Less than a year after California voters decisively rejected Proposition 10, backers of that measure say they are close to qualifying a similar rent control initiative for the November 2020 ballot.
The campaign for the Rental Affordability Act says this measure is different from Prop. 10 because it would chip away at the state law blocking rent control on units built after 1995, but not get rid of it entirely.
“If you are building new housing, for those first 15 years of that new housing’s life there will be no rent control on it. So, we are not disincentivizing new construction,” said Rene Christian Moya, director of Housing Is a Human Right, the housing advocacy division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is sponsoring the measure.
The campaign said this month it had collected 625,000 signatures, about 2,000 more than required to qualify for the ballot. The state must still certify the signatures.
Builders and landlords strongly opposed Prop. 10, saying it would have made the state’s affordable housing crisis worse by slowing new construction. Voters defeated it with 59 percent of the vote.
The proposition would have repealed the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which prevents cities and counties from placing rent control on apartments built after 1995. The proposal would have allowed local governments to expand rent control on newer apartments and single-family homes, though it would not have required local action.
Single-family homes and condos are exempt from rent control statewide. Prop. 10 would have allowed cities and counties to change that.
Under the new initiative, property owners who rent out two or fewer single-family homes would automatically be exempt, though the law would apply to larger landlords. It would also regulate how much a landlord could increase rents when a new tenant moves in.
The California Apartment Association campaigned against Prop. 10. Deborah Carlton, a spokeswoman for the group, said the new measure is flawed and would still stymie new growth.
“That doesn’t really target the true problem that’s going on in California. And that’s just there’s not enough housing for the people that are here,” Carlton said.
Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law capping rent increases statewide at 5 percent plus inflation per year, or a maximum of 10 percent, whichever is lower.
Moya called that law “an important first step,” but said his campaign isn’t satisfied with it. He noted it expires in 10 years, while the rules in the new measure would be permanent.
He said the law signed by Newsom doesn’t allow cities that passed rent control decades ago — such as Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco — to expand their existing laws to cover newer units.
In Los Angeles, for example, rent control only applies to apartments built before October 1978, Moya noted.
“We should let those cities expand [rent control] and cover and protect more tenants to stabilize their rents,” Moya said. “This is utterly crucial for families who are struggling to make ends meet. And it’s utterly crucial for people on fixed incomes.”