Albany Thrives Together
…is the new name for our group that has been active in Albany for over ten years as the Diverse Housing Working Group. We are an all-volunteer community-based effort to engage, educate and involve local organizations and individuals in the effort to create additional diverse housing resources in Albany. We recognize that a strong community includes people from all walks of life and income levels.
Wrestling with the Housing Element
Albany is way behind schedule responding to the State about our inadequate housing element. They knew this was coming for 8 years but haven’t gotten it together, largely because they are letting the landlords control the dialogue. Below is Albany Thrives Together’s most recent letter to the State Department of Housing and Community Development. Albany has a non-binding renter’s mediation program which has had no positive impact on housing displacement. The city has been on the cusp of collusion with APRA, (Albany Property Rights Advaocates) to keep the program from working.
AlbanyTT: Our Role
Anti-Displacement Proposals I
Non-displacement: CATEGORY 4: Displacement Prevention Strategies That Contribute to AFFH (Page 6-65)
NONE OF THE SIX PROGRAMS LISTED WILL ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING TO HELP WITH NON-DISPLACEMENT OR TO FURTHER AFFH
PROGRAM 1D: Housing Rehab Program—The only commitment here is to “work with the Alameda County Housing and Community Development Department in the implementation of neighborhood preservation and sustainability programs” with ‘the objective of assisting at least 20 Albany households by 2031.” How will the City get the word out? How will the lucky 20 families be chosen? Will the City come up with some fair system to choose those 20 families? The money comes from a grant from the County. Can’t the City attempt to get additional funds to help more than 20 Albany households over 8 years?
Anti-Displacement Proposals II
Tenant Opportunity To Purchase (TOPA)
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
We believe that for the City of Albany not to admit the failure of the Rent Review Program (Zero tenants had a “successful conciliation) and to never acknowledge the illegal behavior of the landlords who put in writing in an August, 2022 letter to the City they were not following the requirements of notice in the Ordinance constitutes a violation of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. In the description of the program, it would have been accurate to state that actually no tenants had a “successful conciliation” over the life of the former Housing Element.
According to the Housing Element, 2000 Albany families are at risk of displacement, most of them our families of color. 70% of black households, 50% of Hispanic households and 45% of Asian households are at risk of displacement.
“Relative to the County, Albany has a slightly lower rate of homeownership. Moreover, the ownership rate has declined over time.” (Page a-37)
“The racial gap is larger in Albany than it is at the countywide level”. (Page A-37)
“Share of severely cost-burdened very low-income renters is above the county median.” “Rents have been increasing at faster rate than county median” “Every tract in the City has 20 to 40 percent of all households experiencing one of the four listed severe housing problems.” (Page A-44)
The City did meet with us, Albany Thrives Together, but to date, has made no effort at all to reach out to renters directly. Although it has been more than 5 months since the landlords put in writing they are not following the rent review program, the City has done nothing to reach out to tenants. On the City’s website for the Rent Review Ordinance, the City lists the last community workshop was January 12, 2019.
Albany Thrives Together recently did outreach to tenants in Albany. The three major takeaways are 1. The tenants have no knowledge of the very weak rent review program, 2. Tenants are afraid to speak out in any way against their landlord, and 3. There are numerous code violations such as with mold and lead paint which tenants are either afraid to tell the landlord, or have informed the landlord and have been threatened with a large rent increase or eviction if they take the complaints to the City.
Concern of Albany Citizens
Our concern is that the City Council will never give tenants any protections unless the State forces them. Our City Council has five members. One member is a landlord and has excluded himself from all votes and discussion of tenant protections. One member is a real estate agent and has publicly stated she does not want any kind of restrictions, and a second member has been extremely hostile to any tenant protections. The two other members have not public taken pro or anti tenant positions, but have supported tenant protections in votes. So, we believe, without State input, the Council will never be able to vote for tenant protections.
At the last public hearing (February 21,2023) on the Housing Element a city council member asked “I ‘m aware that tenant use of ECHO housing resources is relatively low. Is there any indication around how that’s so and how could that be further increased in future years so tenants are aware of what their protected rights are?” The Community Development Director responded, “I can take that, I think they’re busy.” He then went on to say that ECHO is very busy and blamed ECHO not answering the phone or emails for the reason the numbers are so low. The Community Development Director later stated he either misheard the question or made a mistake. To date, no one with any power in the City has acknowledged the truth about the Rent Review Program. Our fear is that it will never happen and tenants will continue to be left without any protections in Albany.
Entire APRA Letter
Albany City Council
1000 San Pablo Avenue
Albany, CA 94706
Re: Draft Housing Element — 30 day comment period
Dear Honorable Mayor and Council Members,
On July 25, 2022 APRA reminded Council that APRA is the only Albany group that advocates for the rights of property owners in Albany, stakeholders who provide housing services to about one-half of Albany’s population. A grave injustice was done when APRA was not called to the table to discuss rent control, TOPA, just cause and other tenant goals as set forth in the Draft Housing Element (Element). The result was an Element that is highly tenant biased and hostile to housing providers.
Albany needs to provide 1,114 new housing units by 2031. These units will be built by private developers, not by the City. The housing goals should provide incentives to attract these developers. The present (Element) Program 5 creates a hostile rental environment and discourages housing development,
APRA suggests the Element be modified in the following manner to make it friendlier to developers and to the development of new housing.
“i . Program 5.C: Rent Review. Add the following after the first sentence in Paragraph 4. “Feedback from housing providers indicates that the present rent mediation ordinance is adequate, though barely used. Rent control as exists in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco is not needed oc wanted in Albany. Since the State of California already has rent control in place (AB 1482), no additional rent control measures are needed or justified in Albany.” Review the present rent mediation program to make it more efficient and cost effective and to increase both tenant and housing provider awareness and participation in the program. The argument that tenants are intimidated by the process is specious at best. It is up to the City to affirmatively inform tenants and rental providers of the existence of the program and to educate them on the simplicity and friendliness of the Rent Review Program.
- Program 5. D: Tenant Protection. Delete the following because these goals are already state law:
- “Additional rent stabilization measures, including a limit on annual rent increases” (included in AB 1482).
- “A Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance…”. (AB 1482)
- “A Non„Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Ordinance….” (Various Federal and State Statutes, such as the Ca. Unruh Act, and the Cae Fair Employment and Housing Act).
- ‘Relocation assistance to tenants who are evicted without cause”. California law (AB1482) already addresses this. City regulations are unnecessary and would be duplicitous. Placing goals in the Element that are already in State Law makes the Council look uninformed and careless.
- Delete “Access to legal counsel for tenants facing eviction” and insert “Encourage legal aide organizations to provide equal legal aide to tenants and rental providers.”
- Delete in its entirety “Provisions to avoid discrimination against tenants who have a prior eviction in their history.” Housing Providers need the right to consider the eviction history of tenant applicants. There are bad tenants out there who do not pay rent and move from apartment to apartment without paying rent. These bad actors need to be identified.
- Add the following to Program 5 D. “With funds from a new parcel tax or from the City General Fund, create a fund for rental assistance for low income renters and for down payment assistance to promote home ownership.”
- Program 5. E: TOPA. Everyone who cares about Albany should be against TOPA. It should not be a goal in Albany. Program 5.E should be eliminated in its entirety. The issues with TOPA are as follows:
- TOPA uses the underprivileged as a front to grant government the power to dictate how properties are sold, to whom they can be sold, and for how much they can be sold. Not exactly, but sort of like eminent domain, just with a different name.
- TOPA can delay transaction times up to a year or more, with potentially devastating results for both buyers and sellers.
- TOPA devalues properties and harms equity.
- TOPA reduces the housing stock which will drive up rents and harm renters.
- TOPA prevents a property from going on the free market for sale until renters waive their rights in writing. It will create lengthy, unpredictable time periods which can delay a sale with potentially disastrous results for both prospective buyers and sellers.
- TOPA gives special interest developers first right of refusal on properties and can prevent sale to family or friends.
- TOPA takes away the ability of owners to leave, or will, their own homes to relatives.
- TOPA is extremely convoluted, bureaucratic and expensive to administer.
- After 40 years of experience with TOPA Washington D.C is defunding it in favor of effective housing programs such as rental assistance for iow income renters, down payrnent assistance to promote home ownership, and shelters to help homeless residents. j. TOPA is a blatant attempt to seize private propeffcy through a coercive set of regulations.
It has been argued that the Element is merely a framework for developing policy for the next 8 years, and that it does not make changes to current policies. Rather it is designed to encourage evaluation of potential programs. We are reminded of the parable about the camel’s nose being in the tent-once it is there it is almost impossible to keep the camel out. The mere fact that these Programs are present in the Eiement means that there will be continued, unrelenting pressure to include them, even if they are proven to be unnecessary and harmful to the public interest.
Thank you for considering the above thoughts and suggested modifications to the Draft Housing Element. We look forward to working closely with the City Council in the coming years. It is our belief that together we could develop a truly meaningful Element beneficial to all.
Peter Campbei% President,
APRA (Albany Property Rights Advocates)
Renters in Albany
Renters are 53% of the Albany population. Most renters make tremendous sacrifices just to live here.
Total number of Albany households—7,943
Total number of renters in Albany—3,948
52% of renters are cost burdened which means they spend more than 30% of their income on housing
25% of renters are severely cost burdened which means they spend more than 50% of their income on housing
82% of extremely low-income renters in Albany spend more than half their income on housing.
45% of Asian households are cost burdened.
50% of Hispanic households are cost burdened.
70% of Black households are cost burdened.
18% of the population makes less than $25,000.00 a year
Two census tracts in Albany are considered “sensitive communities” which means they are at a relatively high risk of displacement due to rising rents and lack of tenant protection.
If a renter wants to appeal an eviction, the only option to appeal is to go to State Court which is virtually impossible for most tenants. Renters who do not have a signed lease live in fear of being evicted at any time.
On May 31 the Oakland City Council voted to limit rent increases at 3%. The vote was 6 yes, 1 abstain and 1 no. Allowable rent increase in San Francisco from March 1, 2022 through February 23, 2023 is 2.3%. The allowable rent increase in Berkeley for 2022 is 2.1%. Allowable rent increase in Albany is unlimited.
All figures and information about Albany come from the 2023-2031 Albany Housing Element Draft.
email@example.com September, 2022
February 8, 2023
TO: Albany Planning and Zoning Commission, Jeff Bond and Barry Miller
FROM: Albany Thrives Together
RE: Just Cause for Eviction
The most basic of all renter protections is a Just Cause for Eviction clause. Without Just Clause a tenant can be given a 30-day notice to vacate at any time. It does not matter if the person is a model tenant who has always paid rent on time or has lived in the property for many years.
AB1482 has a Just Cause clause in it. Albany landlords point to that to justify why Albany does not need its own Just Clause for Eviction clause.
The problem with the clause in AB1482 is that there is no enforcement mechanism in the law and the only recouse tenants have is to go to state court after the eviction takes place.
If the city of Albany passed a Just Cause ordinance it would cost the landlords nothing. It would be no extra regulations on the landlords because they are already living under a Just Cause clause with the State law. This could be a huge benefit to renters in Albany. We believe this would be the least controversial action the city could do to protect tenants and have no effect on the landlords.
February 5, 2023
TO: Albany Planning and Zoning Commission, Jeff Bond and Barry Miller
FROM: Albany Thrives Together
RE: January, 2023 Draft Housing Element/TOPA
The State of California has identified areas in the Housing Element that “promote stability in housing” which includes 5.E (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act). The State has identified this as one area the city needs to have more quantified objectives. In response to the State, the City has done nothing.
In the October 24, 2022 appeal that Albany Thrives Together sent to the State of California regarding the Housing Element we made the following statements about TOPA:
We believe (TOPA would be) “a small, but necessary program for Albany. In the Description the City states “TOPA programs contribute to home ownership and generational wealth while avoiding eviction and stabilizing communities”. There are no homeownership opportunities for low-income people in Albany. This program could also be seen as fair housing in addition to non-displacement and protecting affordable housing indefinitely.
The City needs to set a deadline within the next two years for implementing a TOPA/COPA Program. Some steps with clear timelines are necessary. For example, start a working relationship with The Northern California Land Trust and the Bay Area Community Land Trust. Pursue grant opportunities (Example would be The Bay’s Future) to pay for developing the program.
In September,2022 on Solano Avenue, the City of Berkeley announced the reopening of 13 forever affordable apartments. This happened through a TOPA like program one block from Albany. The City of Albany cannot afford to wait on this. It could make a huge difference for what is probably a very small number of Albany residents, but it is worth it to them and the community they are able to stay in.
We are living in a beautiful place with a tremendous affordable housing shortage. TOPA/COPA programs are one small way to create much needed permanent affordable housing.”
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Albany Community Expo April 30th
Albany Thrives Together will be at the Albany Community Expo at the Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave Albany, 94706. We'll be there from 10 to 2, come visit and learn more about our tenant protection petition....