Letters to the Editor: Public invited to participate in rents meetings

Letters to the Editor: Public invited to participate in rents meetings

Letters to the Editor

Over the past several months, issues concerning residential rental housing have come into public awareness. Through the efforts of Renewed Hope Housing Advocates, the Planning Board proposed the formation of a task force to address the concerns of residents who rent apartments, condos, townhouses, and single family homes. Last month, the City Council voted, 3-2, to postpone the formation of the proposed rental housing task force and supported the request by Renewed Hope and the city’s major housing providers to come together as a community to identify the issues, become informed about the effects of certain practices, and explore possible solutions in a respectful and collaborative process.

I would like to acknowledge Councilman Stewart Chen for spearheading the community discussion approach; Councilwoman Lena Tam for her unwavering support of the community discussion process; and Mayor Marie Gilmore, who recognized the complexity of the issues involved, the fear that tenants might have in coming forward in a task force environment, and acknowledged that the residents most impacted by rental issues wanted this community discussion to take place before initiating the task force.

Unlike the task force model, the community discussion method allows for direct participation by the affected parties in both identifying the problem and developing solutions. Additionally, the community discussion will yield faster recommendations. The task force as originally envisioned by the city was given six months to do its work. The community group will be reporting back to the City Council with recommendations in December.

The community discussion model that was approved consists of identifying and organizing the people who are directly and significantly impacted by rental housing issues (known as stakeholders), clearly describing the issues, becoming informed about the facts, offering solutions to the issues, and working collaboratively to develop and present solutions that all the stakeholders agree on. The stakeholders in this community discussion are tenants, housing providers, and the rental management companies that interact on a daily basis with both tenants and housing providers. Additionally, there are a number of advisory stakeholders who would provide information that could be useful to the stakeholders in evaluating the many possible solutions that will be proposed. At this time, ECHO Housing has agreed to participate, and there are invitations out to several other organizations.

For this project, the stakeholders representing tenants have generally been grouped into the following resident categories: seniors, disabled persons, low income residents and residents who receive Section 8 assistance, families with children in Alameda schools, English as a second language residents, moderate income tenants who presently can afford to pay rent but have anxiety about future rent increases, tenants who rent from model landlords (best practices), and tenants who have experienced questionable practices.

The stakeholder categories for housing providers include: owner occupied rental units; owners of single family homes, townhouses, and condos; two to four unit properties; owners of Victorian conversions; small unit (six to 15 units) properties, mid-size housing providers owning buildings with 16 to 99 units, and large housing providers operating complexes with 100 or more units. All of these multi-unit designations pertain to a single property.

While a number of tenants and housing providers have offered to participate in the public meetings, a significant number of tenants and landlords have expressed their apprehension and in some cases fear of being involved at all. Tenants are fearful of retaliation from landlords and housing providers have privacy concerns. Consequently, I am looking into securing an at-large stakeholder for both tenants and housing providers to read these anonymous and confidential communications.

As for next steps, three public meetings are now in the planning stages. The "Introduction and Tenant Focus" meeting will be held in late October. The "State of the Alameda Rental Housing Market and Housing Provider Focus" meeting is scheduled for early November, and the "Solutions and Recommendations" meeting will be held in mid-November. Announcements will be provided to the local newspapers and electronic media.

Both tenant and housing provider stakeholder groups are looking for more representatives who can assist in suggesting solutions and evaluating the impact of those solutions on the various stakeholders. Interested persons can contact me for more information on how they can participate. Also, if tenants and housing providers have experiences they think would be beneficial to share, they can contact me at 865-7369 or submit their written description to jeffcambra@earthlink.net or P.O. Box, 1343, Alameda, Calif. 94501. Any contribution can be anonymous, confidential, or made part of the public record. Specific names of apartment complexes, resident managers, property owners, or individual tenants will not be disclosed in any manner.

Jeff Cambra

Jeff Cambra is the facilitator for the rental housing community discussion project.

Comments

Submitted by Karen G. (not verified) on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

Once again I see cronyism. Mr. Cambra and Mr. Chen are good friends. The following is from Michele Elison's report on the city council meeting. " Councilman Stewart Chen, who spearheaded the proposal for the community-based process in what may have been the most forceful advocacy he has offered in two years on the council, said it would be more effective than a government-sponsored group because it won’t be bogged down by public notice and other requirements a city task force could have to comply with." Did I read correctly? Mr. Chen does not want a city task force because he wants to skirt regulations and not have the residents informed -no public notice.

Submitted by Jason B. (not verified) on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

It sounds to me like Mr. Chen knows bureaucratic red tape when he sees it and recognizes a serious crisis that needs to be addressed in a more timely manner by those who it's effecting directly. The idea of letting stakeholders come together and try to work something out to present to the council is the very definition of community engagement. The public is invited and encourages to participate in the entire process. So what exactly is the problem here?

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

Hi Jason: Thanks for your comment. Have meetings been scheduled, and are the dates, times and locations being made public somewhere? I heard third-hand that meetings had been scheduled but haven't gotten any information from Mr. Chen or Mr. Cambra about them (though I did ask him to add me to the mailing list he advertised), so if you have that information and can post, much obliged, I'm sure our readers would appreciate it.

Also, are you the Jason B. with the closed Facebook Alameda renters' page that I wasn't allowed to join?

Submitted by Mary McMuldren (not verified) on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

Mr Cambra posted a notice about a meeting on the Alameda Parents Network (a Yahoo group).
The first meeting is at Mastick Senior Center. Nov. 12th at 7 pm.
And he said read more at The Alamedan. haha.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

Thanks Mary! Really appreciate it.