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Rent control arguments pile up across California

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Costa-Hawkins repeal vote looms

San Francisco’s Russian Hill.
Photo by Radoslaw Lecyk

With Election Day less than two months away, Californians will have to decide whether or not to repeal the state’s 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act and potentially expand rent control across the state.

Costa-Hawkins severely curtails which kinds of homes California cities may place rent control restrictions. If Proposition 10 passes in November, it will do away with the law and authorize each city to create local rent control standards.

For weeks the Yes On 10 campaign and those endorsing Proposition 10 have argued that the proposal returns control to local municipalities and that Costa-Hawkins’ single statewide standard is too strict and onerous.

Opinions in favor of Proposition 10
  • The Los Angeles Times said in a September 15 editorial that “rent control isn’t the answer, but it could help” and advised voters to take an affirmative position. The Times’ editorial board called Proposition 10 a “complex and nuanced” approach that would not resolve the housing crisis but would liberate cities to impose potentially valuable local solutions.
  • In a September 14 editorial, the Sacramento Bee also backed the proposition, praising the element of local control and arguing that “city councils and boards of supervisors clearly understand the needs of their constituents best” and that the housing crisis calls for greater flexibility.
  • On September 17. the ACLU of California endorsed Proposition 10, with Northern California director Abdi Soltani calling it a tool for “restoring the power of local communities,” while Southern California director Hector Villagra predicts that the proposition will prevent rent spikes from “making life unaffordable for working families.”
  • Last week, Peter Dreier, chair of Urban and Environmental Policy at Occidental College, wrote in a CAL Matters editorial that “Proposition 10 is the only way to provide communities a tool to temper unreasonable rent increases” in the short term without waiting for increased supply to do its work years from now.
  • In a September 4 hearing, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 in favor of endorsing Proposition 10. However, the motion failed despite the majority, since eight votes were needed for procedural reasons. Supervisors Tang, Stefani, Cohen, and Safai voted against the endorsement.
Aerial view of Los Angeles.
Photo by Sai Chan
Opinions against Proposition 10
  • On September 14 the San Francisco Chronicle advised no on Proposition 10, arguing that it would “entrust another vast swath of housing policy to the very same officials” whose policies the editors argue exacerbated the crisis to begin with.
  • The San Diego Union Tribune wrote on September 13 that rent control “makes housing problems worse” and advised against the proposition.
  • In late August, the San Jose Mercury News came out against Proposition 10 as well, calling it “the last thing we need” and arguing that “the solution is to build more housing, not restrict rents.”
  • The No On 10 campaign also promotes a list of elected officials it says are against Proposition 10, including Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, and former Mayor of San Jose Chuck Reed. In a No On 10 press release, Butt warned of “radical rent control” (without specifying precisely what this means) if the proposition passes.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. California residents may register to vote at the California Secretary of State’s site.