New caucus in CA State Assembly hopes to bring more protection to renters

A group of California lawmakers has formed a new caucus to advocate for renters. About 44% of California residents are renting, but the caucus says they need more protections from abuse and rising costs.  

Democrat Assemblymember Alex Lee is only 27 years old, but he says it’s his own experience as a renter that prompted him and three others to bring some relief to California renters.  

"Even with rent control statewide, it’s actually a limit of 10% per year. Most people’s wages don’t grow 10% per year, and it’s still very high, but that’s the cap we have," Lee said. 

Lee says he, Issac Bryan, Matt Haney, and Tasha Boerner Horvath, formed the caucus during this session to provide additional protections to the 17 million Californians who rent their homes.  

"… California Legislature [needs] to prioritize renters, especially during the housing crisis where it’s so unaffordable right now to even rent, let alone, even dream of buying a home. And to make sure people aren’t being abused by corporate landlords or bad actors out there," said Lee.  

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Lee says being a renter himself, he fully understands the challenges people face with affordable housing. He says he too cannot afford to own a home and has had to rely on his family to be able to live and work at both the Capitol and in San Jose.  

"Fortunately, I am able to live at home because if I’m trying to buy a home, it’d actually be double my monthly salary to try and even buy a home to make the payment. So, I’m not able to do that and the average rent is nearly $3,000 a month there…." said Lee.

READ MORE: California tenants rise up, demand rent caps from city halls

Swenson Builders is one of the largest housing developers in San Jose. The company recently agreed to reimburse tenants on Japantown's Filomena Avenue after overcharging the residents for rent.

Lee says the caucus wants to create a registry for renters statewide, so landlords can be tracked, and laws can be enforced. 

"…I know of people in New York that have no rent cap, so it can go up 100%, 200% a year. It's really bad," he said.  

KTVU reached out to Swenson Builders, and they chose not to comment on overcharging tenants. Lee says he hopes to get more support for the Renters Caucus in the assembly to continue addressing the housing crisis.