The Antioch City Council has officially passed its rent stabilization ordinance, waiving a second reading usually necessary to make such new policy official.

In front of another packed house of supporters at its Sept. 27 meeting, the council again voted 3-2 in favor, with Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barbanica and Councilmember Lori Ogorchock dissenting.

The council added an amendment to the ordinance, rolling back the effective date to Aug. 23 — when it first passed the ordinance.

Like everywhere else in the Bay Area, rents have been on the rise in Antioch in recent years which, along with expiring pandemic protections, have resulted in numerous evictions. Antioch is still considered one of the more affordable cities in the Bay Area.

Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who supported the ordinance, reminded his colleagues it is an election year and residents will remember how they voted Tuesday.

“You have all these candidates and all these individuals and these policy makers calling themselves big-hearted and all these different things, who do the most cold-blooded things,” Thorpe said right before the vote. “Voting against this is that.”

A cap on rent hikes

The new ordinance will cap rent increases in the city to 3 percent of their rent, or 60 percent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward Area, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, whichever is less.

The ordinance will allow one rent increase within 12 months.

Barbanica has said he wants to stop rent increases that, in some cases, are jumping 30 percent or more, which he called outrageous. But he has also said the biggest hikes are coming from larger corporate property owners, not the “mom and pop” landlords who rent one or two units and try to keep up with inflation.

He supported eliminating loopholes in state laws frequently exercised by corporations and having Antioch fashion a law more in line with California’s 2019 Assembly Bill 1482, which capped rent increases statewide at 5 percent annually, plus any rise in CPI not exceeding 10 percent.

“You have all these … policy makers calling themselves big-hearted and all these different things, who do the most cold-blooded things, voting against this is that.”

Mayor Lamar Thorpe

Some landlords will be exempt, including those owning single-family homes without an accessory unit, condominiums and cooperatives. Units first receiving a certificate of occupancy after Feb. 1, 1995, are also exempt from the city ordinance.

Tenants and tenants’ rights advocates came out July 21 at the Casa Blanca Apartments on Claudia Court, where more than 70 people gathered to show frustration with rent hikes as high as 30 percent at the complex and its sister property, Delta Pines.

Activists say about 150 people were given rent increase notices at both properties, and many could end up homeless. Advocates asked the council for an emergency ordinance freezing rent increases and a moratorium on evictions, actions the council said it couldn’t do since Antioch — unlike charter cities like Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond — are general law cities without the same flexibility to enforce rent moratoriums without the state’s backing.

The city will also likely have to designate an office or a department to handle complaints about alleged violations of the ordinance. The office would also hear landlords’ petitions for higher rent increases “to obtain a fair and reasonable return on the landlord’s property.”