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California Democrats endorse rent control expansion

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90-10 vote for Proposition 10 comes as little surprise

Housing Report Suggests Rising Rents Could Lead To Home Market Turnaround Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Sunday, the California Democratic Party (CDP) endorsed Proposition 10, a November 6 ballot initiative that would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act and allow California cities to place rent-control restrictions on newly created housing stock.

The endorsement doesn’t come as a surprise, as Democratic lawmakers have agitated for decades to do away with Costa-Hawkins. In January, San Francisco state assemblyman David Chiu attempted to repeal the act in the legislature. After that bill died in committee, Chiu commented it may be time to put repeal up to a general vote instead.

The Yes On 10 campaign reports that the CDP favored Proposition 10 via a lopsided 90 percent vote.

Campaign strategist Joe Trippi said, via a Sunday press release, that the endorsement shows state Democrats support “returning the power to respond to the state’s housing affordability crisis back to the people and back to local communities.”

Under Costa-Hawkins, cities may not subject newly built properties to rent control. The 1995 law also prevents cities from designating single-family homes as rent controlled.

If Prop 10 passes, it would add the following language to the state’s civil code:

“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.”

The proposition is unpopular with many landlords as it could force building owners to jump through numerous bureaucratic loops, among other issues. The California Apartment Association argues that Prop 10 would “hurt owners of rental housing” and “cost taxpayers tens of millions in lawsuits.”

The San Francisco Planning Department estimates at present that more than 60 percent of San Francisco renters (around 40 percent of the city’s general population) live in rent controlled housing.

But planners also warn in a recently drafted report that the value of rent control to renters is eroding in SF as more property owners strain to take advantage of the city’s all-time high rent prices.