If Sacramento legislators won’t represent our interests then we have to do it ourselves! That’s the message sent by 447,834 voters to legislators when we signed a petition to put the Affordable Housing Act on the ballot this November. The measure would return to localities the authority to establish tenant protections that fit local needs. The state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act had preempted local control. Finally Costa Hawkins repeal makes the November ballot!
In a state where the Democrat-controlled legislature in the pocket of property interests, repeal of Costa-Hawkins is the ‘mother of all bombs.’ It does an end-run around the legislature – which recently bottled-up a Costa-Hawkins repeal bill in committee – to strike a law that bestows upon landlords a huge advantage relative to tenants.
Costa-Hawkins includes several key provisions that landlords won from lawmakers back in 1995:
- Costa-Hawkins exempts from rent stabilization any property permitted for occupancy after 1995 (when the law took effect).
- Costa-Hawkins exempts single-family homes and condominiums (another huge carve-out that keeps rents high).
- Exempts rental properties constructed over the past three decades, and even in the coming decades, from rent control.
Beyond those exemptions, Costa-Hawkins allows for vacancy decontrol: landlords can raise the asking rent on vacant units to whatever the market will bear. Unit turnover will effectively let the aggregate rents at a property rise to approach the market rent. In effect it’s rolling decontrol.
We are in the midst of a hot market and asking rents for decontrolled units will climb much, much faster than the average rent rise of 5% annually. An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times recently reminded us that Costa Hawkins is “devastating” to housing affordability in California. With the Affordable Housing Act measure on the ballot we voters can finally have our say.
Worst, vacancy decontrol provides the landlord with an incentive to evict a longtime tenant even if kids are in the schools or there are seniors in the household. That is simply a license to evict, remodel and re-rent. We are seeing that more and more often – and we will continue to see tenants displaced as asking rents continue to rise.
If you are not registered to vote, then you now have incentive to register. Get right with the Registrar of Voters up to fifteen days before election day. Register now!
If you are already registered then you have one more reason to get to the polls in November: to take the gift that is the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act away from the landlords. Did I say a gift? Well, I didn’t say it; the landlord-friendly law firm Wasserman-Stern did (available in archived form):
One gift we sometimes fail to appreciate is that magnificent state law known as Costa-Hawkins. When the local campaign season kicks off into high gear shortly, and you are asked to contribute your time and money to support worthy candidates and causes, remember Costa-Hawkins.
Read more about the repeal campaign over at Tenants Together. Before the legislature tanked the repeal bill, we had a commitment here in Beverly Hills to lobby for returning local control over rent control to our city. We’ll see if Beverly Hills City Council agrees to support the ballot measure as our good neighbor West Hollywood has done. Bravo, neighbor!