Rent Control Measure Expected to be on Nov. Ballot

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Rent control and just eviction laws may be coming to Santa Cruz county after over 10,000 Santa Cruz voters petitioned to place it on this year’s November ballot.

The Movement for Housing Justice (MHJ) set out in February to collect 8,000 signatures by July on a petition to secure a spot on the ballot for the Santa Cruz Rent Control Initiative. As of May 8, the petition had collected over 10,000 signatures.

The initiative aims to lower housing costs in Santa Cruz County as well as make it difficult for landlords to remove rental units from the market for any reason, according to the Santa Cruz Rent Control Initiative website.

“This is the main route to control prices in the short term and ensure more people aren’t pushed out of the city due to the  displacement crisis,” said fourth-year student and signature-gatherer Brennan Robins.

The Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act, if passed, will amend the Santa Cruz City Charter by prohibiting landlords from evicting a tenant except for reasons when the tenant is at fault such as failure to pay rent, breach of the lease or conducting criminal activity in the unit, according to the Santa Cruz Rent Control Initiative website. A few exceptions to the rule include owner move-in and substantial renovations.

By giving eviction protections to certain tenants, such as those who are 50 years or older and limiting the amount landlords can increase rent, the amendment aims to cut the continually rising costs of rent in Santa Cruz County.

It will also create a seven-member rent board, elected at the next general municipal election, which will hold public hearings, conduct studies, surveys and investigations and establish a schedule of penalties that may be imposed for non-compliance with rules and regulations of the amendment.

Signature-gatherer Brennan Robins said MHJ will advocate for their campaign before the Santa Cruz City Council in November with support from a variety of residents, including students, tenant-heavy communities and landlords. The organization is also looking to cooperate with other cities and other regional organizations to pass similar rent control measures.