Screenshot of 10 people in virtual meeting

City Council Moves to Put Rent Control Before Richmond Voters

Screenshot of 10 people in virtual meeting

The Richmond City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to put a rent control measure on the city’s November ballot. (Screenshot captured by Julia Métraux / The CC Pulse)

By Julia Métraux

The Richmond City Council passed a motion Tuesday that would put a resolution on the Nov. 8 ballot to address rent control. The motion passed 5-2, with Mayor Tom Butt and council member Nathaniel Bates voting against it.

Originally just on the consent calendar, the City Council approved a motion that would allow Richmond residents to vote on rent control. The maximum allowable rent increase would be 60% of any increase to the consumer price index or three percent, whichever is lowest. This would be lower than the current standard, which allows landlords of rent-controlled apartments to raise rents at the same rate as the CPI.

Bates questioned whether this was a step that the City Council should be taking because Richmond has a rent control board.

“This body apparently chose to bypass the very board that they helped create,” Bates said. “This entire measure smells very foul in the sense that we’re pitting, in my opinion, landlords against the tenants.”

Council member Gayle McLaughlin, who brought this measure forward last week, said that “there is a fair return provision for landlords.” She also said rent control could help ongoing crises facing not only Richmond residents but the entire country.

“For the last two decades, we’ve experienced the foreclosure crisis, the great recession, the housing crisis, the pandemic, the highest inflation for decades, and it looks like we’re heading into a recession,” she said.

McLaughlin also said she will work with city staff and rent board members to “get this process simplified” for landlords.

While council member Demnlus Johnson did vote to support the motion, he expressed frustration with some of McLaughlin’s responses to community concerns.

“When I asked about stakeholder engagement in the last meeting and the response from council member McLaughlin was, ‘Well, they can have input during the election cycle,’” Johnson said, “that was a very diabolical comment to make in regard to stakeholders.”

Johnson did say he finds it important to bring ballot measures to Richmond residents when they can to get their input.

“I believe every time we have an opportunity to take it to the people, we should,” he said.

The State of Staffing of Richmond Police Department

Butt and council member Bates brought forward a motion to approve a minimum of 165 police officers at the Richmond Police Department.

The recently reinstated Police Chief Bisa French said Tuesday that the “staffing issue is probably the biggest one the police department is facing right now.”

Adding “165 officers will give us the ability to better serve the community, will help us to better staff our investigative units,” she said.

Council member Melvin Willis expressed a variety concerns about increasing police staffing, primarily budgetary constraints. Willis brought forward a substitute motion.

“I want to just make the substitute motion that we vote no … but we make the staffing levels and service concerns at the Richmond Police Department an ongoing item,” Willis said. “We have another issue that’s hindering our recruitment. That’s the fact that we have not gotten a new [memorandum of understanding], which we need to figure out through negotiations.”

After a question for clarity from McLaughlin, Willis said police staffing-related motions would not be on every agenda going forward, but it should be something they revisit on an ongoing basis.

The council voted 5-2 on this item, with Butt and Bates voting against it.

No regular City Council meetings are scheduled for the month of August.

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