In 2016, Mountain View voters passed Measure V which stabilizes rents to keep lower-income renters in our community. The League of Women Voters of Los Altos-Mountain View Area studied rent stabilization policies across California and found that our communities are stronger for them and that they maintain a fair return for landlords. The Mountain View City Council has placed Measure D on the March primary ballot which makes significant changes to its current policy. The LWV opposes Measure D because it is inconsistent with the fair rate of return standard and, therefore, can more easily lead to rent increases up to 10% per year. In 13 months rents could potentially increase up to 20%.
The fair rate of return standard is a formula based on the growth of a landlord’s profit since 2015. It was assumed that in 2015, because rents were unregulated, landlords were making the profits they wanted, a fair rate of return. Under current law, landlords can petition to raise rents IF they are not getting their fair rate of return. However, under Measure D, the Rental Housing Committee, a Council-appointed body that administers the City’s rental stabilization program, is empowered to establish new regulations for how landlords may pass the cost of capital improvements onto tenants. Measure D would no longer require a fair rate of return for specific categories of capital improvements. Landlords would be able to pass on many upgrade costs to tenants, bypassing the fair rate of return standard.
For example, in Measure D, costs that “extend the useful life” of the building may be passed through as rent increases. While these yet-to-be-determined costs may benefit the landlords by improving their buildings, the potential 10% rental increase per year may drive our vulnerable renters from our community without using the fair rate of return standard put in place to protect them. Capital improvements required to comply with local or state codes and improvements that enhance the environmental sustainability of buildings would also be subject to new regulations that may not require the fair rate of return standard.
Also, rent increases are currently limited by the rate of inflation, which has varied between 2.4% and 3.6% since 2012. Measure D allows a 4% annual increase regardless of inflation. Taken together with passing through upgrade costs to tenants, annual rents are more likely to increase by as much as 10% – each year.
The League of Women Voters supports rent stabilization and just cause programs that are fair and reasonable for both landlords and tenants. Because of these significant changes to current law, the LWV urges you to vote NO on Measure D.
Lisa McLain, president
League of Women Voters Los Altos Mountain View Area