The Santa Barbara City Council weighed the scope of a rent stabilization study during its weekly meeting Tuesday.
The discussion was meant to be just on the scope of work of a study the council had already approved in February.
City staff encouraged the council to include five specific questions in the study:
— What are the appropriate maximum allowable annual rent increases for Santa Barbara?
— What are appropriate relocation assistance amounts?
— Should properties with three units or less (considered to be “mom and pop” locations) be treated differently than other rentals?
— What are the viable options to incentivize long-term tenant retention and increase rental housing production?
— How does Santa Barbara’s recent rental rate and rate increase history affect renters in view of local housing availability and local income and wage levels?
Specifically, the study should address the impacts of limiting rent increases to Consumer Price Index plus 1, 2, 3 or 4%, according to Tuesday’s presentation. State law limits rental increases to CPI plus 5% and mandates local rent control needs to be more stringent.
Additionally, the study is designed to consider whether certain exemptions or incentives for smaller properties, such as ones that have three units or less, are necessary.
In December, the Santa Barbara City Council instructed staff to prepare a temporary rent stabilization ordinance limiting rent increases to CPI plus 2%, create a rental registry program and prepare an economic analysis of the long-term effects of a rent stabilization ordinance.
Then in February, the council approved $200,000 in federal pandemic relief funds to be used for the economic analysis of the study.
The council was tasked Tuesday with approving a scope of work outline for the economic analysis and providing direction, if needed, on the sequence and priority for December’s instructions.
Betty Jeppesen, president of the Santa Barbara Rental Property Association, implored the council not to enact a stricter rental ordinance than is already in place at the state level, arguing other options would “not keep up with the rising cost of expenses for the landlord.”
The council had not finished deliberations by press time.
Earlier Tuesday, multiple city workers asked the council to approve a cost of living adjustment. During the at-times emotional public comment period, workers stressed the inability to be able to afford utility bills, rising rent costs and other basic needs such as groceries.