In the ongoing political scrum between tenants’ rights advocates and their landlord counterparts over eviction protections, two members of Santa Barbara City Council’s Ordinance Committee — Kristen Sneddon and Oscar Gutierrez — voted to expand, albeit modestly, the amount of relocation assistance landlords would be required to pay to renters they choose to evict for no fault of their own. One councilmember — Michael Jordan — voted against it, saying a stipend had already been approved earlier this summer that was 1.5 times the rent the tenants currently pay. But tenant advocates had asked for the equivalent of four months’ worth of rent and five for tenants with disabilities.
Sneddon led an equivocal charge on behalf of the increase, pushing for three times the monthly rent. Sneddon worried that when statewide eviction protections during the pandemic are lifted, tenants could find themselves forced to leave not just their homes but Santa Barbara itself. Jordan agreed the problem was real, but he insisted that the unpaid back debt would become a legal cause for eviction and would no longer qualify for the “just cause” protections.
Longtime political activist Dick Flacks, speaking for S.B. County Action Network, argued that a required higher relocation assistance would act as a deterrent for landlords seeking wealthier tenants. Back when landlords were converting rental units into for-sale condominiums, he recalled, the City Council imposed the more burdensome four-month relocation assistance requirement and it helped cool the market for condo conversions. It made no sense, he argued, for the council to require less now.
Landlord advocates have insisted the high relocation costs would either drive rents up or force some landlords to sell their units. The Ordinance Committee voted to forward the issue to the whole council where all the same arguments will be hashed out again.
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