Market rent: Skyrocketing rents and limited renter protections are deepening our renter crisis.

Key Trends in the Bay Area

  • Over the past five years, rents have skyrocketed in all parts of the Bay Area.
  • The steepest rent increase for the Nine-County Bay Area was between 2014 and 2015 when the median market rent rose by over 16 percent.
  • Market rent dipped slightly between 2016 and 2017 (from $3,578 to $3,492).
  • A family of two workers each making $15/hour for a yearly household income of $62,400 can afford the median market rent in only 5 percent of the Bay Area’s 1,500-plus neighborhoods.
  • San Francisco County renters faced the highest median market rents ($4,823) in 2017, while rents were lowest in Solano County ($2,049).
  • The median rent in some places was as high as $19,000 in 2017.

Drivers of Inequity

During housing booms, market rents rise fastest in low-income neighborhoods that are in proximity to richer neighborhoods. Many low-income communities of color, which have historically suffered economic neglect and disinvestment, are now at risk for rapidly rising rents due to gentrification. While Richmond and Mountain View recently won rent control measures, three-quarters of Bay Area renter households remain unprotected, and existing controls do not limit rent increases between tenancies or cover newer homes.

Strategies

Strengthen places: Strategies to ensure rent is affordable for all

  • Ensure strong tenant protections, such as just cause eviction ordinances, anti-harassment policies, and legal assistance for tenants facing eviction.
  • Adopt or strengthen rent control measures to prevent displacement and promote housing stability.
  • Support tenant organizing and the growth of tenant unions.
  • Raise resources and create new financing sources to preserve and build affordable homes.
  • Increase the number of permanently affordable homes through community land trusts, limited equity cooperatives, and deed-restricted housing.
  • Require or incentivize the inclusion of affordable homes within new developments using inclusionary zoning, community benefits agreements, density bonuses, or other tools.
  • Reduce the barriers to building affordable multifamily homes in wealthy, exclusionary communities.
  • Preserve affordable rental housing, particularly apartments located near job centers, public transit, and services.
  • Expand California’s renters' tax credit to return more income to low-income families.
  • Bolster renter incomes by improving the quality and wages of low-wage jobs, expanding income supports, reducing the cost of childcare, and ensuring access to quality jobs.

Strategy in Action

Washington DC’s opportunity-to-purchase program puts power in tenants’ hands. In Washington, DC, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) guarantees tenants in buildings with five or more units the first right to purchase their building when the landlord decides to sell. Tenants have some flexibility; they can purchase the building as an association, or reassign all or part of their rights to a developer. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) also offers low-interest loans to tenant associations, who often lack the necessary financial resources to take advantage of the TOPA program, with a requirement that 80 percent of funding be used to provide housing for households below 50 percent of the area median income. DHCD also provides financial, technical, and logistical assistance to tenants. From 2000 to 2013 alone, TOPA helped to preserve 1,400 units of affordable housing. Learn more.

In Their Own Words...

“ The Hayward Collective is really fighting and City Hall knows who we are.”

— Monzella Curtis, Hayward

When Monzella Curtis moved into his Hayward apartment in 2003, he worked to keep his apartment rent-stabilized after the owner erroneously registered it as non-stabilized. Now, the retired paramedic spends time volunteering with the Hayward Collective to strengthen renter protections. Seeing his neighbor who had just been diagnosed with stage three cancer evicted for no cause motivated him to advocate for a citywide just cause eviction policy, which passed in March 2019.

 

Photo: Felix Uribe

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