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California’s de facto rent control expansion poised to pass

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David Chiu has one week to execute key votes for Assembly Bill 1482

A low-angle photo of David Chiu, dressed in a suit and smiling.
Chiu in 2011.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Francisco-based Asssemblymember David Chiu is on the verge of expanding rent control in California for the first time in nearly 25 years—and he has just one week to pull it off.

The final deadline for the California legislature to send new laws to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk is September 13. That leaves Chiu one week to shepherd his “anti-rent gouging” bill, AB 1482, through a rules committee, a vote in the California Senate, and a final vote in the Assembly, which it barely passed in a different form in May.

Chiu’s office has been trying to build momentum behind the bill, which would prevent California landlords for most homes from raising rents more than seven or eight percent per year in most cities.

On Wednesday, Chiu spokesperson Jennifer Kwart said that 21 California lawmakers, including Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, came on as coauthors on the measure.

Carmel’s Bill Monning, Berkeley’s Nancy Skinner, San Francisco’s Scott Wiener, and San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra signed onto AB 1482 as well.

On Thursday, Chiu’s office circulated statements from California mayors backing the bill, including SF Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Breed said, “We not only need to build more homes so that we can bring down the high cost of housing, we also need to do more to protect existing tenants, which includes ensuring that they don’t face huge rent increases.”

Schaaf predicted, “Capping annual rent increases will give Oakland residents immediate relief and stop the rent gouging that leads to evictions.”

Chiu’s bill barely passed the Assembly in May, after he agreed to significantly raise the rent cap and cut the sunset period to just three years.

But after Newsom endorsed the measure in August, Chiu’s fortunes changed, and the new version of AB 1482 is much more aggressive.

If passed, the law would cap rent increases at five percent plus the rate of inflation—usually around two or three percent yearly in most metros. The law would be in effect until 2030.

The new rules don’t apply to homes built within the last 15 years. They also don’t overrule local rent control laws (like San Francisco’s), but they would apply to many homes too new to be covered by SF rent control.

Notably, Chiu has never called AB 1482 a rent control measure, and never referenced the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act while promoting it.

Among the loudest voices still opposing Chiu are the California Association of Realtors, whose president Jared Martin says, “The proposed version of AB 1482 headed to the Senate floor will not incentivize production of rental housing or help more people find an affordable place to live.”

The LA Times reports that the California Apartment Association, a landlord lobby that has long opposed the measure as well, now neither supports nor opposes it.

However, the tenants’ group Housing Is a Human Right (an arm of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation) has long criticized the measure, saying in July that the cap is still “significantly higher than what tenants can afford in an era of stagnant wages and severe income inequality.”

But in July, the proposed rent cap was two percent higher, and the lobby has not issued any new statement since last week’s deal cutting it down again.

[Correction: We initially wrote that the LA Times said CAA supports the current version of AB 1482. However, the Times actually reports that CAA is no longer opposed to the current bill but does not specifically support it, either. We have updated to article accordingly.]