By BETTY BASTIDAS

Early this morning at City Hall, Cinthya Muñoz and Mariana Viturro from St. Peter’s Housing Committee and five tenants went office to office to present supervisors with 1,400 signatures supporting the Renters Economic Relief Package.

The legislation, which the supervisors will consider Tuesday, June 23, would amend the city’s rent control law in three ways:
•    By suspending any rent increases causing a tenant’s rent to exceed 33 percent of their income.
•    Expanding the right of tenants to add roommates based on the size and number of bedrooms in an apartment.
•    Limiting the amount of “banked” rent increases to no more than eight percent in any one year. The current law allows landlords to impose rent increases all at once, which has hiked rents by 20 percent or more.

So far, six supervisors including District 9 Supervisor David Campos support the measure, but it needs eight to override a mayoral veto.

“They may push to veto this measure because of the 33 percent limit since there is no limit in existence,” said Muñoz.  At present, the rent board rules on hardship case-by-case.  This 33 percent rule would define hardship explicitly and expand the existing laws provisions.

The vote hinges on support from District 8 (Castro and Noe Valley) Supervisor Bevan Dufty and and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell from District 10 (Bayview and Potrero Hill).  At present, however, it’s unclear if Maxwell will vote because she is a landlord.

“Senior citizens tend to be most impacted because of their fixed income,” said Muñoz who added that landlords tend to use banked rent increases as a way to push tenants out.

One of those vulnerable tenants, she said, was 78-year-old Wenceslau Santos who accompanied Muñoz to deliver the petitions. He moved into his apartment in the Excelsior more than 20 years ago and was recently informed that his rent would jump to $613 from the $416 he has been paying since 1989.   On a retiree’s salary, this amount is more than Santo’s monthly income and is nearly a 50 percent increase.

“I will have to rent my room out and sleep in the living room to be able to afford it,” siad Santos.

Comments on the petitions reflect the economy’s decline.  Mauricio Fabian, a student who signed an online petition wrote in,  “I am currently a student who lost my job and I could not take a rent increase. I want to succeed in life but the struggles are so hard already.”

By the end of the day, Muñoz said they had succeeded in handing out 11 packages of information but none of the supervisors were in to receive them.  “The aides were good, and they were getting the message,” she said.

“Whatever happens, I know I am fighting for what is just,” Santos said.

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