Beverly Hills City Council has endorsed Proposition 10 for the November ballot. If passed by voters, Proposition 10 would enact the Affordable Housing Act to repeal the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing law — the legislature’s ‘gift to landlords’ because it ties the hands of any city that would enact rent controls. Our city’s endorsement is a statement in support of local control and self-determination and anyone, tenant or landlord, who is concerned about local control for Beverly Hills should support Proposition 10. That’s why our City Council voted unanimously to endorse it.
It also happens that repealing Costa-Hawkins would allow any locality to decide for itself whether or not to adopt rent control and how best to implement it. The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles is foaming at the mouth at the prospect; it is sending ‘red alerts’ to landlords and scaring senior and veteran voters to defeat it. But this industry association cares nothing about local control, state preemption of local laws or anything but the bottom line of property owners.
Beverly Hills City Council had no difficult making the call, however: all five councilmembers voted strongly to endorse Proposition 10. While it seemed to come as a surprise to landlords, a sharp eye would have seen that it comports with this plank of the city’s legislative platform:
Support and pursue the repeal of state laws that affect local control on housing and land use.
Renters Alliance is proud to have brought Proposition 10 to the attention of our city’s legislative liaison committee this spring for the Council’s consideration. (Read the Proposition 10 staff report for more information about the endorsement agenda item.)
Preemption Vs. Local Control
Self-determination and local control are reasons why cities incorporate in the first place. When legislators in Sacramento override local law or, worse, preempt a locality from even adopting a law, it tends to rankle. We saw that most recently with SB 827: many cities across California were outraged that the legislature would regulate development on transit corridors and not leave such decisions to local residents.
Nearly twenty-five years ago the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act similarly overrode local tenant protections with state-defined limits on rent control. The law also preempted localities from adopting stricter rent controls than what Sacramento thought proper. Here legislators did the bidding of rental property owners.
But the law simply went too far, at least in the view of the proposition’s many endorsers, and passage of Proposition 10 to repeal Costa-Hawins would correct several wrongs:
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits localities from implementing rent control for any single family home or condominium, or any rental property constructed after 1995;
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits localities with some form of rent control from amending it to address the local impacts of the statewide crisis in rental housing availability and affordability;
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits localities from allowing “vacancy control,” which means the unit remains rent-controlled after a tenant vacates; instead every unit returns to market rent.
A coalition of housing rights advocates forced the Affordable Housing Act onto the ballot because our legislature would not act to repeal Costa-Hawkins. For example, earlier this year Assembly Bill 1506 was co-sponsored by our own Assemblyman Richard Bloom to repeal it. But the bill was snuffed by landlord-friendly interests and it died in committee. (Read the Affordable Housing Act fact sheet.)
Beverly Hills Endorsement: What Does It Mean?
City Council’s endorsement of Proposition 10 is simply a statement in support of returning local control over one aspect of housing policy — namely rent control — back to localities. But in general the practical impact of Costa-Hawkins repeal is rather limited. Only fifteen rent-control cities in California have adopted rent control (and few additional cities seem prepared to enact it). Also, there is limited interest to extend price controls to condos and single-family homes (rental housing is the traditional focus of rent stabilization laws). Finally, repeal of Costa Hawkins would do nothing to compel any of the other 450+ localities in California to enact it.
The impact of Costa-Hawkins repeal in Beverly Hills is likewise limited. We are reformulating our rent stabilization ordinance but City Council has expressed no interest in extending price controls to single-family or condominiums. And there has been ZERO discussion of ‘vacancy control’ (not allowing a vacant unit to return to market rent).
However repeal of Costa-Hawkins would allow Beverly Hills to make one important and overdue change in our law: we could end the current and future exemption for post–1995 rental properties from our rent stabilization ordinance. Shouldn’t households that rent housing in a post–1995 property enjoy local tenant protections like every other tenant? City Council could discuss this question only if voters pass Proposition 10 in November.
And even if Proposition passes, and City Council agrees to include post-1995 rental buildings, the impact is still quite limited for the landlords. There are only three post–1995 rental apartment buildings in Beverly Hills that would then be regulated. So don’t be fooled by the scare tactics!
The real reason to repeal Costa-Hawkins is evident when we look to the future. Today Beverly Hills is required to categorically exempt from rent stabilization every rental property that would be constructed. Forever. Is there any reason that households should never have local tenant protections because they moved into a new building? No!
Passage of Proposition 10 is essential not because it would disrupt the market for rental housing in Beverly Hills but precisely the opposite. The Affordable Housing Act would free our city from the Costa-Hawkins shackles so that we can regulate our own rental housing market for greater residential stability. Now and into the future.
- Recall that Beverly Hills adopted Chapter 5 rent stabilization in 1978. In 1985 the city returned to the issue with Chapter 6 rent stabilization. In each instance City Council citied the landlords’ recalcitrance as a reason for the city’s initiative. That is, when presented with mounting evidence of harm to tenants, property owners would not come to a voluntary agreement to rein in the most problematic practices. The city did it for them. We could see that happen again this fall with a more restrictive rent stabilization ordinance regardless of whether voters pass Proposition 10. ↩
- Proposition 10 was bankrolled by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation under President Michael Weinstein. Along with co-sponsors from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action and Eviction Defense Network, AHF and its subsidiary, Housing is a Human Right, secured 160,000 signatures across Los Angeles County — and many more most every other county too — in order to qualify Proposition 10 for the ballot. ↩