State, Local Rent Control Approaches See Friction

Two jurisdictions demonstrate increasingly divergent responses.

By Ben Harrold |

| Updated

3 minute read

Berkeley

Berkeley, California, has become a battleground for opposing ballot initiatives on rent control that will be decided this November.

On one hand, the Renters Relief and Homeowners Protection Act would dedicate Berkeley’s current 2.9 percent tax on property owners with more than four units to a specific fund, and 20 percent of that fund would be used to help pay for housing costs for residents struggling to afford rent. This proposal would also increase the maximum allowable rent increase from 7 percent to 7.1 percent and allow the property owner and resident to mutually agree to a higher rent increase in exchange for certain amenities or services.

It would also introduce new exemptions from the city’s 7 percent annual rent increase limit and rental registration for certain owner-occupied units, some single-family properties and properties with more than one accessory dwelling unit. If passed, the act also would implement just cause eviction protections.

The Berkeley Tenant Protection and Right to Organize Act, meanwhile, would remove a previous exemption from the rent control law: duplexes where one unit was occupied by the owner on December 31, 1979—a date prior to the ordinance’s adoption in 1980—would now be subject to the city’s rent control.

The initiative would also lower the maximum rate of annual rent increases from 7 percent to 3 percent, require notification of renters rights at the outset of tenancy and introduce stronger protections for tenant organization and additional requirements on the part of the housing provider. It also removes nonpayment of rent as a good cause for eviction if the agreed-upon rent is higher than fair market rent as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Both ballot initiatives are currently collecting signatures.

The National Apartment Association (NAA) supports the work of the Berkeley Property Owners Association as they continue to advocate for responsible housing policies that ensure more supply can be built and housing costs can come down.

Idaho

The legislature in Idaho recently passed House Bill 545 which would expand the existing rent control preemption law to include a prohibition on source of income laws. These types of laws are often passed at the local level and are intended to require private rental housing providers to accept Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.

If signed by the governor, the Idaho bill would overturn a recently passed source of income ordinance and cap on application fees in Boise, similar to how the Kentucky legislature overrode the governor’s veto to preempt laws in Louisville and Lexington.

Notably, the bill includes language that would prohibit a local government from regulating “rent, fees, or deposits.” This type of preemption may become increasingly important as lawmakers are targeting several aspects of the rental industry’s operations, and NAA applauds the Rental Housing Association of Idaho for their work in securing this victory for rental housing providers in the state.

For more information about rent control, please contact Ben Harrold, Manager of Public Policy.