On the November ballot is Proposition 21, “The Rental Affordability Act.” Every tenant should support this ballot measure because it will roll back many, though not all, of the limits on rent control adopted by our landlord-friendly legislature in Sacramento. Nearly every pro-tenant bill each session is shot down by legislators who are not tenants and don’t understand tenant concerns. This by-the-people initiative bypasses the legislature to amend key sections of landlord-tenant law with rental affordability as the top priority. (Heck, it’s right there in the name.) Renters Alliance urges a YES vote on Prop 21!
Proposition 21 (‘The Rental Affordability Act’) takes aim at the single greatest obstacle to local rent control: the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995.
Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act was enacted in 1995 to limit localities from imposing rent control on rented single-family homes, condominiums, and properties first occupied in 1995 and later years. Any property that was already exempted from local rent control under would remain exempted. And when a unit is voluntarily vacated the asking rent can rise to ‘market.’ ‘Costa-Hawkins’ is a gift to landlords that will keep on giving, in perpetuity, until it is either repealed or amended.
Housing affordability advocates tried repeal two years ago. Proposition 10 was on the November 2018 ballot but it was soundly defeated by 60% of statewide voters. Perhaps that is not surprising because 55% of California households are owner-occupied, according to the census, and landlord groups spent more than $60 million to scare voters. (Support was stronger in Los Angeles County but even here Proposition 10 was defeated by a razor-thin 1% margin.)
The backers of Proposition 10 (namely Housing Is A Human Right, an organization formed by AIDS Healthcare Foundation here in Los Angeles) vowed to try again. They’ve put $17 million behind Proposition 21 — the ‘Rental Affordability Act’ — which would amend Costa-Hawkins but not repeal it.
Renters Alliance Endorses Proposition 21
Renters Alliance endorses Proposition 21 because, well, the rent is too damn high. But more importantly we support it because it would preserve currently-affordable rental housing by limiting annual rent increases for many more renting households that enjoy that protection today; and it would limit the amount that could be charged for any unit when it turns over. Crucially Proposition 21 reserves the choice of whether to regulate rents up to each locality.
At the same time, Proposition 21 affords landlords a fair rate of return on their investment by allowing the rent to rise more quickly than inflation. The measure also incentivizes new construction by exempting it from price controls for fifteen years. And that 15-year exemption window for new construction would not be in perpetuity like Costa-Hawkins but instead would be a rolling. After 15 years that not-so-new construction could come under rent control but only if the locality chooses to put it under rent control.
Again the purpose of Proposition 21 is to amend Costa-Hawkins to allow localities the ability to regulate their own local rental housing market. If passed by voters in November, the Rental Affordability Act would provide a thoughtful balance of rental affordability and landlord profit (something that the 45% of California households who rent housing cannot get from Sacramento lawmakers).
Who Backs Proposition 21?
Visit ‘Yes on 21’ for a full list of current endorsers.