Public Comment

This Sunday, July 8, 1-3:30 pm at the Berkeley Public Library, Help Me Continue My Advocacy for a Berkeley We Can All Call Home

By Igor Tregub
Friday July 06, 2012 - 10:43:00 AM

I first ran for the Berkeley Rent Board because I felt that everyone in Berkeley deserves a safe, affordable, and habitable home. In my four years on the Rent Board, I have successfully worked to pass a Relocation Ordinance with vastly improved protections, to expand the Board’s education initiatives for tenants and landlords alike, and to successfully advocate for more retrofits of seismically unsafe apartment buildings. In the face of continuing and concerted attacks on tenants’ rights and affordable housing both statewide and locally, I feel that our collective work on these issues is not yet done. Therefore, I have decided to run for a second term if selected by the Berkeley community this Sunday at the biennial Progressive Convention. 

From its inception in 1980, the mission of the Rent Board has been “to regulate residential rent increases in the City of Berkeley and to protect against unwarranted rent increases and evictions and to provide a fair return to property owners. The Board works to ensure compliance with legal obligations relating to rental housing; and to advance the housing policies of the City with regard to low and fixed income persons, minorities, students, disabled, and the aged.” 

As a Rent Board Commissioner and Chair of its Budget and Personnel Committee, I have spent the last four years helping defend, interpret, and enforce the Rent and Good Cause Evictions Protection Ordinances. Over this period, I have developed a close and productive working relationship with our staff and our elected Board. Since 2008, I have introduced several dozen items that have passed the Board (many of them unanimously). I have also been involved on the front lines of multijurisdictional work with the Berkeley City Council and have used this to help effectively shepherd the Relocation Ordinance, Condominium Conversion Ordinance, an increase in funding to the Rental Housing Safety Program, and many others to final adoption. While I have consistently voted in a way that reflects my strong beliefs in the importance of the Rent Board, tenant protections, and affordable housing, I have a working style that is collaborative and focuses on issues rather than personalities. 

With the support of a number of public servants and community partners, I have been able to, in my four years on the Board organize two Seismic Days of Action, which resulted in heightened compliance with the Soft-Story Ordinance for seismically deficient apartment buildings; create the Bay Area Foreclosure Prevention and Resources Workshop for landlords, tenants, and homeowners, which received a Certificate of Congressional Recognition from Rep. Barbara Lee; start two Rent Board internship programs, which has to date given over 20 students and recent graduates to receive public policy experience around affordable housing; lead or participate in dozens of tenants’ rights workshops; facilitate the adoption of four years of balanced budgets and modernization of an aging Rental Tracking System; and work with Councilmember Arreguin on the development and successful implementation of an ordinances that limited the amount of screening fees landlords can charge to prospective tenants. 

If reelected, I would like to focus on three key issues that have dramatically affected the City of Berkeley. In the span of just six months, two apartment fires ravaged the Southside of Campus and left numerous tenants – including several of my friends – without their pets or a lifetime’s worth of belongings. Despite evidence in both cases that the landlords of the two properties let them slide into disrepair and, in one case, did not even replace smoke detectors, all the tenants received from the landlords as compensation was a return of their security deposit. I have been working with the City on an ordinance that will hold landlords accountable for fires that are not the tenants’ fault and stem from documented neglect by the landlord to upkeep the property. Such an ordinance would require landlords to provide compensation for the first few months of rent and moving expenses to tenants as they seek to permanently relocate to a different apartment building. 

I will also begin work on an initiative that could dramatically increase community power. An ordinance that would require landlords to provide to a new tenant a voter registration form in their move-in packet (but absolve the landlord from the responsibility to turn it in to the Registrar) is currently being discussed in several municipalities around the nation, and it would be a great idea for Berkeley as well. 

Finally, I am committed to continue our work together on effective local grassroots outreach, which has already led to successes. Every tenants’ rights workshop, every Rent Board intern, and every Seismic Day of Action has provided one more voice in Berkeley who knows what to do and whom to call if they suffer a loss of habitability in their unit, are not receiving back their security deposit, or discover that the smoke alarm in their building have not been replaced in years. 

In order to continue our work together, however, I need your support. I have pledged to only continue my reelection to the Rent Board if selected onto the Affordable Housing Rent Board Slate at a community-organized convention this Sunday, July 8, between 1 and 3:30pm in the Berkeley Downtown Public Library (2090 Kittredge St. at Shattuck). Any Berkeley resident, regardless of age or whether they are registered to vote in Berkeley, can participate in selecting the four candidates whom they feel are best equipped to advocate for him or her. These candidates, once selected, will run together on the November 2012 ballot. I would be honored to have one of your four votes at this Sunday’s convention and thank you for your support. 

Igor Tregub is a Rent Board Commissioner and potential 2012 candidate.