Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rent Control Under Attack in East Palo Alto

Page Mill Properties has gobbled up half the rental housing stock of East Palo Alto, one of California's rent control cities. The company, and its countless subsidiaries, now own an estimated 1700 rental units after a buying spree in 2007, and they are imposing huge rent increases on their tenants. Some Page Mill tenants are facing rent increases as high as 50% in one year, not to mention questionable "utility" charges that Page Mill is imposing on tenants.

Page Mill claims that it does not need to comply with the annual rent increase limits of the local Rent Stabilization Ordinance with respect to many of these units. Among other tactics, the company has sunk so low as to try to exploit a "mom-and-pop" exemption in the local rent law. The exemption provides that property owners who own up to four units in East Palo Alto are not subject to the rent increase limits of the Ordinance. Page Mill has created a multitude of limited liability companies, each of which owns four or fewer units, and then claims an exemption from the ordinance. This is a transparent scheme to get around the rent laws.

Page Mill has essentially declared war on affordable housing in East Palo Alto, jacking up rents on long-term, low-income residents.

But East Palo Alto residents are fighting back. This rent control jurisdiction, home to thousands of low-income renters and people of color, has withstood landlord attacks on rent control before. The community is united against Page Mill, and determined to take a stand.

Tenant advocates across California should take note of this fight for the soul of East Palo Alto.

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