San Francisco rule would encourage building student housing

To protect rent-controlled units, San Francisco may ban converting apartments for student-only uses and create incentives for developers of student dwellings.

By Lee Romney, Los Angeles TimesJuly 9, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — Lower Nob Hill, a once stately neighborhood whose shifting fortunes have proved a draw over the years for prostitutes and petty crooks, is buzzing with new activity.

The Academy of Art University has snatched up nine apartment buildings and former hotels in the enclave, converting them into dorms for students who pack the neighborhood’s cafes and linger on the sidewalks to smoke and skateboard.

Private landlords have gotten in on the action, renting to students who, city officials say, pay as much as 20% more for their lodgings than permanent residents do.

But with the average rent for a San Francisco studio apartment hovering around $2,000, Lower Nob Hill and the institution that transformed it are Exhibit A in a pointed policy debate over student housing.

In an effort to safeguard rent-controlled units, a proposed ordinance would ban the conversion of existing apartments for student-only uses. Passed overwhelmingly by the Planning Commission last month, the measure also would create incentives for developers of designated student dwellings. Continue reading

College Park suspends rent control law

New task force will spend year looking for ways to resolve rental housing issues

by Holly Nunn, Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The College Park City Council voted Tuesday to stop enforcement of the city’s controversial rent control law for one year while the city works with landlords to resolve challenges in the rental housing market.

The council passed an ordinance to extend the law for one year, but then passed a resolution to suspend enforcement of the law until September 2013.

“This gives us one year to explore different ways to get at the same issues the rent stabilization ordinance was meant to address,” said Councilman Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1), who introduced the resolution to suspend enforcement of the law.

Some of the issues to be addressed, Wojahn said, include stabilizing the rate of owner-occupied homes in the city, public safety issues and code enforcement. The city has contended that renter-occupied homes lead to more code violations than owner-occupied homes.

While the ordinance — which caps rents for single-family homes and duplexes, but not for apartments or fraternity and sorority houses — was passed in 2005, it was not enforced until 2010, when it was upheld in court after a challenge from property owners. Continue reading

Voters Could Change Rent Control Law

Santa Monica Rent Control Board asks City Council for a charter amendment on the Nov. 2 ballot that would simplify formula used to calculate yearly rent increases.

By Jenna Chandler | June 29, 2012

Santa Monica voters could be asked to simplify the method used to calculate yearly increases to rent paid by tenants of rent-controlled units in the city.

In a 4-0 vote Thursday night, the Rent Control Board recommended to the City Council that it place a charter amendment on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Each year the board approves rent increases designed to cover the costs a landlord pays to maintain their properties, such as property taxes, utilities and business license fees.

If ultimately approved by voters, the formula used to determine how much rent should increase would be equal to 75 percent of the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index, the federal government’s tool for measuring inflation rates.

“Going to a 75 percent of CPI is somewhat tried and true, it’s really just following the lead of several of our sister cities,” said Rent Control Board member William Winslow.

For the past 30 years, the board has calculated the increases using a formula that involves surveying landlords to find out how much and in what areas their expenses have increases and weighting those components based on local median rents.

“Santa Monica is the only city with rent control in the state using this methodology for determining what the general adjustment should be,” Winslow said. Continue reading