Shaping the Future of Rental Housing: Mediation, Inclusive Policies, and Progressive Language

Posted By: Christopher Tipton Advocate, Educate, Inform, Legislate,

By Chris Tipton | January 11, 2024

The East Bay Rental Housing Association (EBRHA) strives to be at the forefront of advocating for meaningful change in 2024 for the rental housing industry. In doing so, the association underscores the urgency of addresses three areas of need:  First, a thoughtful mediation process as a cost-effective alternative to engaging expensive legal resources. Second, inclusive policies that protect renters AND small rental housing providers, and third, consistent language in the rental housing industry that prevents animosity between renters and owners, building towards a more equitable relationship.

Often seen as a lower-cost avenue for resolving owner-renter disputes, Mediation is a key element, provided it is administered thoughtfully. Alameda County must install neutral mediating resources that the community would trust to make the program effective. Otherwise, we ultimately risk replicating Oakland’s unsuccessful RAP mediation program. Additionally, more work needs to be done to tease out the feasibility of potentially preempting the Unlawful Detainer process with mediation first. However, concerns have been voiced by several industry experts that the ultimate goal by policy makers is to disadvantage vulnerable small owners/operators, potentially leading to business closure, and implementing socialized housing. This raises questions about the broader intentions behind housing policies and the potential unintended consequences for small-scale property owners.

The discussion also delves into the aftermath of the extended three-plus-year eviction moratoriums, emphasizing the importance of continuing conversations about Just Cause and other “renter protection” provisions. EBRHA advocates for ongoing dialogue and continue to sit at the table with policy makers to navigate the complex issues arising from this unprecedented period. Recognizing the diversity in rental housing ownership scenarios, the call for inclusive policies for certain properties is essential to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Different ownership situations demand tailored solutions, acknowledging the unique needs of various property owners.

Looking forward, the East Bay Housing Association puts forth the following policy and programs to address the challenges ahead:

Permanent Subsidy Program

The proposal for a more permanent subsidy program aims to assist teachers, educators, and households with young children in dealing with emergency financial assistance needs. This alternative is presented as a pragmatic response, steering away from the complexities associated with developing intricate school year and educator restriction legislation. The focus is on solving the root problems, including the scarcity of below-market-rate housing options and the persistent shortfall of household income.

County Contact Center Housing Hub

A pilot program for a county contact center housing hub acting as a single entry point to streamline public inquiries, resource questions, complaints, escalations, and renter/owner education. Such a centralized approach promises enhanced communication and efficient resolution of housing-related matters.

Right to Counsel and Legal Defense

Ensuring the right to counsel and equal access to legal defense resources is crucial, particularly for small and legacy rental property owners. This advocacy seeks to level the playing field and ensure fair treatment for all property owners, regardless of scale or legacy status.

Preservation Programs and Legacy Support

The association calls for expanding preservation programs for older properties and creating new initiatives to support legacy rental property owners. Financial assistance is deemed essential to help these property owners and their families remain in the rental business, preserving older and more affordable units in the market.

Finally, it’s important we continue the conversation on the linguistic aspect of rental housing discussions. The signing of AB2503 (Garcia’s bill) in fall 2022, aimed at assessing real property terminology, is highlighted. The industry's push towards adopting inclusive language, replacing outdated terms like "landlord" and "tenant" with "Housing Provider/Property Owner" and "Renter/Resident," is underscored. While many officials have embraced this shift, resistance persists, primarily from renter advocate groups.

The call to proactively adopt new language in future ordinances, rejecting antiquated terms like "landlord" and "tenant," aligns with broader efforts to create a more respectful and harmonious discourse in the rental housing landscape. Drawing parallels with language evolution in other the real estate industry where replacing terms like "master bedroom" with "primary bedroom" should serve as a precedent for embracing progressive language in the rental housing sector.

The East Bay Rental Housing Association's vision for the future is grounded in mediation, inclusive policies, and progressive language. By addressing immediate concerns, proposing innovative solutions, and advocating for respectful language, the association aims to shape a rental housing landscape that is equitable, sustainable, and supportive of all stakeholders.

Chris Tipton is the Communications & PR Mgr for the East Bay Rental Housing Association