By Allen Payton
On Tuesday, May 7, 2013 a group of citizens, led by Antioch Police and Crime Prevention Commissioner Hans Ho, filed a Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition with Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen, to begin gathering signatures to place a measure on the November ballot to implement a landlord rental fee on residential rental properties.
The fee would be $240 per year or $20 per month per single-family home and multi-family unit, such as condominiums, townhouses, duets and apartments that are non-owner occupied. In order to pass the measure will have to garner a simple majority vote of 50% plus one vote of Antioch voters.
If passed, the fee will generate $2,640,000 per year for the City’s General Fund – which pays for police and other city services – based on an estimated 11,000 rental units in the city.
Among those properties which are exempt from paying the tax are residential care facilities and senior housing complexes.
“Every one has been talking about this, for a long time, including the City Council and citizens, as I go to Neighborhood Watch meetings,” said Ho. “We’ve grown impatient waiting for the City Council to act so we jumped in.”
The Council has discussed placing both a residential rental fee and a sales tax on the November ballot.
“Any one of these measures will not fully fund the police department,” he added. “This is not an alternative to the sales tax measure, it’s a companion to it.”
Estimates have been given to the council of over $4 million to fully staff the police department to 126 sworn officers and Community Service Officers. Over $7 million per year extra is needed to get to the optimum level of police staffing.
The group didn’t want to wait until after next Tuesday’s council meeting, where the results of the city-commissioned survey on the issue will be discussed.
There’s a fear the council is afraid of pursuing the fee on residential properties and the citizens group wanted to take action to ensure they had enough time to gather the signatures to place it on the ballot.
The group has until July 31 to gather and submit the required 4,647 valid signatures, which is 10% of the registered voters as of the last election, to get the measure on the November 5, 2013 ballot. The group plans on gathering 8,000 signatures just to be safe.
According to Simonsen, the group submitted the officially letter to the City Attorney to prepare the official title and summary of the ballot measure within 15 days.
The effort is supported by Take Back Antioch and the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, which is made up of community leaders and residents, as well as many individuals in the community.
Ho, who is acting as a citizen, not in his official capacity in supporting the effort, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, for now. They expect to have a website and Facebook page to provide information to the public and for those who would like to get involved and help circulate the petitions and gather signatures.
For the complete language of the ballot measure click here: Landlord initiative ordinance
Following are the arguments and reasoning for the ballot measure:
-This Community generated initiative would provide an estimated $2.5 to 2.7 million per year to the City for the highest priority areas, such as public safety. Crime levels in many areas of the City are at unacceptable levels and this will help to provide new resources. This new revenue may alleviate the demand for an additional high sales tax rate which could depress business in the City.
-This Community-based initiative would mean that each “non-owner occupied dwelling” in the City would be charged a Business License Fee of $240 per year to offset the costs to the community. This would close a multi-million dollar loop-hole for landlords that results in high costs on local communities for related resources and services associated with the burdens from this area of business.
-Most businesses in the City already pay a business license fee, but currently, many dwellings are rented without any business license. This initiative would provide a simple frame work to efficiently collect consistent fees from all non-owner occupied dwellings in the City. This would generate a stable source of revenue, unlike alternatives such as a sales tax.
-The business of “renting” dwellings results in new costly demands on City services such as public safety, and this would allow those engaged in the business of renting to provide compensation for these costs. The proposed fees would be paid by the owners of the rental properties.
-Most business in the City is conducted in areas zoned for business, but the dwelling rental business typically operates within and among residential areas. The impacts of a business operating in a residential area needs to be addressed. Years of complaints due to unresponsive landlords chronically conducting poor business practices among local residential neighborhoods has only become even worse. This poor quality of life for all citizens can only be addressed with the correct level of resources, including public safety.
This is about:
-Fairness, so all businesses pay a reasonable license fee for their area of business, and at a level related to the impact on resources.
-Fairness, to impacted residential areas through enhanced relief through better resources.
-More resources for priority areas such as public safety.
-A Community-based effort to reducing blight and Crime.
-A stable revenue stream for new resources, unlike other options such as a sales tax.
-Encouraging responsible business owners engaged in renting property, and resources for unresponsive landlords.
-A Community-based solution after years of dysfunctional talk.
-Helping all parts of, and all citizens in the City to live with a higher quality of life.