The city council approved an ordinance aimed at reviving the long dormant Rent Leveling Board whose purpose is to settle disputes between landlords and tenants.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration pushed to revive to the board to address a “emergency” created by “housing demolitions, deterioration” of housing stock, “insufficient new housing construction” that “has caused high rents and a substantial and increasing shortage of rental housing accommodations for families of low and moderate income,” reads the ordinance.
The 11-member board – 9 appointed by council; 2 appointed by mayor – will hold a minimum of six meetings per year. The board will be composed of 5 tenants, 4 landlords, and 2 homeowners, according to the ordinance. 6 board members will constitute a quorum.
Members of the board will serve without compensation, according to the ordinance. Board members, under the old ordinance, received $600 stipend per year; however, health and human services Donna Nelson-Ivy removed the stipend provision to create savings for the city.
Nelson-Ivy also tried to cut landlords out of a full percentage point of rent by reducing annual allowable rent increase from 5 to 4-percent. Council members opposed decreasing the allowable annual percentage increase. The new ordinance preserves the allowable 5-percent rent increase. She also tried to reduce allowable increases for seniors and disabled tenants to 2-percent; however, council members objected, the allowable increase for seniors and disabled remains 3.5-percent.
The rent control provision excludes buildings that were on the abandoned properties list and rehabilitated by developers.
Council members approved the new ordinance following a public hearing late last month.
The measure also creates a new position called Rent Leveling Administrator within the health department. The director of the health department appoints the administrator, according to the ordinance. The council has to confirm the appointment. The ordinance does not spell out how much taxpayers will have to pay a rent leveling administrator. The board will also have an attorney compensated through compensatory time and a secretary paid $3,125 per year.
The city has a rent leveling board in its code, but the board has been dormant. Nelson-Ivy told the council the old board met once in the past seven years. She called the meeting to observe the board’s process. Even without regular meetings, the city was forking out $10,000-$12,000 per year paying the board’s attorney, 14 members, and secretary, she told council members in late February.
Nelson-Ivy has tried to revive the board several times without success until late last month. Council members approved the measure revamping the board on March 28th, 2017.