I remember my mom and dad telling me once that my Grandmother spoke up about racist Black Sambo books in schools and worked to have them removed.
I remember my own mom speaking with my teacher in the third grade at Oxford about removing books from our classrooms about Native Americans and Thanksgiving that she felt were prejudiced.
So, I like to think that, I too speak up when it’s time to say something important. That I am okay with getting uncomfortable when necessary.
In September of 2016, when our Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernacil asked me to be a part of Union City’s Rent and Tenant Taskforce. I said yes without really thinking about it.
We started having our meetings with a panel of people, a third representing landlords, a third representing tenants, and a third neutral. I was neutral.
Through that experience, I got to know some really great people, that care enough to get involved. Derrick Richardson, Duru Ahanotu, Abby Andrade, Chris Cara, and the hardworking City staff Tony Acosta, Joan Malloy, and Alin.
I really had no idea what I was signing up for. I hadn’t attended any of the lively City Council meetings on the topic. I wasn’t a part of the fight.
But I did feel uniquely suited to understand both sides of the issue.
I have been a renter most of my life. I was wrongfully evicted and forced out of the home I grew up in by our new landlord who fraudulently violated Berkeley’s Just Cause ordinance when I was 20.
I’m also a Real Estate Agent and represent investors and plan to be an investor myself in the future.
My summary of this hotly debated topic is not thorough and does come anywhere close to describing all of the complex issues involved. The debate is this:
Our economy and the rising cost of housing/living makes it impossible for working-class families to live here. Union City rent prices, like the rest of the Bay Area, are out of reach. This causes the changing of hands. Families and tenants are displaced and replaced by more affluent residents. Basically gentrification.
From a landlord or investor perspective, rent control and just cause ordinances hurt more than they help. They argue that these type of tenant protections inadvertently punish “good” landlords by making it hard for them to evict tenants that deserve to be evicted. And by limiting the profitability of rentals, discourages investors from buying and building rentals which in turn decreases the much-needed supply of housing making the problem worse.
As a Realtor, many would assume I am on the side of the landlords.
I’m sure the current president of the Bay East Assoc. Of Realtors, who attended most of the meetings and spoke against tenant protections, certainly thought I’d be on their side.
I do see the argument played out all the time. I have a client right now, who is being negatively affected by Hayward’s Just Cause Ordinance that recently passed.
She has rented a 3 bedroom house to the same tenant for the past 20 years. She has barely raised the rent at all, the tenant is paying about half of the current rental rates.
They have a good relationship. Now she, the landlord is elderly, her husband has passed away. She is ready to fix up the house and sell it, and cash in on the investment she has held all these years. She is not rich. She needs the money from the sale to live on for the remainder of her life.
She was preparing to give her tenant notice. She told me she wanted to help her tenant as much as possible, giving her as much time as she needs to find a new place. But March 5th the Just Cause ordinance passed in Hayward and she can no longer terminate the tenant’s rental agreement for the purpose of remodeling the property to prepare it for sale. Selling the house tenant occupied will hurt the sale price significantly.
So I get it. I do see that side.
But I believe in protections for tenants.
And I said so, at those task force meetings. I shared my experience of growing up in need of those protections in Berkeley. And how rent control allowed me and Stephanie Smith, to live in a nice place with housing security.
I spoke up knowing it could cost me some future investor clients down the road that don’t agree with my views.
I spoke up because of the homeless families in Union City that suffer. To me, the victims of the housing crisis and resulting long term effect on our community outweighs the plight of landlords who can’t profit as much as they would otherwise.
I spoke up for what I believe in. People over Profit.