Rent mediation is fair to renters and landlords
POSTED: 01/27/18, 2:33 PM PST
Author: Shiraz Kaderali
Publication: Marin Independent Journal: Marin Voice
Everyone knows that Marin doesn’t have enough housing for its workforce, but proposals for new developments are often met with fierce opposition.
Between 2010 and 2015, Marin added about 10,000 jobs but only permitted 937 housing units. Daily, thousands of people who can’t afford to live here jam our highways commuting from afar, and our home prices force many middle and low-wage workers who do live here to be renters.
Rents, too, have skyrocketed, up 35 percent between 2011 and 2016 — jeopardizing our ability to retain these renters, many who have lived here since birth. Half of our renters are rent-burdened — paying more than 30 percent of their income towards housing.
Attempts to protect tenants and improve tenant-landlord communication are often misunderstood and mischaracterized. Recent letters to the editor and opinion pieces suggest that the rental housing dispute resolution ordinance just approved by the Marin Board of Supervisors disadvantages landlords. That is simply not so.
Contrary to some of the opinions expressed, mediation will not be automatically required for annual rent hikes exceeding 5 percent. Mediation will only be required if the landlord or tenant requests it.
Two recent opinion pieces imply that landlords will be required to justify annual rent increases above 5 percent, and that they may not even be able to pass on increases in fixed costs, such as tax increases, that exceed the 5 percent test.
The heart of the ordinance is misunderstood — neither point is correct.
The goal is to provide tenants the opportunity to question large increases and explain their economic situation, and to provide landlords the chance to explain why they need the increase.
It is hoped that, through mediated discussions, the parties would at least understand each other’s positions, and that, through such understandings, landlords might be willing to moderate, and tenants might be more willing to accept, a lowered — or even the original — increase.
And, smaller rent increases might result because some landlords may want to avoid the potential of mediation ... or the loss of revenue resulting from tenant turnover.
As long as the parties mediate in good faith, the outcome is up to them. If the landlord insists on the increase, the tenant either will have to accept it or move, which is today’s reality.
We know it will be harder for a landlord to look a tenant in the eyes and insist on a large rent increase in a mediation than if the increase were simply announced in a formal notice, on a take it or leave it basis. But, would this be such a bad thing?
We agree that the results of the new law should be closely monitored. If it turns out to be too harsh on either party, it can be re-evaluated. If it fails to slow the pace of rent hikes, other steps could be considered.
While housing providers are not “regulated public utilities,” housing is a necessity not just for individuals, but for the health of our community and economy.
Marin excels at preserving agricultural land and wilderness habitat. But the low- to moderate-income Marinite is also an endangered species. Cherishing biodiversity should also include income and ethnic diversity, applying our conservation ethic to retaining local communities threatened by displacement and runaway housing costs.
A healthy society is judged by how it treats those less able to live a reasonably stable and comfortable life. Spending an extraordinary portion of one’s income on housing or having to commute from far away is neither stable nor comfortable.
Affordable housing contributes to a sustainable and thriving Marin.
*Shiraz Kaderali of San Rafael is co-chair of the Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative.
To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/article/NO/20180127/LOCAL1/180129845