Mountain View to Vote on Rent Control

Mountain View to Vote on Rent Control

In the epicenter of Silicon Valley’s housing crisis, tenants in Mountain View have put forth a charter amendment they say will protect vulnerable communities. From 2010-2015, average rents rose by 52%, according to the Mountain View Tenants Coalition (MVTC). Data from Zillow.com shows a current median home price of $1.4 million, a 9.6% increase from 2015.

The Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act, if passed, would limit rent increases to 2-5% per year, and allow only a single rent increase within that year. Landlords would also be required to provide just cause for any evictions. MVTC drafted the charter amendment with legal assistance from Tenants Together and the Stanford Community Law Clinic.

Skeptics fear that temporary relief from the ballot measure could lead to long-term consequences. “They’re using a jackhammer to swat a fly,” Councilmember Michael Kasperzak told KQED. In the past, even liberal economists such as Paul Krugman have raised concerns that stabilizing rent prices could negatively impact the elasticity of housing supply—a concern which Mountain View landlords echoed.

Kasperzak joined a majority of the council in submitting a rivaling ballot measure on the same day MVTC submitted enough signatures for its proposed measure. While objecting to rent control in principle, Kasperzak insisted that temporary relief for tenants need not come in the form of a charter amendment, which could only be amendment with another popular vote. The councilmember described MVTC's measure as though "Obamacare were added to the constitution" during a packed special session.

Evan Ortiz, a Google employee and volunteer organizer with MVTC, told KQED that some tenants have seen their rents rise by $1000 per year. Implicitly disputing the fly-jackhammer analogy, he also said, “I’ve met families where the husband is a software engineer, the wife is a medical professional, and even they are facing displacement.”

Despite concerns about elasticity, Mountain View has shown a stronger commitment to increase housing supply relative to neighboring towns in Santa Clara County. Earlier this year, City Council approved a plan to build 10,250 units in the North Bayshore area.

A finalized version of the council's competing measure will be decided on at a Mountain View City Council meeting on August 9th.

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