(Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

CASA ‘compact’ needs major changes to protect tenants

The Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) process has come to a close. The proposal will now move forward through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), and the state legislature. The policies that come out of this process will impact housing, development, and displacement in the whole Bay Area and perhaps even the state.

But at the final vote of the Technical Committee on CASA, Tenants Together voted that the CASA “compact” should not move forward without major changes. We do not endorse the CASA “compact” as-is, and we disagree with many of its proposals. We are releasing this statement to clarify where we disagree and shine a light on this committee process.

What has come out of the process reads as a developer wishlist with few meaningful tenant protections. The tenant protections presented in CASA are more of a baseline from which to build, not model policy. There were several key problems with CASA, as follows:

1.The CASA process to engage directly impacted communities was not extensive enough or conducted along democratic principles.

2. The MTC “Sensitive Communities” map, which key policy ideas hinge upon, is flawed, and most obviously does not include any part of San Mateo County, Fremont or the North Bay.

3. A last-minute change without consensus was made to “just-cause for eviction” to only cover tenants after their first year of tenancy, and to exempt owner move-ins from having to pay relocation assistance. This bucks a standard across most just-cause ordinances, and even relocation ordinances that do not include just-cause protections.

4. The proposal does not include any process or principles for implementation. There is no agreement in place to ensure that this will be proposed as a baseline and not to pre-empt or undermine cities with existing rent control.

5. The current proposal may be a good baseline to start a conversation about rent control but it will not effectively protect tenants. Instead, annual rent increases should be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Rent control linked to CPI has been proven to allow landlords a fair return.

6. The proposal includes public subsidy of market-rate development through tax breaks and caps on existing fees. The streamlining of housing approvals in Element 7 poses potentially harmful trade-offs because fiscal impacts, value recapture, environmental harm mitigation, and levels of affordability for new housing remain unknown.

7. There is no guarantee that protections and new revenues for affordable housing are in place before zoning and streamlining changes in Elements 5, 6, and 7. This is key to mitigate displacement impacts of development.

8. Funding for tenant protection and affordable housing preservation is allotted a minority of funding at 30 percent of proposed revenue.

Despite the many flaws, there were positive outcomes from the CASA process. Through tireless advocacy, what may have been only a conversation about production and streamlining ended up including protection and preservation strategies as well. Those strategies, if done with care and strategic planning, could be an important baseline for cities without any rent control or eviction protections.

Considering the number of specific elements that did not have consensus, were introduced last-minute, and may have severely negative impacts, Tenants Together asserts that the CASA compact is not a compact at all, but a proposal of policy ideas that will need the engagement and buy-in of those most impacted by the housing crisis. The proposal represents the bottom-line policy you might see if you put developers, landlords, and community groups in a room together. This is not the full extent of what our communities need.

We encourage the public to voice their concerns at the upcoming ABAG meeting on January 17, 2019, 7:00 p.m. at the Bay Area Metro Center in San Francisco.

Aimee Inglis is the power-building program director for Tenants Together.

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