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Ballot measure would expand rent control across California

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Proposal wants to repeal 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, which prevents rent control in newly constructed buildings

Photo by Blake Everett/Shutterstock

A proposed new ballot measure would repeal a state law that prevents California cities from applying rent control to newly constructed buildings, giving communities the power to create new rent controlled units for the first time in over 20 years.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), a community group that describes itself as a union for renters, filed paperwork for the ballot measure on Monday, dubbing it the Affordable Housing Act.

Under present state law, no housing built after the passage of the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act may be subject to rent control.

Older buildings may “reset” rents as soon as units are vacant and looking for new tenants, making rent control stock a constantly dwindling and non-renewable resource.

The Affordable Housing Act would, simply put, “repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.” Specifically, it would update the state civil code to read:

A city, county, or city and county shall have the authority to adopt a local charter provision, ordinance or regulation that governs a landlord's right to establish and increase rental rates on a dwelling or housing unit.

In accordance with California law, a landlord's right to a fair rate of return on a property shall not be abridged by a city, county, or city and county.

Photo by Mark Schwettman/Shutterstock

According to the city data hub, San Francisco “does not have an official count of rent controlled units, as units move in and out of rent control and landlords are not required to register rent controlled units.”

The urban design think tank SPUR estimated in 2014 that San Francisco had “roughly 172,000 units of rent controlled housing” at the time, about 45 percent of the city’s entire housing stock.

In Monday’s paperwork ACCE claims that “median rents are higher in California than any other state in the country.”

That’s true by many measures, although the rental site ApartmentList—which ACCE later cites as their own source on rental data—presently says that the most expensive state for renters is actually Hawaii, where the median price on a single bedroom home is $1,500/month, to California’s $1,410.

The site also marks Washington DC as more expensive overall than California, averaging $1,480/month for an apartment.

Be that as it may, the measure’s sponsors are not wrong when they claim that the price of renting in California, particularly in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, is out of control.

As the SF Business Times notes, the Cost-Hawkins Act repeal will need to gather 365,880 voter signatures in order to qualify for the ballot in 2018.

Photo by pung/Shutterstock