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Concord Tenants Claim Victory With Council Approval of New Renter Protections

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A woman speaks with a microphone.
Gabi Rivas, policy advocacy manager for Rising Juntos, addresses a crowd outside a Concord City Council meeting on Jan. 30. (Courtesy of Rising Juntos)

Concord is poised to enact a rent stabilization and tenant protection ordinance that advocates say is a victory seven years in the making.

The Concord City Council voted 4–1 Tuesday night in favor of the new rules after a more than five-hour meeting that at times got heated. The council plans to review Tuesday’s changes at a second meeting on March 5. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect on April 4.

The ordinance would strengthen eviction protections for most rentals and cap rent increases on about half of the rental units in the city at 3% annually or 60% of the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower, according to a city staff report.

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The potential new rules come as a push to enact greater protections for renters has been building in the city since 2017 — and as landlords lobbied hard in recent months to oppose them. During hourslong city council meetings in December and January, tenants and landlords butted heads as the council made amendments and adjustments to the proposed ordinance.

The discussion got so acrimonious that Concord Mayor Edi Birsan said council members received threats and personal attacks.

“It has been like running blindfolded through a cactus patch,” he said.

Birsan said the ordinance is meant to address a “real crisis” that tenants in the city are experiencing, including “excessive” rent increases.

“We were post-pandemic trying to figure out how to do something that answers the crisis that we are recognizing in our community,” he said.

Landlord groups staunchly opposed the measure and said it would result in “unintended consequences” for the city, including discouraging developers from building more housing.

A group of advocates hold signs and pose for a photo.
Tenants and advocates in support of the ordinance rally in front of Concord City Hall before the meeting on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Rising Juntos)

“Places where rent control is, we see a serious deterioration in the rental housing market,” said Chris Tipton, a spokesperson for East Bay Rental Housing Association.

The rent control portion of the measure would apply to rentals with two or more units built before Feb.1, 1995. The cap would also apply retroactively to the amount of rent charged one year before the ordinance goes into effect.

“Renters will no longer have to guess if their next rent increase will be what leaves them homeless,” said Rhea Laughlin, executive director of Rising Juntos, a tenant advocacy group.

The ordinance also extends eviction protections to single-family homes and condominiums, which state just-cause eviction rules do not cover. It doesn’t apply to in-law units or duplexes where the owner lives in one of the units.

In addition, the new rules would shore up what advocates have called a “loophole” in just-cause eviction protections: the “owner move-in” clause.

With the new protections, a tenant could only be evicted when an owner wants to move in if that individual has at least 25% ownership of the property and will live in the unit for at least 24 months.

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Laughlin said these eviction protections could help “curb abuse from landlords that may be using evictions as a way to get families out so they can raise the rent for the next renter.”

If a no-fault eviction, such as an owner move-in, does occur, the new ordinance would require landlords to pay relocation assistance. Owners would have to pay up to three months’ rent plus up to $3,000.

Advocates for landlords have said the eviction protections and relocation assistance could especially hurt owners of single-family homes.

“That’s a lot of money to pay a renter just because you want to have a family member or someone move into a property that you own,” Tipton said.

If the second reading of the ordinance passes, Laughlin said the tenant advocacy work will continue.

“From there, we will be hitting the streets and the community to ensure that renters know about this policy, they’re informed of their rights, they know how to access the petition process if they face any abuses of the policy,” she said. “We’ll be working in partnership with our allies to be sure that the policy is enforced.”

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