and how this might affect their decision making. Many candidates affirmed that their funding was public and consisted of donations from Berkeley residents.
Stefan Elgstand, rent board candidate and legislative aide for Mayor Jesse Arreguín, noted that although he did support the public funding of Measure X1, he argued that it was insufficient for a campaign. It had been capped at $8,000 for the rent board.
“You cannot run a city-wide campaign on $8,000,” Elgstrand said during the meeting.
Elgstrand added that should the funding be set at a “more reasonable level,” he would further support it then.
For many of the candidates, making sure vulnerable communities, such as the elderly or disabled, are more aware of their rights is an important role of the board.
“We really need to make sure that we are able to proactively go out and help them because so many of them aren’t aware of the resources they have,” said Soli Alpert, incumbent and rent board vice chair.
Along with four other candidates, Alpert was nominated by the Berkeley Tenant Union.
The candidates were deemed as being qualified to thoroughly represent the community and their interests if elected.
“We really believe that housing is a human right,” Soli said during the meeting. “We need to do everything we can to preserve and protect those rights.”