Community Wants to Limit National City’s Rising Rents

Created: 29 March, 2018
Last update: 20 April, 2022

By Ana Gomez Salcido

A coalition of faith-based, community and labor organizations kicked off a two-month signature-gathering campaign to place a rent stabilization measure on the November ballot, a first for any city in the county.

Made up of nine San Diego-based nonprofits and unions, the National City Families for Fair Rent coalition needs to collect the signatures of 2,300 registered voters in this South Bay city by mid-May in order to qualify its proposed measure, the National City Rent Control and Community Stabilization Ordinance, for the ballot.

If approved by a majority of National City voters in November, the ordinance would establish a program of residential rent control that would include just cause for eviction and rent stabilization provisions, as well as create a five-member City Council-appointed rent board to administer and enforce the program.

“The rent is simply too high,” said Paola Martinez-Montes, San Diego director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), an organization that is part of the rent control coalition. “And it’s getting worse.

Long-time residents, families who have lived at the same location for years and even decades, are increasingly being pushed out of their homes and communities. National City can do better. And we will work hard from today until November so it does.”

Under just cause protections, tenants could still be evicted if they fail to pay rent or substantially violate the material terms of their rental agreement, but this would require a reason provided, with just cause. The rent stabilization provision would limit rent increases to a one-time 5 percent annual hike in relation to the Consumer Price Index, which is established by the U.S. Department of Labor.

According to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the latest available, the median gross rent for rental housing units in the city increased from $980 in 2015 to $1,143 in 2016, a 16.6 percent increase.

Some National City residents, like Adriana Huerta, 39, have seen their rents increase by a larger percentage and in a shorter time span.

“About a year ago, my rent went up by 40 percent,” Huerta said. “That’s $400 from one month to the next. As my family’s sole breadwinner, I could no longer cover rent on my own. My daughters, who are college students, had to get part-time jobs to help out. We need city and county laws that keep rents fair for working families.”

Statewide, a related campaign is also underway to qualify the Affordable Housing Act measure for the November ballot in an effort to repeal 1995’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which among other things revoked local governments’ ability to pass rent control laws.

The National City Families for Fair Rent coalition includes ACCE, the Center on Policy Initiatives, the San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, the Service Employees International Union Local 221, the United Domestic Workers of America-AFSCME Local 3930, Unite Here Local 30, the San Diego Organizing Project, the Environmental Health Coalition and the Employee Rights Center.