Grassroots Hayward Activists Achieve Substantial Gains with New Residential Rent Stabilization Ordinance

Local organizations turn the tide in a city traditionally molded by powerful landlord and real estate interest groups.

HAYWARD, CA — On Tuesday, June 18th the Hayward City Council unanimously voted to approve a new Residential Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RRSO), repealing and replacing its 1983 predecessor.

The meeting went late into the night, with over 30 speakers commenting on the proposed ordinance. However, the most impactful commentary came from Mario Aguilar. A Spanish-speaking tenant from South Hayward representing 7 families from his building, Aguilar provided documentation of his most recent rent increase, which amounted to a 72% rental increase. Aguilar’s paperwork also contained language from his landlord claiming he was being forced by the City of Hayward’s new ordinance to raise rents to market rate.

Hayward tenants have been advocating for rent control for nearly 3 years now. That initial phase of advocacy was derailed by the City Council choosing to prioritize the Affordable Housing Ordinance. While Hayward did establish an RRSO in 1983, the ordinance did not serve the community well, and the City Council’s lack of support for strengthening the RRSO — with the sole exception of Councilmember Elisa Marquez — led to continued displacement of tenants across the city.

“The previous ordinance was written with its own obsolescence in mind. It was never created to protect tenants. Decades of rent stabilized units being removed from rent increase threshold provisions left tenants in this community vulnerable to landlords who took advantage of those loopholes to price-gouge and evict renters,” said Alicia G. Lawrence, a member of The Hayward Collective; a local grassroots organization that joined the fight for greater rent control in the fall 2017.

In an attempt to neutralize the community's ask for a stronger and more effective rent stabilization program, the Council attempted to find alternatives to rent stabilization. One attempt was directing staff to research non-binding mediation programs. However, the tenants and advocates continued show up to Council meetings to demand meaningful change. Councilmember Marquez's lone voice in support of the community's ask was later joined by Councilmember Aisha Wahab. With two Councilmembers backing up the community's asks, the other reluctant councilmembers gradually began to hint at their support for a stronger ordinance.

Earlier this year, the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America began collaborating with The Hayward Collective on their efforts to implement a stronger, active rent control program and a moratorium on rent increases due to the skyrocketing cost of housing, ongoing displacement, and increasing gentrification in the city.

According to one city-commissioned study, Hayward has approximately 22,200 rental units. 9,500 units (43%) were originally subject to the City’s Residential Rent Stabilization Ordinance. Approximately 7,900 applications for deregulation under the terms of the ordinance had been received by the City, leaving only about 1,600 units (7% of the current number of rental units) under the protection of the rent stabilization ordinance. On Tuesday, all 9,500 units were effectively re-regulated. The new ordinance also includes Tenant Protection provisions, a provision to prevent discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders, and maintains the previously adopted Just Cause for Eviction protections. Despite landlord comments to exempt landlords with one to four units, the Hayward City Council chose to apply provisions to all units legally possible.

When asked why elected officials took so long to enact stronger protections, Allie Lahey of East Bay Democratic Socialists of America cites corporate landlord interest groups influencing city hall politics.

“When corporate real estate groups are constructing new apartments and charging $2,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Hayward, working class people can’t afford to live here. Overwhelmingly, tenants have expressed that they need stronger protections. It’s no surprise that several members of Hayward City Council have accepted campaign donations from the California Apartment Association and other real estate interest groups.”

Activists with The Hayward Collective and East Bay Democratic Socialists of America have mobilized to past Hayward City Council meetings and canvassed neighborhoods in Hayward for stronger rent control policies and tenant protections, and will continue to organize after Tuesday night’s vote.

According to Alicia, “this is progress, but our fight doesn’t end here. There will be a second vote on June 25th to formalize the adoption of the ordinance. We know the landlord and real estate lobby groups will try to water down what was passed or mount an effort to repeal it. We’re ready to hold the line, and defend our community.”

East Bay Democratic Socialists of America is a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist organization in the country. DSA's members are organizing working people across to country to stand up to the billionaires and corporations that exploit them and the planet, and to build a democratic, equitable future for all. East Bay DSA’s recent campaigns include supporting Jovanka Beckles for AD15, Yes on Prop 10 for rent control and the Oakland Teachers’ Strike.

The Hayward Collective is a womxn, people of color, LGBTIQ+-led organization who aims to build a community of accountability, equity, health and social justice through fluid “stacktivism,” art, advocacy, and self-care.

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Alicia LawrenceComment