Concord Considers Rent-Hike Caps to Help Hard-Pressed Residents

Salvio Pacheco Square facing Todos Santos Plaza in Concord.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

by Filipa A. Ioannou

William and Argelia Brown lived in rented apartments in Concord for more than 30 years, raising three children. But about four years ago, when William lost his job, he and his wife were evicted and found themselves homeless.

Now they bounce between shelters, motels and their car, says their daughter, Avelina Brown-Nuñez.

“Social Security disability allows them to stay in motels, but it’s not enough for them to afford getting housing,” said 36-year-old Brown-Nuñez, who now lives in Oakland.

It’s an increasingly common story in Concord, Contra Costa County’s largest city, which is the latest Bay Area city to consider placing a moratorium on rent increases. A City Council committee this week forwarded a plan to the full council to ban rent increases above 3 percent for a 45-day period. The moratorium could be extended for up to two years by a subsequent council vote.

“I think it communicates to the general public, ‘We hear what you’re saying, and we want to do what we can,’” said Councilman Dan Helix. He said a moratorium is a reasonable temporary measure while the council studies the scope of the problem and the merits of rent control.

Concord was for many years an enclave where rents remained within reach of middle-class families and single-income households. But the ripple effects of the regional housing crisis have changed that, with rents rising by 60 percent the past six years.

Concord grew more slowly than its neighbors in the wake of the recession, adding only 82 new housing units from 2010 to 2015. Walnut Creek added 802 units in that same period. Pittsburg added 913. Antioch added 1,172.

That sluggish growth in housing stock and subsequent rent spike has hurt middle-class families and seniors on fixed incomes — many of whom thought that in Concord, they had finally found a place they could afford.

“I wanted to retire here, because it’s supposed to be one of the best cities for seniors,” said Theresa Brophy, who has lived in Concord since 1986. With rents in her complex increasing 10 percent each year, she’s not sure she can stay.

“I hope that the increases will be limited, but I’d like to know when, because I’m getting up there in years and I’d like to know where I can live,” she said.

The Browns found that most shelters serve women and children, families with young children, or single older adults, not older married couples whose children are grown.

“When they were staying in shelters, they had to be separated,” said Brown-Nuñez.

Support resources are straining to deal with the needs of the displaced. There are about 400 shelter beds in Contra Costa County. 

“We fully understand this is a regional crisis,” said Kristi Laughlin, an organizer with East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. “But it’s the responsibility of cities in the region to take action.”

On Monday night, a crowd of about 50 people gathered outside the Concord Senior Center before the meeting of the City Council’s housing committee, which sent the moratorium to the full council.

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