It’s baaack: Statewide rent control measure gathers momentum

A petition has garnered nearly 200K signatures, enough to compel the State Legislature to begin debate
By Dennis Lynch | August 09, 2019 01:00PM

AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Michael Weinstein and the California State Capitol building

AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Michael Weinstein and the California State Capitol building

The debate over statewide rent control has been simmering for nearly a year, ever since voters soundly rejected ballot Proposition 10 last November. The reaction to that defeat was swift, in a state with a severe shortage of affordable housing. Soon, cities and municipalities across California began enacting temporary rent control measures — including rent hike freezes.

Now, the issue has barreled back to the forefront in the form of another proposed statewide ballot measure, and lawmakers are now involved. The organizations behind the Rental Affordability Act have gathered nearly 200,000 signatures statewide, enough to compel the lawmakers to hold hearings on the proposal.

Gov. Gavin Newsom boosted the effort for new statewide rent control measures earlier this week when he called a separate proposal in the state Assembly “long overdue.”

Real estate interests have lined up to fight various rent control proposals. A 2020 ballot measure would face significant opposition from landlords and other investors, who spent more than $100 million to fight Prop 10 last year.

The Rental Affordability Act — pushed by Housing is a Human Right and AIDS Healthcare Foundation — would allow for any residential property built as recently as 2005 to qualify for rent control.

Currently, the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act restricts rent control only to properties built before 1995. It also freezes existing rent control laws, including Los Angeles’ 1978 measure, meaning that no units built after 1978 can be put under rent control in the city.

The new bill would also allow local governments to limit rent increases for tenants who move into vacated rent controlled units and cap rent hikes at 15 percent over the next three years.
The AIDS Healthcare Group was a leading party behind a failed effort to repeal Costa-Hawkins last year through the Proposition 10 ballot measure.

Organizers have so far collected around 195,000 signatures in support of the measure since the campaign started in April. They need roughly 428,000 more to put the Rental Affordability Act on the 2020 ballot.

The goal is to collect around 1 million signatures total, according to a press release. That is enough to put the question on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, which would make it harder to overturn in the future.

Despite Prop 10’s defeat, there is a clear appetite for stronger rent control laws in L.A.

Numerous jurisdictions in the L.A. area have tightened renter protections since Prop 10 was defeated, including L.A. County, Glendale, and Beverly Hills. Inglewood and Long Beach are mulling their own measures.