The proposed increase in the Rent Program Service Fee - from $30 to $110 per year - would have increased housing costs for Oakland renters.
The City Council Finance Committee dropped a proposed increase to the City's rent program fee at its November 10 meeting, following a loud response from housing rights advocates. The fee is used to administer the City's Rent Adjustment Program (RAP), which provides some limited protections for tenants in certain apartments from excessive rent increases.
City staff had proposed an increase in the fee, which is paid annually and supposed to be split equally between tenants and landlords, to $110 from the current $30. The RAP has recently seen a spike in the number of petitions filed by tenants contesting rent increases and now faces a growing backlog of appeals cases, which staff used to justify the near quadruple of the current fee.
Tenant advocates noted, however, that the RAP has had large surpluses in recent years, with a $700,000 surplus in revenue in the last fiscal year, and a $1 million surplus two years ago. The Oakland Tenants Union, which monitors RAP activities and supports tenants, also pointed out that the RAP program as it is currently structured is deeply flawed and opposed a large fee increase without a major overhaul of the program. In fact, proposals to restructure the current program are currently being considered by Mayor Schaaf's recently formed "housing cabinet" and many opponents questioned the wisdom of increasing the fee when that process is just getting underway.
Furthermore, OTU noted that the current backlog in appeals cases from tenants has largely been caused by the Rent Board's failure to meet in over two months to hear appeals and conduct business. Mayor Schaaf finally nominated a qualified tenant alternate representative to the Board who was approved by City Council last week.
At its meeting on Tuesday morning, members of the City Council Finance Committee recognized the large number of public comments that had been received in opposition to the fee increase and postponed the matter indefinitely.