‘The rent is too damn high,’ says Fremont City Councilmember Jenny Kassan

Fremont City Councilmember Jenny Kassan tells the rest of the council that the rent is too high and they need to do more to address it at the council's regular meeting on Oct. 17. (YouTube screenshot)

FREMONT, Calif. — At least one member of the Fremont City Council believes something needs to be done about the high rents in the city and the region.

During a discussion about the rent review program last week, Councilmember Jenny Kassan said that she was happy with the voluntary review process like the rest of the council, but that the city’s housing issues are bigger than what can be addressed by tenant-landlord mediations.

“The rent is too damn high,” Kassan said.

The average rent in the Bay Area has skyrocketed over the past two decades. The cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Fremont went from $1,500 in 2014 to $2,500 this year. A rent that expensive is only affordable to someone making around $120,000 a year, “which is quite high,” Kassan said.

The city passed its rent review ordinance in 2017, allowing any tenant whose rent was raised by 5% or more in a year to have their rent reviewed. About half of the 56 requests for rent review during the past year were resolved, with many resulting in the rent increase being reduced or canceled.

Kassan wants the city to build on that, in terms of collecting more data on renters and affording them additional protections, but the rest of the council doesn’t appear to feel the same way. In March, Kassan proposed that staff research changes that would further strengthen tenant protections, including addressing fears of landlord retaliation and requiring property owners to offer evidence justifying rent increases of more than 5%. The council decided not to vote on Kassan’s motion, with Councilmember Raj Salwan saying tenant protections weren’t on the council’s agreed-upon list of priorities for the year.

On Tuesday, Kassan reiterated that the council should be doing more if it cares about preventing homelessness — homelessness in the city increased by 68.75% from 2019 to 2022 — and ensuring Fremont is livable for people of every income. Kassan pointed out workers are commuting long distances to get to their jobs in Fremont because they can’t afford to live in the city.

“I really wish that the council would reconsider the decision not to even let staff do a little bit of analysis of possible renter protections that could be good things to consider in our city,” Kassan said. “And also, I really wish we could get more data on renters in Fremont and their situations.”

Councilmember Yang Shao said he had no problem with the high rents because it was part of the package if you live in a popular real estate market with low crime rates and good schools.

“Location, location, location,” Shao said.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.

Photo caption: Fremont City Councilmember Jenny Kassan tells the rest of the council that the rent is too high, and the councilmembers need to do more to address it at the council’s regular meeting on Oct. 17. (YouTube screenshot)

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