The average Berkeley voter has no idea what the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board does, yet voters are asked to elect four or five rent board commissioners every two years. Maybe they have a vague idea of the board’s purpose, but they most likely have limited knowledge of how the rent board works.

The rent board oversees the Rent Stabilization and Just Cause Ordinance, which came into existence by voters in 1980. The ordinance dictates how much rent can be raised each year (on average, about 1.6%) and sets limits on reasons for terminating tenancies.

The Berkeley rent board is an independent agency not controlled by the city of Berkeley. The approximately 23-member staff has an annual budget of almost $6.5 million and is funded by landlords who must pay an annual registration fee for each rental unit. An elected at-large body of nine commissioners is responsible for providing guidance to both the rent board staff and Berkeley City Council, on issues concerning rental housing policy.

While the rent board was initially created to serve both tenant and property owner, the makeup of the board has been overwhelmingly tenants for decades. There is currently no one on the rent board who knows the business of being a housing provider. All housing policy being created comes from the perspective of tenants. The current commissioners have no knowledge of how much it costs to make repairs, what it’s like to pay property taxes, or how to choose a tenant who will share a common space with their landlord.

It should make any voter ask, “How can fair and equitable policy be created without fair and equitable representation?”

Wendy Saenz Hood is the candidate to change that. She is a tenant living with her 101-year-old landlord, whom she helps care for. Previously, Wendy was a housing provider who rented out an in-law unit at her former home in Berkeley. She knows what a good relationship between a tenant and landlord can look like. She knows her current tenancy helps her landlord age in place. She believes small housing providers (those with no more than three units) are a resource to be developed, not maligned. She wants to stop penalizing small housing providers for fear they will fail under the pressure of regulation and ultimately sell to large out-of-area investors. She isn’t a shill for “big real estate interests.” They do well enough without her.

Voting for Wendy Saenz Hood this election won’t give “ultimate power” to landlords at the rent board. But it will give small property owners just one person who can understand their business. Just one person who will provide the alternative perspective necessary to make balanced housing policy. Just one person who can be a voice for what matters when running their business.

Vote Wendy Saenz Hood for Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board on Nov. 8.

Krista C. Gulbransen is executive director of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, a nonprofit serving small housing providers since 1980. She is passionate about educating owners on the value of providing housing to community members and regularly fights for fair and balanced housing policy. She is a volunteer for the candidate’s campaign.

The deadline to register to vote online or by mail in Alameda County is Oct. 24, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. We put together a guide to the essentials of how to register and vote, what’s on the ballot, voters’ rights and more.

Here are some other helpful election resources:

See complete 2022 election coverage on Berkeleyside.