SAN DIEGO — A proposal headed to city council could provide more protection to renters in San Diego.
“I believe that housing is a human right and I know that it is a basic human need and that is why we are taking action to address the city’s most pressing issue, homelessness and our housing affordability crisis,” San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said. “This seems to be a good balance that would help the overwhelming majority of tenants stay in San Diego and stay off the streets.”
The ordinance aims to “promote stability in the San Diego rental housing market and limit adverse impacts on displaced tenants forced to find replacement housing in the expensive and limited San Diego housing market.” The ordinance proposed would protect tenants by requiring just cause for termination, limit the grounds for termination and require more tenant relocation assistance in certain circumstances than the state law requires.
“We’re particularly pleased with the exemptions and definitions that are for the most part in line with state law,” said Molly Kirkland, director of public affairs at Southern California Rental Housing Association.
However, Kirkland said they are concerned about the relocation assistance provided because it goes further than what is required by state law.
“We’re also concerned with the relocation assistance. It’s going to go a month or two above what’s required in state law. We want to make sure it doesn’t pose a financial hardship on the property owner but make sure those that need the help are getting that assistance,” she added.
According to Kirkland, the proposal requires landlords to pay up to 2 months of relocation assistance for evictions without just cause and up to 3 months for seniors and people who are disabled.
“These evictions can have massive financial and emotional impacts on families, if people are displaced, it puts people at risk of homelessness,” Elo-Rivera said.
While city leaders believe this ordinance would help battle homelessness, Kirkland said she doesn’t see the ordinance will help that much.
“We don’t necessarily agree with the narrative that these particular kinds of terminations are causing or exacerbating the homelessness issue,” Kirkland said. “This is probably just a drop in the bucket of what else needs to be done and the biggest thing is to build more housing.”
“This in and of itself is not a silver bullet to prevent homelessness but it can help a substantial number of people remain housed by asking landlords to step up and alleviate some of the costs,” Mayor Todd Gloria said.
The city had a tenant protection act in place since 2004. Since then, the state had passed a new law for tenant protection, but since San Diego already had one in place, it did not have to adjust its order. Now, this city ordinance would meet the state law and go above it in some areas.
The tenant protection has exclusions on the following types of residential rental properties: short-term rentals, certain affordable housing options, some mobile homes, housing in a nonprofit hospital, extended care facilities, religious facilities, residential care for the elderly, dorms, a rental shared with the landlord and others.
According to the city, for every 10 people who were unsheltered and found housing, another 13 people experienced homelessness for the first time in San Diego County between October 2021 and September 2022.
The Downtown San Diego Partnership’s monthly unsheltered count showed there were 1,718 unhoused people in March, down from the record high in January which was recorded at 1,939 people. The partnership counted a record high number of people experiencing homelessness for six months in a row.
The city’s ordinance shows the data that average rent prices increased 46% between 2012 and 2019. It also states 50% of households in San Diego are housing cost-burdened, meaning people spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs.
Eighty percent of the city’s homes were built before 1990, the city says this can create a barrier for people with accessibility needs because many homes built before 1990 are not wheelchair accessible.
According to city data, in 2020, 27% of people experiencing homelessness in San Diego were over 55 years old and nearly half of them were homeless for the first time in their lives.
The ordinance will be heard at Tuesday’s city council meeting on April 25 and would likely get a second reading at the May 15 meeting. If approved, it will be up to Mayor Gloria to sign the ordinance and would go into affect 30 days after the mayor’s signature of approval.