Rent Board Candidates Agree on Lower Rates

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Heated topics with UC Berkeley students - housing and rent issues - have been brought to the table by five candidates running for Berkeley's Rent Stabilization Board, which will be determined after Tuesday's election.

Paul Hogarth graduated from UC Berkeley last May with a degree in political science. Hogarth said he can relate to students who have trouble finding housing in Berkeley because he said that in June of 1998 he also went through "the hell" of trying to find a place to live off-campus. He was one of the lucky ones that year, he said, when he found a place early. Hogarth said he saw classmates sleeping in BART stations.

Hogarth got involved with the on-campus rent board campaign two years ago and since then has worked with the ASUC, the Berkeley community and Councilmember Kriss Worthington on a spectrum of housing issues.

"It has become my big passion," Hogarth said. "I saw how bad it was. I want to make sure students have voices."

Currently, Hogarth works for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic in San Francisco. Hogarth said they deal with the "poorest of poor" - the residents in the area live in hotels, where conditions are awful. The clinic helps residents with complaints and intervenes with landlords.

A supporter of Measure Y, Hogarth said he believes if a resident has been a model tenant and the landlord wants to move in, it is not the tenant's fault. The tenant should be reasonably compensated for the eviction.

"If I am elected, I have to enforce the rent laws," he said. "I would like to enforce good laws."

Hogarth is running as a part of a slate that supports Measure Y. The Committee to Defend Affordable Housing held democratic conventions on campus and in the community to elect the four members of the slate.

According to Matthew Siegel, another slate member running for the rent board, candidates for the slate have very different backgrounds but share many of the same goals.

Siegel has been a resident of Berkeley for 20 years and worked as an analyst for the rent board from 1985 to 1997. After working with the city's oversight unit to ensure compliance of rent laws, Siegel began his law practice. He has been an attorney for the past three years, specializing in housing rights and labor laws.

"I believe rent control is necessary to preserve affordable housing and to protect tenants from fraudulent evictions," Siegel said. "Measure Y offers this protection."

Siegel sees protection in the form of the $4,500 relocation benefits that Measure Y will provide to low-income parties affected by move-in evictions. The importance of Measure Y, he said, is that it provides further protection for seniors, long-term residents and the disabled.

"There are four spots open and five candidates running," Siegel said. "I hope our slate will sweep. There will be some disagreements, but we will be able to further our goals for affordable housing."

The only incumbent running in this year's election is one-year veteran Maxwell Anderson. Anderson has lived in Berkeley for 15 years. He is a registered nurse and works in the intensive care unit of an East Bay hospital. Anderson was on a city planning committee for eight years that got him very interested in city government and the quality of life in Berkeley.

"I am a renter myself," Anderson said. "I identify very strongly with the renter's fight to secure housing that is decent, safe and affordable."

Anderson said he feels it is important to look at the larger housing issues, like solutions "respectful of demographics." The Bay Area is out of control, Anderson said, and he wants to offer protection to those who would be simply swallowed up in the "mad rush to maximize property."

"I'd like to continue my efforts," Anderson said. "The goal is to maintain beautiful city property and affordable housing."

Judy Ann Alberti is originally from New York City and has lived in Berkeley for 30 years. While growing up in East Harlem, she witnessed rent strikes that served as a foundation for her career in housing issues. Currently, Alberti is a legal secretary and has sons in Berkeley schools.

The importance of Measure Y, Alberti said, is that it differentiates between property owners who are in the business to make large amounts of money and those who are small property owners simply looking to supplement their income.

As a part of Alberti's work in the city, she has gone door to door meeting residents who were uninformed and unaware of their rights and responsibilities as renters in Berkeley.

Along with keeping landlords in check, Alberti feels renters need to be reminded that they have the responsibility to keep the units in good condition.

Rent control does not cause problems, Alberti says. In Berkeley, rent control has meant people have been able to stay when they otherwise would not have been able to.

"(Unfortunately) the whole community of Berkeley has become wealthier and whiter," Alberti says. "We need to preserve the diversity that is so much Berkeley."

Peggy Schioler is the only candidate running for rent board from the landlord community and is running in opposition of the slate that supports Measure Y.

Schioler has owned and managed property in Berkeley for more than 40 years. She is a retired teacher and has lived in Berkeley for 52 years, earning her masters degree and doctorate from UC Berkeley. While the housing situation for students is much different from when she was a student, she still sees the problems students face, she says.

"I am running because I am horrified by the loss of affordable rentals in Berkeley over the last 20 years of rent control," Schioler says. "I'm pretty horrified about the terrible shortage (of housing) available to students."

Schioler believes that if rent control is loosened, more rentals would be available and more students would have places to live. One problem with the rental system, Schioler says, is the two-tiered nature of monthly rent, where new tenants are faced with very high rents, while older tenants' rent remains low. Schioler says rent should not depend on when a tenant moves in - landlords should bring old rents up and new rents down to a reasonable medium.


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