Election Section

New: I Hope You Will Help Put Me On the Berkeley Tenants Convention Rent Board Slate

Thomas Lord
Monday April 18, 2016 - 12:29:00 PM

May I have your vote of support to run for the Rent Stabilization Board?

Save the date: April 24th, the Berkeley Tenants Convention. It's at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street, and starts at 1:30. See http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

Why should you attend?

* Do you support protecting tenants from unfair evictions?

* Do you oppose unwarranted, excessive rent hikes?

* Are you in favor of fighting displacement due to gentrification? Protecting and enhancing the city's diversity?

* Are you alarmed by the very high price of market rate rentals these days? Wondering how anyone but the rich can ever move to Berkeley?

* Do you wonder where students or people who work in Berkeley are supposed to live?

* Are you against kicking seniors and long-standing residents out of Berkeley simply because their incomes are too low?

* And at the same time, do you believe that landlords and tenants alike deserve dignity, fairness, and respect from the City?

If so, then the Tenants Convention is for you. Your votes will pick a slate of four Rent Board candidates from a field of 12.

You might wonder: What's at stake at this convention?

You might wonder: Why should I vote for Thomas Lord?  


Every candidate running for the slate is passionate about continuing the good work the Rent Stabilization Board and Staff have been doing for a long time. 

We candidates are all passionate about the importance of rent control in Berkeley. We all aspire to be its strong defenders and protectors. 

Here's the thing, though. We aren't going to restore housing affordability in Berkeley with just passion. 

For the last 20 years the rents on Berkeley apartments, including rent controlled apartments, has been going through the roof. 

With the 1995 arrival of Costa-Hawkins vacancy decontrol it was game over for the rent control system that was established in 1980 in Berkeley. 

Those people who brought about rent control in 1980 had a really good model in mind. They had a good idea how to keep Berkeley rents reasonable and affordable, even to students who enter and exit leases frequently. Even during a vacancy, they reckoned, landlords should not ordinarily be raising rents faster than inflation. 

What those people who founded rent control did with their passion back in 1980 worked very well for 16 years. For 16 years, Berkeley rents and general inflation stayed very close to one another. 

Mind you there was still work to be done. Berkeley still needed to figure out how to expand its supply of rental units. It needed to work out the details of how to protect the habitability of units. Frankly, Berkeley had to work out details about how to be fair to landlords. Still, overall, rent control was working from 1980 through 1995. 

But starting in 1995, due to legislation at the state level, that system started to fall apart. 

And today, in spite of rent control, it's pretty much impossible to find an apartment in Berkeley at a reasonable rent unless you are very rich or just happen to know the right friend of a friend or unless, like too many students, you are willing to live in overcrowded conditions. 

What sets me apart from these other candidates for the slate -- the reason I'm running -- is that I want the Rent Stabilization Board to turn its attention to that problem -- to the very problem it was meant to solve in the first place. 

It's all well and good, and in fact its very important that the Rent Board keep doing what they are doing. It's not enough, though. We have a real crisis on our hands. 

More than 16,000 supposedly "rent stabilized" units have undergone one or more vacancies since 1995 and guess what, that means that many of those units are close to unaffordable "market rate" prices. 

And at the same time the 1995 law forbids the city from imposing 1980-style rent control on any new units built. 

In spite of all this -- in spite of the system falling apart since 1995 -- the Rent Stabilization Board hasn't seemed to lift a finger to figure out a way AROUND the problem of vacancy decontrol -- some new set of ordinances, some new set of rules that can helps us to expand instead of keep shrinking the supply of apartments that people with average incomes and people with low incomes have a shot of getting into. 

The Rent Board is chartered in the city of Berkeley for some very general purposes and among these are protecting renters from unwarranted rent increases, and protecting the diversity and stability of our community. 

Yet in all that time, all these familiar candidate names, all these rent boards, year after year, have not even tried to figure out what can be done other than writing letters to state legislators asking them please, please repeal the 1995 Costa Hawkins law. 

I think the Rent Board should be asking how to create more social housing. How do we create a supply of housing in which the public has an ownership stake, and the public is in control of the rents? 

If the people of Berkeley collectively own a rental unit then they can choose to rent it at whatever price they like whether it is whatever the highest bidder might pay, or what some fixed income senior can afford. 

If the people of Berkeley own a whole bunch of units they can try to make sure a lot of them are available to students at reasonable prices. 

If the people of Berkeley own a whole bunch of units, they can resolve not to raise rents in unwarranted ways that cause displacement in the name of profit. 

If the state says we can't impose strong rent controls on private owners then the City of Berkeley, led by the Rent Board, needs many more publicly owned units. 

I'm running for Rent Stabilization Board because while I share my fellow candidates passion for protecting the existing system, in addition, I want to change the conversation and get the Rent Board working on how to protect tenants in the future. Otherwise, if we continue on the current course, vacancy decontrol will make the rent board completely irrelevant. 

We can do it. The Rent Board has to lead the way. 

I hope you'll vote for me, Thomas Lord, in the #1 or #2 slot on your ballot when you vote for the Tenants Convention slate