This November, California voters will determine whether city governments need more power to enact rent control policies. Many landlords in the state are already selling off properties or holding off on buying more, according to the Wall Street Journal. The initiative, if passed, would repeal a 1995 state law called the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. At present, cities and counties are limited in the types of rent control legislation they can pass. They cannot cover “large amounts of housing, including single-family homes, condos, and duplexes.” Currently, rent control legislation also cannot apply to units built after 1995.
Proponents of the bill say removing these restrictions will give cities the ability to better deal with their ongoing housing affordability crises. “We’re in a moment when people are saying, ‘Give us the power to control rents,’” said Damien Goodmon, director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s “Housing is a Human Right” campaign, which has been the primary source of funding for the initiative. Goodmon said the initiative has collected more than 588,000 signatures, which qualifies it to be on the ballot.
Opponents of the initiative warn the move will actually “freeze” construction of affordable housing in the state because it will no longer be financially viable to invest in such developments. “This ballot will pour gasoline on the fire of California’s affordable housing crisis,” warned Tom Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association. “Instead of helping Californians, it will result in an affordable housing freeze and higher costs,” he added.
More than half of California voters say they have considered moving because the state’s housing affordability is so bad, and 60 percent of likely voters supported rent control last fall. However, both sides of the aisle in the legislature agree that more housing is vital to resolving the affordability crisis, and this led the state assembly to kill a bill designed to repeal Costa-Hawkins earlier this year. Rents in California have risen more than 40 percent in major metro areas just in the last three years.