By Dillan Horton
In early June, as the city was finalizing its annual budget I asked the current city council to consider allocating more resources for the Rental Resources Ordinance. I’ve heard so many stories about renters in Davis fighting to get fair treatment and livable conditions and I know there’s a lot that our city could do to help enforce basic renter’s rights. At the end of the meeting, I was encouraged to hear Mayor Lee direct city staff to give an update and make recommendations for ways to strengthen and improve the ordinance.
Since then my team and I have been in touch with city staff to learn more about the current status of the Rental Resource Ordinance and, to be completely honest, what we’ve learned is a little concerning.
First, let me give some context.
The Rental Resources Ordinance was passed in January 2017 and it consisted of three main programs:
- An education program to inform landlords and tenants about their rights and responsibilities,
- A registration program for landlords along with very modest fees to offset the cost of the program, and
- An inspection program for single-family homes to help ensure that rental units are safe and habitable (so far multi-family homes have not been included in this program).
At the time this ordinance was not seen as a complete solution to all of the problems facing Davis renters, but rather as a first step forward in an ongoing process. Accordingly, members of the city council decided that they would conduct a review of the program after one year.
What I learned earlier this month is that two and a half years after the passage of the ordinance the inspection program (arguably the strongest part of the ordinance) has not yet been implemented and prior to my request at the city council there had been no formal review of the program scheduled (and I know I’m not the first one to ask for this review).
Of course, when I received this information I was disappointed, but I want to be really clear about one thing. City staff aren’t miracle workers. To implement complicated programs like these they need time and resources. That’s why I recommended at the budget hearing that the council look into allocating additional resources to fund the ordinance because it was my understanding at the time that the program was understaffed. Now that I have this new information I believe even more strongly that we need to make an investment in protecting the rights of renters in our community.
There’s no question that we’re in the midst of a housing crisis, here in Davis and all across the state. The Rental Resource Ordinance was meant to be a first step, but now we need to quickly make up for lost time and ensure that we’re protecting the rights of everyone, particularly some of our most vulnerable residents.
The good news is that there’s lots we can do. We can make sure that the inspection program gets fully implemented and that it’s expanded to include multi-family homes. We can make sure that residents who experience housing discrimination of any kind have a clear recourse to protect their right to fair housing. We can also make sure that the leases offered to tenants in this city are fair and fully compliant with state law.
Most of all though, I want to hear from you. I’ve been informed by city staff that the city will be reviewing the ordinance this fall and in the coming weeks and months, I look forward to engaging with community members and ultimately with the current City Council to make meaningful improvements to this vital community resource.
I’m running for city council to make sure that our whole community has a voice on city council, but there’s no need to wait until the election. Let’s get to work now.