It’s back: AIDS Healthcare rental cap bill heads to ballot

Voters will consider modified version of 2018 measure they threw out

Feb.February 04, 2020 03:00 PM
Michael Weinstein, the director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Michael Weinstein, the director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Don’t call it a comeback, statewide attempts to cap rent hikes have been ongoing for years.

The California Secretary of State’s office announced this week that the “Rental Affordability Act” – a ballot initiative financed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation – will be on the state-wide ballot again this November, two years after voters rejected a similar measure.

The initiative is partly redundant to a major state rent control law that went into effect Jan. 1. However, unlike the new state law, the proposed ballot initiative could mean major rent control rules on units built between 1995 and 2005.

The measure was deemed ballot-worthy after it attained 685,534 projected valid signatures by random sampling, or more than five percent of the 110 percent total votes cast for governor in the 2018 election, according to the state’s announcement.

The initiative repeals part of the landmark, landlord-friendly 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, which prohibits local governments from implementing rent controls on properties built after 1995.

Under the proposal, local governments could limit rent increases on properties built after 2005, but with some caveats that were not part of the failed 2018 ballot measure. Under the new measure, landlords who own two or fewer single-family homes would be exempted from the law.

The ballot initiative comes on the heels of Assembly Bill 1482, which also caps rents on any buildings built before 2005, specifying that multifamily landlords cannot raise rents by more than five percent each year, adjusted for inflation.

What’s different about the Rental Affordability Act is that local government would be empowered to impose further limitations on rent hikes for at least 100,000 multifamily buildings constructed between 1995 and 2005 that go beyond the five percent cap imposed by AB 1482.

Municipalities including Los Angeles already have strict caps on some buildings that were constructed before 1995.

The ballot initiative is one of several housing fights taken up by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Hollywood-headquartered group that is largely self-financed through drug sales at its pharmacies and clinics. The organization is partly aligned with renters’ rights advocates, but it also has pressed for community control of a number of housing decisions. For example, AIDS Healthcare opposed the recently defeated Senate Bill 50 and sued numerous developers of multi-story Hollywood projects.

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