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SF supervisors stump for rent control, Proposition 10

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Lawmakers introduce vote to support rent-control expansion

Update: The supervisors chose to defer a vote about Prop 10 until September 4, at the request of Supervisor Katy Tang.

Presumably if it was going to be a quick and easy symbolic vote with little to-do they wouldn’t have bothered putting it off, but we’ll have to wait until after City’s Hall’s traditional August break to see who ends up stumping for what.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote this week on whether to support Proposition 10, the November ballot initiative that could undo the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and significantly expand rent-control laws in California cities.

Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Sandra Lee Fewer sponsored the resolution, which goes to the board Tuesday.

Although it’s a non-binding statement that doesn’t much influence the actual law, passage would indicate that City Hall is eager to exercise the new freedoms that Prop. 10 would grant local lawmakers.

The resolution reads, in part:

California is once again in the midst of a housing crisis, characterized by skyrocketing rents and eviction rates. In 1979, when the City and County of San Francisco passed its own rent control ordinance, the median gross rent on a two-bedroom apartment was $435 per month, equivalent to approximately $1,007 in 2018.

[...] According to available data, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco at the introduction of this resolution is over $4,500, exceeding cumulative inflation since 1979 by nearly 300 percent.

[...] Proposition 10 would allow cities to have more flexibility in governing affordable housing needs in their communities, to ensure that existing vacant rent-controlled housing stock is made available to residential tenants and to strengthen rent stabilization measures.

In regard to “skyrocketing eviction rates,” according to the SF Rent Board’s annual tally, eviction notices in the city (which are distinct from enforced evictions) declined between 2016 and 2017 (the most recent year for which data is available), but had previously risen every year since 2010.

The U.S. Census reveals that, in fact, the actual median rent in San Francisco is much lower (around $1,600 at last count) than the figure the supervisors cite here, which is closer to the median market rent offered by landlords using online rental sites. (The main reason that the actual median rent is lower than the market rent is rent control, which applies to more than 60 percent of San Francisco renters.)

If Prop. 10 passes, it will 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.”

As it stands, many California homes, including apartments built after 1995 and all single family houses, are exempt from rent-control laws.

Prop. 10 does not create or expand any rent-control measures, but instead would permit each city to create new rent-control designations on an individual basis.