Rent control measure moves closer to the ballot – Daily News

on Jun26
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Rent control may be back on the ballot again come November 2020.

Supporters of the “Rental Affordability Act” got the green light from the Secretary of State’s Office this week to start collecting signatures as they launch a second try for the ballot box.

After a bruising defeat in November, the rent control advocates behind last year’s Proposition 10 are back with a new initiative that would allow cities and counties to impose rent control laws on residential properties that are at least 15 years old — a shift that would boost the number of rent-controlled units in the state.

“Rent control is an absolute necessity given the affordability crisis in the state of California,” says René Moya, director of Housing is a Human Right, the housing advocacy division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is backing the initiative. “There are 17 million renters in this state and many are being pushed out of their homes by skyrocketing rents.”

Michael Weinstein, the president and CEO of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who led the campaign to pass Prop. 10 last year. is convinced rent control is needed.

“Tenants are struggling and they need protection,” Weinstein said in an interview. “The market is not going to solve this problem. Homelessness is increasing and the lack of affordability is getting worse. Many people are paying 50 percent of their income to have a roof over their head. We need regulation.”

Amid mounting pressure for lawmakers to protect renters from the steepest of increases in a hot rental market, this initiative is a scaled-back version of Prop. 10. The proposed ballot measure would not give cities carte blanche to impose sweeping rent control rules. New construction would not be impacted.

“We tried to address the concerns we heard during the last campaign,” says Weinstein, “A lot of politicians wanted to see reform instead of repeal of the Costa Hawkins rules.”

The measure would also allow cities to impose rent control on single-family homes if the landlord owns three or more homes, which exempts mom-and-pop landlords. Plus, the measure would allow for limited vacancy control, which is currently prohibited. When a tenant moves out of a rent-controlled apartment, cities and counties could limit rent increases for the next tenant, as long as they allow the landlord to raise the rent at least 15 percent over three years.

The new measure faces many hurdles on its road to the ballot box. Rent control opponents, including real estate interest groups, who describe the legislation as a retread of the old initiative, raised a whopping $76 million to defeat Prop. 10.

“Prop 10 2.0 would drive down property values and prompt an exodus from the rental housing market,” Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of the California Apartment Association said in a release. “California needs sensible housing policies that protect tenants and encourage the building of affordable homes for working families. This measure makes the crisis worse.”

Supporters of Prop. 10 raised only $26 million, the bulk of which came from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. But Weinstein remains resolute.

“Look we’ve been fighting for clean needles for 30 years, we are not easily discouraged by a loss,” says Weinstein. “The problems are getting worse, the electorate is getting younger and that means people will be more likely to vote for it next year.”

Critics argue that rent control discourages the production of rental units, decreasing the rental pool and worsening the state’s housing shortage.

“The expert jury has been in for a long time. Rent control doesn’t work. No matter what brand of it you are selling,”  says Matt Regan,  a housing and public policy expert for the Bay Area Council. “Rent control shrinks the supply of housing stock and what we desperately need is more housing, not less.”

Advocates maintain that rent control won’t stifle new construction in the state.

“With rent control you will have less rent gouging but that doesn’t stop new construction,” says Moya. “San Francisco and Los Angeles are still going to be attractive places to live and work and that’s what drives new construction.”

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