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Mountain View Rent Control Measure D Stirs Heated Debate

MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX 5) -- The battle over rent control is heating up in Mountain View as city officials try to define what is fair for renters and landlords.

One thing just about everyone in Mountain View can agree on is that high rents in the city have left many people struggling, with some being forced to live in RV's.

"Higher rents are driving essential people out of our community," said long-time Mountain View resident Gail Nyhan.

But now a battle is brewing over how to fix the problem. City Hall is backing Measure D, what it calls "reasonable rent control." It would limit rent increases to four percent a year.

"On balance, it seems like it's going to do the best job for me and not do excessive damage to those who own the properties," said Harris Shiffman, who just cast his early ballot in favor of Measure D.

Measure D is also backed by landlords and the California Apartment Association which said, "Measure D seeks to protect renters, encourage investment in the community's housing units, and ensure a good quality of life for all residents. We appreciate the City Council's efforts to work with all stakeholders and try to find some elements of common ground."

Not everyone is so positive about the measure. Renter Caroline Charrow calls Measure D "terrible."

"Every year that I have been here, our landlords have raised the rent by exactly what's been allowed under rent control. So if four percent is permitted, they'll raise it four percent every single year," explained Charrow, who works at a Mountain View non-profit.

Part of the opposition is that the city's current rent control law is tied to the consumer price index, which averages about 3 percent a year.

For Charrow, the difference would be hundreds of dollars a year out of her pocket.

"That's our kid's day care for a month maybe. That's a car payment. It's a real amount of money," she said.

Opponents also say that under Measure D, landlords can pass on the cost of upgrades to extend the life of their buildings up to a ten percent increase.

"With a ten percent increase, I don't know how we would stay here," Charrow said.

Harris Shiffman says he doesn't want to pay a four percent rent increase either, but he sees Measure D as a way to steady the market and create more housing.

"Something's gotta give. We need a better system. Just holding the line on prices is not going to be enough, because we're just not building anything."

A group of people opposed to Measure D was gathering at City Hall in Mountain View Tuesday night to voice some of their issues with the measure.

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