Op-Ed, Jovanka Beckles, Richmond Councilmember
The Housing Element of the General Plan will be coming before the Council on Tuesday January 15. This element is a forward looking document which reflects well on the City and, if passed, would be of tremendous help to the people of Richmond.
The element includes four issues that appear to have engendered some controversy.
The first would increase tenant protections through rent control and by strengthening requirements for “just cause” before evictions.
The second would strengthen Richmond’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance to make sure that developers create more affordable housing for Richmond.
The third would strengthen the city’s Blight Program by passing a vacant property ordinance to make sure banks register vacant, foreclosed homes, thereby making it easier for the city to identify the owners of properties that are blighting to our neighborhoods.
The fourth would expedite the development of a community land trust to stabilize neighborhoods and increase the supply of affordable housing.
The REDI (Richmond Equitable Development Initiative) coalition, made up of community groups including Urban Habitat, Faithworks, CCISCO, GRIP, ACCE, and others has worked diligently over the last two years to get these policies included in the Housing Element. The Richmond Planning Commission has passed these recommendations. They are currently being opposed by the city staff, the Chamber of Commerce, and the California Apartment Association, which represents owners of multiple unit buildings.
Perhaps most controversial is whether or not the city should adopt a Rent Control policy. Unfortunately, council members Rogers and Butt along with Bates and Booze have indicated they are against such a policy.
Something must be done to help renters! Approximately 50% of Richmond residents rent their homes, and the numbers are growing. Renters are disproportionately the poorest members of the community and have little economic power. It is the obligation of the Council to approve a Housing Element that protects the interests of this section of our population.