Proposition 21, a ballot measure that seeks to expand rent control statewide, comes just a year after the state legislature passed sweeping rent reform. It comes from affordable housing advocates who believe the law, which took effect Jan. 1, didn’t go far enough.
Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision on the ballot question.
In 2018, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation shepherded onto the ballot Prop 10 in an effort to allow for more rent control.
The ballot measure would have repealed California’s Costa-Hawkins law, which forbids county and city governments from enacting new rent control statutes. But California voters defeated the measure, with 59 percent siding with landlords.
Since then, things have changed. Assembly Bill 1482, the rent control measure signed into law last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom, now prevents landlords from raising rents more than 5 percent plus inflation on most residential properties built before 2004.
But the AIDS Healthcare Foundation wants tighter limits on rent, and gathered the signatures needed to put a similar Costa-Hawkins repeal on this Tuesday’s ballot.
Prop 21 would let counties and cities impose rent control on residential properties 15 years or older. That includes units where the tenants change hands, though landlords could raise rents on turned-over units by at least 15 percent over three years.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has spent over $30 million in support of Prop 21. Other than the L.A.-based advocacy group’s effort, the California Nurses Association PAC has put in at least $50,000. And that’s it.
“The Yes on 21 Campaign has been going extremely well,” said AIDS Healthcare spokesperson Ged Kensella. “We have a better campaign team in place” and “a much more sensitized electorate, given the humanitarian and economic hardships the coronavirus has visited on people.”
Landlords deride Prop 21 as a vanity project of the foundation’s executive director, Michael Weinstein. They have long argued that rent control only makes California’s affordable housing crisis worse because it discourages development that would increase the housing supply.
“Join us in our opposition to the [sic] Weinstein’s housing freeze,” declares the “no on 21” campaign website.
Prop 21 opponents have spent $35.6 million, with money largely coming from real estate investment trusts including San Mateo’s Essex Property Trust ($7.5 million), Chicago-based Equity Residential ($5.6 million), Avalon Bay ($4.4 million), UDR ($2.5 million) and Prometheus Real Estate Group ($2.1 million).
Landlords are cautiously optimistic.
“Based on our polling, we believe that Prop 21 will be defeated by a similar margin to Prop 10,” said Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles executive director Daniel Yukelson said. “My only concern is having the funding and resources to get out our messaging.”