Tenants’ rights advocates flood state capitol building, vow to take issue to ballot box
A bill to repeal statewide restrictions on rent control is dead in the water.
The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act was passed in 1995, prohibiting cities from establishing rent control for single family homes or any newly constructed buildings (anything built after 1995).
After being stalled for over a year, the bill to repeal those restrictions (AB1506) was given its first public hearing on Friday, January 11. The bill was one shy of the four votes needed to move forward.
About a thousand people from the public showed to voice their opinions on the bill, packing the hearing room and wrapping around the hallway in line to speak either for or against the repeal.
Many of those speaking were landlords opposing the bill, claiming it will bring new development to a halt.
Aimee Inglis, associate director of statewide tenants’ rights nonprofit Tenants Together, characterized this talking point as “a flat out lie.” She said that areas with rent control actually have the most development.
“We are extremely outraged that our elected officials continue to prioritize landlord and developer profits over standing up for vulnerable families and seniors in dire need of help from this housing crisis. We plan to do everything in our power to fully repeal Costa Hawkins – whether that’s moving it through the legislature or this year at the ballot,” says Deepa Varma with the San Francisco Tenants Union.
Another landlord talking point was that AB1506 did nothing to build new housing.
This argument, however, hardly relates to the bill at hand. AB1506’s sole purpose is to lift statewide restrictions against rent control, allowing cities to establish their own rental protection policies.
Renters and tenants’ rights organizations from across the state had rallied in Sacramento to express their support for the repeal bill.
Assemblymembers Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) and Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) declined to vote last Thursday, which Inglis said was “highly disappointing.”
“After the vote, we felt we hadn’t been listened to and we felt we hadn’t been represented,” she said.
Those in favor of AB1506 stayed in the hearing room, chanting, before marching near Speaker Anthony Rendon’s office. Inglis said those fighting for tenant’s rights are dissatisfied with Rendon’s efforts to push this bill through.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who represents Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro, voted for the repeal of Costa Hawkins last Thursday, along with Santa Cruz Assemblymember Mark Stone and San Francisco Assemblymember David Chiu.
After the hearing, Bonta tweeted: “I’m disappointed we came up one vote short on AB 1506 to repeal Costa Hawkins but I’m grateful for the strong show of support at today’s hearing. Every great movement has a beginning, middle and end. We are in the middle!”
The growing movement to strengthen rent control measures in California comes as Wall Street landlords are fundamentally changing homeownership across the county with massive purchases of single-family dwellings, squeezing tenants and prospective homeowners, particularly in communities of color, according to a new report authored by Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) and Public Advocates.
“Wall Street is transforming the single-family home into a commodity that it can trade in pursuit of greater wealth for a small group of wealthy investors. Allowing hedge funds and private equity firms to speculate on housing with no public oversight or regulation puts families at greater risk of unfair rent increases and evictions, and threatens the right to housing itself. The federal government and state lawmakers need to step in before these abuses become systemic.” said Maya Abood, MSC, co-author of the report.
The report is available atwww.acceinstitute.org/reports