Measure to repeal Costa-Hawkins gets spot on November’s ballot

A repeal would allow cities to pass new rent regulations for the first time since 1995

Michael Weinstein and the California State Capitol
Michael Weinstein and the California State Capitol

Californians will get to decide the future of statewide rent control laws this November.

A measure will appear on November’s ballot to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a state-level law that bars local governments from passing new rent control laws. Repeal advocates have submitted the required 408,000 signatures needed to put the question to the ballot, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The successful campaign to put the repeal to voters sets up a pitched battle over the effectiveness of rent regulations as a way to address the growing housing crisis, which is particularly dire in metros like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Repeal supporters argue that expanding rent regulations is the only way to make rents affordable to middle and low-income Californians. Many experts say that regulations discourage housing development. That limits supply and drives up prices.

New rent control laws could be devastating to developers’ bottom line. Some in the industry say it would make high-end development the only profitable segment of the market.

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A repeal of Costa-Hawkins would free local governments to expand rent regulations however they wish. The law essentially fixed local rent regulations in the 15 cities that had such laws as they were when the state enacted Costa-Hawkins in 1995. It also prohibits local governments from expanding rent regulations to single family homes, duplexes, condominiums, and any buildings built after 1995.

Costa-Hawkins froze the City of Los Angeles’ law that allowed rent control on units built only before 1978, as well as Santa Monica’s regulations. The latter’s apply to buildings constructed before 1979, some after that, and to certain single-family homes and condominiums.

Both sides of the debate are expected to spend tens of millions on their respective campaigns around the ballot. The California Apartment Association, a group that represents landlords, expects to spend $60 million alone to defeat the repeal, according to the Times. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, led by CEO Michael Weinstein is expected to be a key campaigner in favor of the repeal in L.A.

Efforts within the state legislature to repeal Costa-Hawkins have failed in the past, most recently in January. [LAT] – Dennis Lynch