To Control (Rent) or Not to Control ‘Tis the Hot Question

By Nick Masuda   |   December 21, 2021

While Kristen Sneddon has long been an advocate for tenant protection, particularly against inordinate rent hikes, she was also the first person to question the rushed timing of the controversial proposal to cap annual residential rent increases as 2% — brought to council by outgoing Mayor Cathy Murillo and councilmember Oscar Gutierrez.

The District 4 representative on Santa Barbara City Council believes that it formed “corners” that might be tough to come back from.

“It has absolutely made it a polarizing issue now,” Sneddon said. “I firmly believe that there is a compromise to be had here, with landlords and tenants at the same table. But us rushing this ordinance through definitely created some unnecessary conflict.”

A vote to support the proposal was a tight one, with Gutierrez, Murillo, Sneddon, and Meagan Harmon all supporting it, while Eric Friedman, Mike Jordan, and Alejandra Gutierrez were against it.

Sneddon’s support came with a caveat — the council must ultimately rely on data, both of the city and of other cities that are experimenting with similar ordinances. That’s why she was adamant that it must be researched and adopted at a later vote.

The current state law caps rent increases at 5%, and the ordinance would only apply to apartments, not single-family homes or duplexes.

The discussion, including public comment, took more than three hours at the December 7 city council meeting, with plenty of opinions on both sides.

“The community wants to be part of the conversation. And I don’t believe that landlords are on the bad side and tenants are on the good side. I think it’s a really complicated relationship,” Sneddon said.

During her campaign to keep her District 4 seat, she says that some of the volunteers that went door-to-door didn’t recognize some of the folks answering the doors — as higher rents have forced long-time locals to move to places such as Thousand Oaks and Oxnard.

“It’s part of the problem we are facing, losing part of our history because of rising rents,” Sneddon said. “It’s a problem we must fix, but we need to let the research tell us what the right solution is. I believe it will tell us that some type of rent control will be in order, but I’m not ready to vote on that until I see the data.”

Sneddon indicated that while the council is motivated, a final resolution could be up to a year out.


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