San Jose

San Jose Council Limits Rent Increases to 5 Percent a Year

With close to 500 in attendance, the San Jose City Council voted early Wednesday morning to impose rent control limits for the first time in about 37 years.

At about 2 a.m., the council voted 6-5 on the first modification of what’s known as the “Apartment Rent Ordinance,” limiting annual rent increases to 5 percent in any year.

That also means property owners now can add unused increases "banked" from previous years and certain capital improvement costs. But, the council voted that the combination of those costs plus the annual rent increase could not exceed 8 percent in any given year.

Also, renters scored a victory after the council approved an anti-retaliation ordinance to safeguard against evictions when a renter requests repairs or reports a code violation. San Jose has never had that renter protection before, the Mercury News reported.

Other key highlights: The City Council voted 7-4 to eliminate a program that allowed landlords to pass off debt to renters. The council approved continuing a program that allows landlords to pass capital improvement costs down to renters in a 8-3 vote, but only for "major improvements."

The council did not decide everything though: In May, the council will vote on limiting tear-downs of rent control units, protections in condo conversions, relocation assistance and hike freezes, the Mercury News reported.

Neither side was very happy.

"A five percent increase is still difficult for renters," housing advocate Sandy Perry, told the Mercury News.

Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, a landlord, told the newspaper: "We tried to forge a compromise, but it's clear that the council doesn't understand what small businesses go through. I'm also not sure we make our best decisions at 1:30 in the morning."

Council members Ash Kalra, Raul Peralez, Magdalena Carrasco, Pierluigi Oliverio and Donald Rocha opposed the plan that lowered allowable rent increases in 44,000 rent-controlled units from 8 percent to 5 percent.

The city's housing department suggested tying annual rent increases to inflation, a common practice in seven other California cities with rent control. But the council did not vote for that.

The majority of the council, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, favored a fixed-rate saying it was more predictable and stable. The 5 percent cap was a compromise reached after a handful of council members released competing proposals, the Mercury News reported.

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