In affordable housing-starved LA, rent control law may get an overhaul

Costa-Hawkins repeal advocates say they are trying to protect lower-income earners; opponents say it will make development less profitable

An apartment building in Los Angeles and Mayor Eric Garcetti (Credit: Rod Ramsey via Flickr)
An apartment building in Los Angeles and Mayor Eric Garcetti (Credit: Rod Ramsey via Flickr)

Affordable housing advocates in Los Angeles said they have enough signatures for a ballot referendum in hopes of overturning state-level rent control restrictions.

The news came on Monday during a press conference in front of City Hall, joined by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Mike Bonin. The group needs 565,000 signatures to put the question on a future ballot, and said they had over 588,000, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The repeal effort is officially called the Affordable Housing Act. It would remove from law the Costa-Hawkins Rental Control Housing Act of 1995, which limits local rent control laws. Costa-Hawkins bars rent control on any building built after the year it was passed, on any single-family homes, and on any condominiums. It also limits rent control to buildings constructed before local laws took effect.

In L.A.’s case, that means the city can only limit rent increases in buildings built before October of 1978, an increasingly small proportion of the total properties. Repeal advocates say eliminating Costa-Hawkins would help protect affordable housing in an increasingly expensive city.

Costa-Hawkins supporters, meanwhile, say that repealing it would make development less profitable and delay the construction of new housing units, driving up prices on existing housing.

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In remarks at the news conference, Garcetti threw his “full support” to the repeal effort and indicated he would look to expand rent control if given the power. He stopped short of mentioning specifics.

“Our hands right now are tied,” the mayor said. “For 15 years people have asked me, ‘would you like that control’ [and] I said, ‘absolutely,’ because we know better on the streets we live and the communities we call home… so we need to get this done.”

The ballot effort started in October, eight months after Assemblyman Richard Bloom “parked” the Affordable Housing Act in committee amid pushback from landlords and lobbyists, to see “what kind of compromise we can come up with.”

The state Assembly ultimately voted down the Affordable Housing Act in January.