Delano Residents Take Charge


Last year, Delano residents attempted to pass a stricter rent control ordinance that would be easy to enforce at the local level. The ordinance did not pass the City Council. Residents then moved on to the next step—gathering signatures from registered voters to get the Fair Rents Delano ordinance on the November 2024 ballot.

According to Tenants Together, a statewide coalition that advocates for stronger tenant protections, only 39 of 482 cities in California are considered to have strong tenant protections. Delano hopes to join that number.

Like most of the state, renters in Delano are “protected” only by AB 1842 (the 2019 Tenant Protection Act, or TPA), but with rent prices and the cost of living rising, this is simply not enough. AB 1842 was the most impactful piece of state legislation around tenant protections and rent control since the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (1995).

Costa-Hawkins is named after Jim Costa, currently the Congressional representative for District 21, which includes parts of Fresno and Tulare counties. Costa-Hawkins limited local municipalities’ powers to institute rent control.

Many provisions in AB 1842 seek to reverse the landlord-friendly provisions of Costa-Hawkins, including the addition of protections from unfair rent increases and limiting the maximum increase to 5% plus the local rate of inflation, with a maximum annual cap of 10%.

The TPA also provides “just cause” eviction protections, which limit how and why landlords can evict tenants. These reasons include failing to pay rent, breaking the lease and unlawful subletting.

To utilize TPA protections, a tenant must reside on the property for at least 12 months; in the event that a property with an existing tenant gains an additional new tenant, then “just cause” protections can only be utilized after all occupants have been there for 12 months or the first tenant has been there for at least 24 months.

Lastly, the TPA mandates relocation assistance if a landlord evicts a tenant for reasons such as making substantial renovations or moving into the property themselves, also known as at-fault just cause eviction.

Although the TPA’s provisions protect tenants, enforcing rent control laws can often be difficult, taking time and resources tenants usually do not have. Tenants first need to document issues with detailed records (dates, e-mails, texts, letters, photos) proving the landlord is violating the law. Then the tenant must file a complaint with their local housing authority or rent board, which will begin an investigation and reach out to the landlord in question.

If this complex process does not resolve the complaint, tenants must then file a lawsuit in small claims court. Court proceedings can take months, and although there are nonprofits to help with attorney fees, not everyone qualifies. This leaves people in dangerous and vulnerable positions.

Unaffordable housing prices, driven by corporate landlords, have hit Delano hard. Like many cities across the country, residents are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. Skyrocketing rents, fueled by large property groups, private equity firms and corporations, leave families struggling and long-term residents facing the real possibility of displacement.

Corporations are known to buy rental properties and force out tenants, just to raise rents for new tenants. Although California is generally less attractive to large real estate investors, when they do invest in California, they focus on rapidly growing, affordable areas such as the San Joaquin Valley.

Fresno and Kern counties have the highest share of corporate ownership at 5.9%, with Fresno-based JD Home Rentals owning about 2,000 homes. More than 60% of renters in Delano are rent-burdened, paying more than 50% of their income on rent and unable to afford further rent increases.

This crushing inequality spurred the Fair Rents Delano ordinance, a stricter form of rent control. It caps rent increases at 3% annually and focuses on stricter tenant protections such as greater at-fault just cause provisions.

Relocation assistance would increase to $8,000, double the amount mandated by the TPA. For seniors, disabled or terminally ill tenants, an additional $4,000 is mandated.

This measure is a clear deterrent to unfair evictions, ensuring that tenants wouldn’t be left without support during such transitions. To administer and enforce the ordinance, a new City department would be established, funded by an annual rental housing fee paid by landlords. Initially, this fee would be set at $120 per rent-controlled unit per year and $84 for units exempt from rent-control provisions.

Although it would not be the first city in California to implement a local rent control ordinance, Delano would be the first in the Central Valley. Despite the City Council’s rejection, determined residents have taken steps to have this rent control initiative on the ballot for November.

They have submitted 2,177 voter signatures and are awaiting the signatures to be validated. This grassroots effort, driven by the community’s pressing need for affordable housing, brings hope to many who have desperately struggled with rising rents.

The county has around 30 days to complete the verification process. To qualify, the petition needs 10% of the voter population, which is 17,000, therefore only 1,700 valid signatures are needed, leaving a buffer of 477 signatures.

Delano Mayor Joe Alindajoa doesn’t shy away from discussing his stance against rent control. As a landlord, he cannot vote or make decisions on the issue but still shared his point of view. He argued that “it does not reduce rent” and added that it would only “slow down prices of rent.” He emphasized that the state already has rent control and believes it is unnecessary to pass the new ordinance.

“If it passes, it will be the strictest form of rent control in California. It will cost the City hundreds of thousands of dollars to administer it.” Alindajoa says that Delano would become an intermediary, essentially adding another layer of government to oversee rent control issues.

Council Member Mario Nunez is a landlord of two properties and feels that this stricter ordinance would make it too expensive for “smaller” landlords like himself. He believes that the TPA is enough, and strict rent control would negatively affect “good landlords” who are mindful and respectful of their tenants. He also suggests that people need to “utilize” the current system by making more “noise” and reporting “bad landlords” to the state.

Nunez fears that evicting a nonpaying tenant would result in an $8,000 relocation fee, in addition to the unpaid months’ lost rent. However, evicting tenants for not paying rent is considered at-fault just cause due to a breach of the lease on behalf of the tenant. Therefore, neither he nor other landlords would have to pay such a tenant for relocation.

Nunez added that housing taxes and insurance would still go up, “It would be costing me to have people living in my house. What would be the advantage of being a landlord? I became a landlord so that when I retire I could supplement my income.”

Although Nunez prioritizes fixing repairs immediately and seems dedicated to taking care of his tenants, many—if not most—tenants are not as lucky. Many tenants can barely afford to live right now, much less worry about their future retirement.

Arturo Rodriguez, political/organizing director for the Central Valley Empowerment Alliance, says the mayor isn’t seeing the potential benefits that rent control could bring to Delano.

Rodriguez highlighted the grassroots nature of the campaign, noting that “this campaign is not financed by anyone…This is not [only] a Delano problem; this is a Central Valley issue where people from all towns want to sign [on]. The issue here is much greater, and it is hopefully highlighting the need and the public’s opinion around rent control.”

“Should taxpayers be subsidizing the side effects of ever-increasing profits for real estate—meaning all the homeless services and subsidized housing?,” asked Rodriguez. “Should taxpayers be paying for the costs of this housing crisis?”

AB 1482 is a baseline that cities and counties can use to build upon to protect their residents. The people of Delano are standing up for what they need—and they aren’t the only ones. Various cities across California are passing their own forms of local rent control.

Last year, the same month that the Delano City Council defeated the ordinance, the Cudahy City Council passed a rent control measure that limits annual rent increases to 3% or the rate of inflation (whichever is lower), much like the Fair Rents Delano ordinance would do. Change starts locally.


  • Paulina Deeds Ortiz

    Paulina Deeds Ortiz is a former fellow with the Community Alliance newspaper. She is a Mexican immigrant currently attending Fresno State, working on an anthropology major with a minor in psychology. She spends her free time writing poetry or painting.

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