Fremont City Council rejects request to revisit rent control ordinance

FREMONT, Calif. — The Fremont City Council has declined to revisit an ordinance aimed at protecting renters in the city, despite the imminent expiration of the eviction moratorium.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilmember Jenny Kassan proposed that staff should research changes to the city’s rent review ordinance. These amendments would have addressed tenants’ fears of landlord retaliation, required property owners to provide evidence justifying rent increases of more than 5% and considered a fair chance ordinance to limit landlords’ ability to conduct criminal background checks and increase rental opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.

The City Council decided not to vote on Kassan’s motion. Instead, Councilmember Raj Salwan made a substitute motion for staff to explore ways to assist tenants once the county’s eviction moratorium expires on April 29. Kassan was the sole dissenting voice, saying that the substitute motion was a cop-out since city staff is already researching the matter.

The city began considering rent control in 2015 and 2016 in response to residents’ concerns about rising rents. According to research from real estate platform Zumper, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment increased from about $1,500 at the end of 2014 to $2,100 by the end of 2016, a 40% increase. The City Council passed the rent review ordinance, which established the rent review board, in October 2017.

In 2019, staff informed the City Council that the ordinance was not going far enough, considering 41% of residents were paying more than a third of their income on housing. They recommended eight solutions to address some of the obstacles hindering the success of the rent review process, including two of the three recommendations Kassan brought forth on Tuesday. The council did not approve those recommendations in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted more sweeping protections for tenants in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus and prevent people from becoming homeless during a public health emergency. However, according to the county’s point-in-time count, the number of people who were unhoused in Fremont increased from 608 in 2019 to 1,026 in 2022, an increase of 68.75%. Pandemic-era protections are also set to expire in less than 60 days, raising concerns about looming evictions.

Most council members said that they did not support additional tenant protections. Councilmember Yang Shao said he was pleased to see the eviction moratorium sunset, and Salwan said he was surprised Kassan brought the referral forward since tenant protections were not on the list of priorities they approved at their council retreat last week.

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