In the District: City Council seeks remedies for high rents, homelessness

City Council recently acted to significantly impact the lives of some of the most vulnerable Sacramentans.

On Aug. 13, we passed the Tenant Protection and Relief Act, a form of rent control and stabilization, by a 7-1 vote with one abstention.

On Aug. 27, we directed staff to move forward and fund a 100-bed homeless shelter on X Street just west of Alhambra Boulevard.

Affordable housing, and the lack thereof, is a critical challenge in our community. Sacramento rents have increased faster than most California cities, with no ability to restrict rent gouging or provide protection against tenant eviction. In 2017, the Sacramento area experienced a national-high median rent increase of 8.2%. Many neighbors have been forced out of their homes, many into homelessness.

While I have not generally been an advocate for rent control, it is unacceptable when our community members spend 39, 40, or 50% of their income on rent. This forces choices between paying the rent vs. food, medicine and other necessities. It is also unacceptable when rent amounts and lease renewals are not stable and certain. The ordinance sunsets after five years and will help renters by limiting rent increases and adding various protections.

Constructing more housing, however, requires time, a luxury we do not have. The long-term answer is increasing the supply of affordable housing. Between Measure U and new state dollars, we will move in that direction.

Council also took a major step forward to address homelessness, a problem of catastrophic proportions. This summer, Sacramento Steps Forward published the results of its 2019 count, which found a 19% increase in homelessness in the county.

A couple data points stand out:

  • First, while overall homelessness did increase, chronic homelessness decreased. This is the population the city has targeted with its services – including those at our Railroad Avenue shelter in North Sacramento, so that is one bright spot. We learned lessons from our experience at the Railroad Avenue shelter that will be applied as we open additional sites.
  • Second, 93% of the 550 individuals surveyed stated that they were either born or lived in Sacramento. This shows that the overwhelming percentage of those Sacramentans experiencing homelessness are truly our neighbors and community members. The 100-bed shelter between Oak Park and Curtis Park will be an important part of the city’s strategy to address this terrible situation. Guests will have access to comprehensive case management, mental health services, housing and employment assistance.

I am proud of the strong support I’ve received from our neighborhood for building this shelter. More details and a timeline for shelter development and opening will come in the next months.

To those who opposed either of these decisions, let’s continue the conversation. I am always open to new ideas. To those who have been supportive, thank you.

In these difficult political times, I hope Sacramento can be a shining example of collaboration. Working together, we can meet the challenges.



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