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Tenants Gather Enough Signatures to Put Repeal of ...

Tenants Gather Enough Signatures to Put Repeal of State’s Anti-Rent Control Law on Ballot

Supporters of the repeal of the state anti-rent control law, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, rally Monday in front of Oakland City Hall. Oakland Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan is speaking, and to her right are candidate for governor Delaine Eastin and City Councilmember Dan Kalb. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Hundreds of members of a statewide coalition came together Monday in Sacramento, Los Angeles and the steps of City Hall in Oakland to announce they have collected sufficient signatures to place the repeal of the state’s anti-rent control law, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, on the November ballot.

The coalition announced it has collected 588,542 signatures, a comfortable margin beyond the 402,000 signatures needed to qualify the initiative – the Affordable Housing Act – for the ballot.

Repealing Costa-Hawkins would eliminate one of the primary legal obstacles that keeps local communities from being able to extend rent control laws. Currently, Costa-Hawkins prohibits municipalities from setting limits on rent increases on single family homes, condos and apartments built after 1995.

Landlords, developers and bankers in California and across the country are expected to pour millions of dollars into the campaign to defeat the initiative, which, if passed, could open the floodgates of community resistance to displacement and evictions.

One indication of the influence of the landlord/developer lobby is that few politicians in Sacramento, including most Democrats, were willing to take up the fight against Costa Hawkins, forcing communities to turn to the initiative process.

Speaking at the Oakland rally, Carroll Fife of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), said, “One of three California residents have to pay over 50 percent of their income for housing, and we’re here to say we have to do something about it.”

Said Oakland City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, “We have to put a stop to people being displaced …. and put a stop to homelessness. So many teachers (and other workers) can no longer afford to live in the cities where they work.”

The repeal of Costa Hawkins will allow our city to protect renters, she said.

The Affordable Housing Act is sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, ACCE Action and the Eviction Defense Network.

Individuals who have backed the initiative include Dolores Huerta, State Senator Kevin De Leon and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as Oakland City Councilmembers Kaplan, Desley Brooks and Dan Kalb.

Over 125 organizations and agencies have endorsed the initiative including the California Nurses Association, ACLU-Southern California, City of West Hollywood, the United Teachers of Angeles, PICO California and San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles tenant unions.


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  1. Gavin R. Putland

    1 May

    What’s better than rent controls? A tax on vacant lots and unoccupied housing. While rent controls make it less attractive to supply housing, a vacancy tax makes it less attractive NOT to supply housing! A vacancy tax of $X/week makes it $X/week more expensive NOT to get a tenant, and thereby REDUCES, by $X/week, the minimum rent that will persuade the owner to accept a tenant.

    If NEW buildings are exempted from rent control in an effort to encourage construction, the stock of rent-controlled housing becomes an ever-shrinking fraction of the total housing supply — unless the exemption is only for a limited time, in which case there is less incentive to build! A vacancy tax avoids such conflicts; it unequivocally tends to increase the effective supply of housing and therefore to reduce rents.

    Similarly, a vacancy tax on commercial property would reduce rents for job-creating enterprises.

    With a sufficiently heavy vacancy tax, evictions due to foreclosures would be consigned to the past, because the foreclosing bankers, in order to avoid the tax, would want to retain the current tenants or former owner-occupants as continuing tenants. Of course the existing stock of empty foreclosed homes would be immediately made available for rent, as it should have been all along — not just drip-fed to buyers over a period of years.

    Under a vacancy tax, squatters would not count as occupants, because they don’t officially exist. So the squatters (and the nuisances they cause) would be displaced by lawful tenants. The owners would get rent, the tenants would get accommodation, and the neighbors would get peace.

    A vacancy tax would be GOOD FOR REALTORS — who would get more rental-management fees for properties coming onto the rental market, plus commissions from any owners who decided to sell vacant properties.

    And the political trump card… Avoidance of the vacancy tax would initiate economic activity, which would expand the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of the city/state/country gets a tax cut!

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