Concord Council approved a “rent registry” program for the city to collect rental housing data to help drive future policy. The vote was unanimous after three hours of discussion among members, staff, consultants and the public but with direction to city staff to include a public information portal as part of the program.
Many expressed concern about making sure that accurate information is obtained from landlords, and/or about maintaining privacy of both landlords and tenants.
Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister said the city could be mining information from a city with many landlords when a relatively small number of them are seen as causing problems.“I don’t know if the registry program is going to get all of the bad apples out of there,” Hoffmeister said.
The rent registry program will require the owners of all multifamily complexes with four or more units to register with the city under penalty of perjury (affordable housing complexes are exempt from the rent registry). Information will include evictions, units’ square footages, rent costs and how those costs have changed over time. Each year, Concord will publish a report of the data it collects from the landlords’ submissions.
Mayor Tim McGallian at one point said he was leaning toward not wanting a public portal at all. The main purpose of the registry, he said, was for the city to gather information to help guide policy not for outside advocacy groups to use for their purposes. McGallian and Hoffmeister feared that seeking such data was an overreach by the city.
But Vice Mayor Dominic Aliano and Councilmembers Edi Birsan and Carlyn Obringer all said there needs to be some manner of public interface.
Birsan said he was uncomfortable with the idea of the city collecting data it wouldn’t openly share. “We do not make policy based on secret data,” Birsan said.
However, council members opted to withhold certain specific information they deemed would be privacy violations for landlords or tenants. Tenants’ names and their apartment numbers will be withheld, but details such as how much tenants paid in rent at move-in, which can be used to track rent changes that predated the program will be available on the city’s website.
Property owners will be expected to fill out forms with queries such as, “how many move-outs were initiated by the tenant? How many Move-outs were initiated by the owner?” as well as rent amounts and reasons for any evictions.
Landlords say the program unfairly pries into their business practices.and an invasive overstep by the city.
The rent registry is being created in response to requests from local renters and their advocates for information that could help show whether landlords are carrying out evictions legally and fairly, or whether rents are rising unreasonably. Some advocates of the registry have said it also will serve to show “the real rental landscape” in Concord.
The registry will be run by a third-party consulting firm and paid for by landlords at a yearly rate of about $5 per unit.