SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) – In yet another show of the depth and breadth of the housing crisis in Silicon Valley, the San Jose City Council passed an urgency ordinance that provides renters with immediate protections against no-cause evictions.
The City Council passed the protections 9-2 Tuesday night after hours of testimony from affordable-housing advocates, real estate professionals and a vast array of landlords with the intent of stopping unscrupulous property owners from cashing in on soaring rental prices in the capital of Silicon Valley. The ordinance prohibits landlords from evicting tenants unless they can cite one of 12 activities, including damaging the property, criminal activity and failure to pay rent.
San Jose’s urgency ordinance comes on the heels of the City Council passing a more general no-cause eviction law during April’s last meeting.
Subsequently, council members were inundated with calls about landlords evicting tenants en masse in order to get out in front of the ordinance’s implementation, which some council members argued made a more urgent ordinance necessary.
“In the week following the council decision, six tenants in a single building faced no-cause evictions, and three more elsewhere,” Mayor Sam Liccardo wrote in a memo published before Tuesday’s meeting. “Given the well-publicized council decision, considerable risk arises for existing tenants that less savory landlords might seek eviction prior to the effective date of any new ordinance.”
Several nonprofit representatives also attested to a recent spate of evictions.
“There has been an increase in no-cause evictions leading up to the vote and since, both as an overall number but also as a percentage of overall evictions,” said Melissa Morris of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. “I urge you to pass the urgency ordinance.”
Nevertheless, the packed City Hall was filled overwhelmingly with landlords and those opposed to the ordinance, saying it will hurt mom-and-pop business owners, warp the rental market and actually compound the problems it purports to fix.
One landlord said passing such ordinances will cause landlords to get out of the market, reducing the amount of housing in San Jose and exerting even further upward pressure on rental prices.
“It’s going to drive landlords elsewhere and make the problem worse,” said one speaker, who added the true solution to the housing crisis is a greater supply of housing to drive down prices.
Many of those opposed to the urgency ordinance grew more and more rowdy as the meeting wore on, and several had to be evicted by security staff.
One landlord called Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand a communist and demanded she be fired. Several of the landlords said the ordinance is an affront to free-market capitalism and that the City Council had opted for government-controlled socialism.
“There is always going to be a tension between people who are motivated by profit to provide housing and people who need housing,” Councilman Chappie Jones said.
One woman who spoke during the meeting said she and her family were recently evicted for no reason after 20 years in the same building.
“The landlords remodeled after code enforcement came in and they figured they could get more money from new tenants, so they evicted us,” she said.
Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco cited impoverished students without housing, single mothers who are surfing couches and other similar situations as the motivation for her vote on the issue.
Council members Johnny Khamis and Dev Davis dissented, both saying the ordinance unfairly harmed property owners and some renters.
Renters with poor credit, undocumented immigrants and other marginalized people are going to have a tougher time finding housing because landlords are less likely to take risks if their hands are tied regarding eviction.
Many of the ordinance’s advocates contended landlords will still have wide discretion when it comes to evictions, particularly evictions of poorly behaved tenants, but said the ordinance is necessary to stop abusive practices resulting in residents losing their homes.
San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles have similar renter protections in place.
San Jose is the third most expensive city in the United States for renters, according to apartmentlist.com. The median price for a two-bedroom apartment costs runs renters about $2,750 per month.