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Delano City Council votes to explore a local rent control ordinance

Renters say they need relief, but landlords say they are raising rents and cutting services because their costs have also gone up.
Delano doorway
Posted at 3:29 PM, Dec 19, 2022

DELANO, Calif. (KERO) — In Delano, a little over 50 percent of the people own their homes, and the remaining half of the residents are renters. With rising rent prices, the idea of a city ordinance regulating rent costs has gained traction in Delano as it has in other cities across the United States.

California already puts a cap of 10 percent on rent increases, but the ordinance being discussed in Delano would go further, putting a limit of 70 percent of the Consumer Price Index, or a three percent cap per year on rent increases. The proposal has brought mixed reactions.

Oscar Sandoval has lived in Delano for the last 20 years. He says paying the rent is very complicated because half of his income is going to rent alone. Sandoval says that expense, along with utility bills, groceries, and gas, takes up three quarters of his total monthly income.

Like a majority of people in Delano, Sandoval is a farmworker. He says that due to his job, his income fluctuates with the weather. Rainy or extreme heat days mean no pay, and since a new law gave them overtime pay for the first time, their hours have been cut to less than the regular 40 per week. Sandoval says this uncertainty makes it impossible to have any savings or room for health emergencies.

Sandoval's monthly expenses will go up again to $1,150 per month for rent with the water bill, because this month, his landlord stopped paying the water and garbage bills. Sandoval and the other tenants are now responsible for this expense.

Andy Veiss, a landlord with property in Delano, says the increased costs to tenants are a reflection of everything else increasing in price.

"Prices just keep going up and up on me," said Veiss.

Veiss works in Delano and is the landlord of several properties across Kern County. He says he pays for the utilities in some of them, but those rates have been increasing. According to Veiss, trash services used to be part of the property taxes. Those taxes are going up despite no longer covering expenses like garbage disposal and recycling pickup.

Veiss says he looks at the average going rates in the area to determine what to charge for rent, and that rents on his properties fall around $900 dollars a month, but points out that his expenses also include repairing or replacing anything that breaks. He says sometimes those maintenance expenses means just breaking even on the mortgage.

"For me to fix things up, Home Depot, those prices have gone up. Air conditioning, for example. I am trying to put in new air conditioners and it is crazy," said Veiss.

Veiss says he invests in making the apartments somewhere people want to live, adding that a rent control ordinance sounds good in theory, but does not seem viable.

"For rent control, then there should be a control on how much a business can charge for me to go out and eat dinner, or how much they charge for groceries or property taxes, and that will never happen, because if you limit property taxes, then the road outside will be full of holes," said Veiss.

Both Veiss and Sandoval agree there is a huge demand for housing, which is proven out by the low availability of housing. This is why advocates of the proposed rent control ordinance like Arturo Rodriguez, lead organizer with the Central Valley Empowerment Alliance, say rent control is important.

"Right now we don't need any rent increases. We know that in California, there are laws that protect landlords for a fair return in their investments," said Rodriguez.

The law Rodriguez mentions does not have a set formula, but the courts have described it as a reasonable return that takes into account investor interest in the property.

Rodriguez points out that this rent control ordinance is tied to the current cost of living and homelessness.

"Unfortunately for us we are going to continue to see a rise in homelessness if we don't ensure we keep our families housed," said Rodriguez.

The motion to further explore a rent control ordinance in Delano passed two to one at the last Delano City Council meeting. 23ABC reached out to Councilmember Liz Morris who voted against it, but did not hear back.

The next steps in the process will be for the city attorneys to write up a draft of the ordinance and present it to the new city council board sometime in early 2023.