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Advocates press initiative for San Mateo rent law
June 7th, 2016
By Lorena Rojas

Supporters of an initiative to impose rent control and limit evictions on multi-family rental properties in the city of San Mateo were gathering signatures at St. Matthew and St. Timothy parishes as they aim to place the measure on the November ballot.

About 10,000 signatures are needed for the ballot measure to qualify, said Aracely Mondragon, community organizer for Bay Area Faith in Action, part of San Francisco Organizing Project/Peninsula Interfaith Action and the PICO National Network.

The proposed San Mateo city ballot measure is designed to limit annual rent increases to the cost of living, would create a Rental Housing Commission and a process for tenants to appeal rent increases, and protect renters from evictions without cause. The measure would have no impact on a landlord’s ability to evict tenants for non-payment of rent and other lease violations, according to Faith in Action.

Under current law, the owner of residential property in San Mateo may charge any rent they wish for the occupancy of their property and at the end of the lease term or upon giving proper notice, remove a tenant without giving any reason for doing so, the San Mateo city attorney noted in an analysis of the ballot initiative.

State law requires that renters for less than a year receive a 30-day eviction notice and those renting for more than a year receive a 60-day eviction notice, Mondragon said.

In April, a majority of the City Council rejected a proposal to freeze rents and evictions for 90 days. Shortly thereafter Faith in Action filed to collect signatures for the ballot initiative.

“We’ve worked for almost two years” for the approval of a law protecting tenants from high rent increases and evictions, said Mondragon.

Nearly half of San Mateo residents are renters and 42 percent are paying 30 percent of their income in rent while 18 percent are paying more than 50 percent of their income toward rent, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, cited in the ballot initiative.

During the month of May, Faith in Action recruited volunteers to assist with signature gathering and encouraged San Mateo city registered voters to sign the petition, said Reina Gonzalez member of both Faith in Action and St. Matthew social ministries groups. Parishioners are gathering signatures after Mass and in the neighborhoods. “I have two jobs and don’t get home until past 6 p.m., I rest five minutes and I go out to gather signatures hoping to help pass the law,” said Gonzalez.

From June 9, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.

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