Crooning in the shower is not Chad Regeczi’s thing. That’s why when he learned last year that his monthly rent would go up $300 so the new owners of his La Mesa apartment could upgrade his bathroom with a sound system, he was bemused.
“Three hundred bucks!” he said. “I mean an iPod costs less than that. Everybody has got a phone now. Who needs a Bluetooth speaker in a bathroom apartment? It’s just weird.”
Regeczi, a VA employee, said the 30 percent rent increase didn’t match the condition of his apartment. But he felt powerless to challenge his landlords on the hike.
"Who’s gonna tell them no?" he asked. "There are no rules to how much your rent can go up."
That may change. Talk is underway about putting a law on the books that would bar California landlords from raising rent beyond a certain percentage.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in November the rule would mimic limits on what businesses can charge during natural disasters.
“When there’s a fire, you pass an anti-rent gouging ordinance,” Schaaf said. “The state has a fire. It’s called the housing crisis.”
Rents are surging in some California cities, where there is no rent control, by double, even triple digits, according to mayors and tenants rights advocates.
More than half of the state’s renters pay more than a third of their income on housing, according to the California Budget & Policy Center. And a third of renters spend more than half of their paycheck on a place to live. The real estate firm Zillow reported last month that communities where people pay more than a third of their salary on rent see a faster rise in homelessness.
The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3,500 a month, in Los Angeles it’s $2,420 and $1,950 in San Diego, according to the real estate search site Zumper. And Attom Data Solutions found the average rent on a three-bedroom apartment in California has risen 20 percent since 2014.
The state's affordable housing crisis has dampened the California Dream that once included almost guaranteed homeownership. Increasingly, even renting an apartment is becoming out of reach.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said politicians should not interpret voter rejection of the rent control initiative Proposition 10 in November to mean they’re off the hook.
“It is not going to be good enough to say, 'Well the voters spoke,' ” Garcetti said. “We have a problem we have to confront.”
Garcetti wants the California Legislature to approve an anti-price gouging rent cap. Support of such a cap may be building.