Rental relocation assistance

Consideration —The Healdsburg City Council is considering a rental relocation assistance ordinance.

 

Would apply to low-income no-fault evicted tenants

The Healdsburg City Council is considering a rental relocation assistance ordinance that would give no-fault evicted tenants with less than 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI) an additional month in rent relocation payment assistance and folks with 80% AMI two additional months of assistance. The assistance would be in addition to one month’s assistance from the state.

The pursuit of the ordinance comes on the heels of the implementation of AB 1482, which requires one month’s rent relocation payment or a rent waiver to a tenant in the case of a no-fault eviction. No-fault, just cause evictions include intent to demolish or remodel the property, withdrawal of the property from the rental market, orders from a court or government entity to leave the property, or intent to occupy the property by the property owner or owner’s family.

Most of the just cause evictions in Healdsburg revolve around the intent to demolish or remodel a property. In February 2019, five families in the low-income Piper Street Apartments were evicted when new property owners announced plans for a renovation.

While the city council has already explored several different variations of a rental assistance program that enhances AB 1482, they directed staff at the Jan. 6 council meeting to work on an ordinance with the one month for 120% AMI and two months for 80% AMI approach.

“So you are basically saying everybody gets a month per AB1482. If you make under 120% you get the additional month, if you make under 80% you get an additional month for a total of three months,” City Manager David Mickaelian reiterated.

It did take awhile for councilmembers to land on a plan that they were all comfortable with.

According to City Housing Administrator Stephen Sotomayor, the recommendation that city staff brought to the table was to provide one additional month’s relocation payment to tenants making 120% of AMI.

Councilmember Shaun McCaffery suggested two months of assistance for folks with 120% AMI.

“Healdsburg has some unique features and some unique housing and I think all of us here have been on this dais when we have going through large eviction events and I think that it is just going to continue. I really feel that it should be three months, but two months at 80% is great too,” McCaffery said. “We have an opportunity here to do something that is really right for Healdsburg.”

A few folks who spoke during public comment also supported the idea of focusing the rental assistance towards individuals at or below 80% AMI as well as at 120% AMI.

Corazon Healdsburg CEO Ariel Kelley said there are people in the community who are displaced and are desperately searching for housing.

“Just today I was looking for two apartments for two families that we are supporting that lost their homes during the Kincade Fire. They make over 100 AMI and they are unable to find rentals that are affordable to them at market rate in Healdsburg. While there are rentals that are available, two-bedroom, one-bedrooms, the cost of those rents at market rate is so high,” Kelley said. “I would like us to think more about the human beings that live in our community that are struggling to find a place to reside and our ability to use this legislation and this opportunity to pass a resolution could provide them with some financial assistance so that they can land on their feet and remain in our community.”

Realtor and former Healdsburg resident of 17 years, Carol Lexa, encouraged the city to stick with 80% AMI, however she expressed concern towards putting a financial responsibility on landlords.

“If the city really wants to address that problem (rental relocation) then I would encourage the city to stick with the 80% AMI. As realtors I feel we will remain opposed that landlords have to be responsible for tenants financials. It should not be the landlords responsibility on their own,” Lexa said.

Councilmember David Hagele suggested two months at 80% AMI or one month at 120% only if it was funded by Measure S, the city’s measure that funnels hotel Transit Occupancy Tax dollars towards increasing and improving affordable housing options.

Hagele echoed Lexa’s concerns about putting financial responsibility on a landlord during an eviction.

"I absolutely support trying to do what we can to help the people. Early on I gave the example of getting an eviction notice on Jan. 2 in 2014 when I was living on Fitch Street … This is a very personal issue for me, I've lived it in Healdsburg, however, not once did I think — my landlord who just got a cancer diagnosis and has to give notice to sell the house, I need another month's rent. I had to go figure that out and I don't think I was much above 120% AMI. My thought immediately didn't go, ‘Who can pay me?’"

He said that if the city used Measure S to subsidize rental assistance then it wouldn't be putting it on the backs of landlords.

Mayor Gold pointed out that the AB1482 and the ordinance would not apply to single-family homes (which Hagele had been in) not owned by a corporation or real estate investment trust. 

“What we are talking about here is a phenomenon where these old buildings are being purchased speculatively with the idea of renovating them and taking them up to a market rate rent, which is very high right now, so to me that is just a cost of doing business. If they are displacing these low-income tenants to renovate the buildings to a higher standard, the cost of doing business may be that they have to give some assistance to these tenants to relocate,” Gold said.

McCaffery recounted an example of this phenomenon and said, “If you look at Piper, I happen to live right across the fence from that and there were tarps up on the roofs there for years and they were never fixed. I talked to the people who lived there and it was just left in disrepair and then all of a sudden the people there were just evicted in mass. Some of them found some places to live, but those are the things that are unique to Healdsburg and those are the ones that would be affected by this ordinance.” 

To try to settle on a compromise, Councilmember Joe Naujokas floated the idea of a hybrid method were the amount of rental assistance would be calculated depending on your income.

Gold suggested two months of assistance at 100 AMI.

To try to help the decision making process Sotomayor said, “If you are looking at a family of four at 80 AMI you are looking at around a total of $86,400 (in income). Any rental assistance that occurs at 120 or below is helping individuals.”

In the end the final decision was settled at one additional month for folks at or below 120% AMI and two additional months for a total of three for people at 80 AMI.

City staff will return to the council for an approval of the ordinance at a future date.

 

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