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Renters Rights Advocates Support Affordable Housin...

Renters Rights Advocates Support Affordable Housing Act

Carroll Fife, a longtime Oakland activist, speaks at a rally in support of proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, which would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Photo courtesy of voteyesonprop10.org.

California voters will decide this November on Proposition 10, a statewide ballot initiative that would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

“Costa-Hawkins repeal is one of the primary goals of the renters’ rights movement,” said Shanti Singh, communications and development coordinator for Tenants Together, on Wednesday’s “Your Call” radio show on KALW.

“We pushed very hard for that to happen with Assembly Bill 1506,  (but) it did not pass committee. So now we’re taking it directly to the voters because we know that is what California’s renters want,” said Singh.

Costa-Hawkins sets restrictions statewide on rent control. It exempts from rent control units built (or heavily renovated) after 1995, as well as single-family homes, and condos.

There has been a growing movement for the repeal of Costa-Hawkins, which could allow local governments to create their own rent control laws. Several tenants’ rights organizations, including Tenants Together, endorsed a similar bill last year introduced by Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, David Chiu, and Rob Bonta. It failed early on in the hearing process.

Bonta tweeted shortly after the vote: “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!”

Activists who showed at the State Capitol building in January to support Assembly Bill AB1506 described Costa Hawkins in a press release: “It effectively limits local jurisdictions’ ability to address their specific housing issues and prevents them from stabilizing local communities,” the release read.

This year it will be up to the voters to decide. The California Democratic Party has endorsed Prop. 10, also known as the Affordable Housing Act.

The proposition is backed by over $12 million from supporters, including one major contribution by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The anti-Prop 10 opposition committees have over double that funding, from several real-estate companies including Western National Group, Essex Property Trust, and Equity Residential.

Opponents of the ballot initiative say the repeal would dissuade future developments, preventing more affordable housing projects from being built if landlords don’t find the industry sustainable or lucrative enough.

But proponents say that under Costa-Hawkins, it’s too easy for landlords to take advantage and displace tenants, “When I first moved into this home, the rent was $1850. Four years later my most recent notice is taking my rent to more than $3000,” said Blackstone/Invitation Homes tenant and ACCE member Renita Barbee living in Los Angeles. “My landlord Stephen Schwarzman is worth $12.7 billion while I’m on the verge of losing my home. Our elected officials need to prioritize homes for families like mine instead of unlimited profits for corporate giants like Invitation Homes.”


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  1. Gavin R. Putland

    8 September

    VACANCY TAX: BETTER THAN RENT CONTROL

    Rent control doesn’t force owners to offer their properties “to let” at the allowed rent. Rent control doesn’t force land owners to build more housing. On the contrary, it discourages both, reducing the supply of housing and RAISING other rents! Exempting NEW buildings from rent control may avoid deterring construction, but it still doesn’t open up EXISTING buildings for tenants. Worse, it means that the stock of rent-controlled housing becomes a shrinking fraction of the whole — unless the exemption is only for a limited time, in which case you’re discouraging construction again!

    BETTER IDEA: Put a punitive tax on vacant lots and unoccupied housing, so that the owners can’t afford NOT to build housing and seek tenants! By reducing the owners’ ability to tolerate vacancies, a vacancy tax strengthens the bargaining position of tenants and therefore reduces rents.

    Such a tax, by reducing the cost of housing, would make it easier for employers to pay workers enough to live on. A similar tax on commercial property would reduce rents for job-creating enterprises. That’s GOOD FOR BUSINESS and GOOD FOR WORKERS.

    A vacancy tax is also GOOD FOR REALTORS because they get more rental-management fees for properties coming onto the rental market, plus commissions from any owners who decided to sell vacant properties to owner-occupants (who of course don’t pay the tax).

    Best of all, the need to avoid 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!

  2. Ned Ryerson

    8 September

    Repealing Costa Hawkins will not create affordable housing. Repealing Costa Hawkins will destroy affordable housing.

    1. Repealing Costa-Hawkins will cause housing supply will dwindle, so housing will be harder to find
    – A temporarily relocated SFH owner will be reluctant to rent out her SFH during her absence, because that SFH will be rent-controlled and she will have a hard time getting it back;
    – A senior person who owns a SFH and moving to an assisted living facility will be reluctant to rent out the house, because once out, she will have a hard time getting it back;
    – New construction of apartments will slow down, because at least some investors will choose less regulated area to invest, instead of building apartments

    2. Repealing Costa-Hawkins will discourage repair and renovation, cause housing quality to go down
    – An owner who cannot raise rent to market rate even when a tenant moves out has less incentive to repair and improve the property, because in doing so, she cannot recover the cost of the repair and improvement. This will cause blight.

    3. Repealing Costa-Hawkins will create inequality and unfairness.
    – Rent control is not based on income of the tenant, but on when a rental property is put on market. So a person who makes, say, $500,000 a year may occupy a rent controlled apartment even if he does not live there; he can sublease the apartment and make money off it, without having to take any risk the owner takes.

    4. Suppose Prop 10 wins. Proponents will cheer and chant. But where will their children live, when then grow up? They will queue up for run down places

    Prop. 10 is economically illiterate. It will hurt landlords and tenants alike.

  3. Ned Ryerson

    30 September

    Prop 10 is morally wrong and economically irrational. Michael Weinstein shelled out $12 million (that is supposed to help AIDS patients) to support Prop 10. And the Yes Prop 10 campaign spent 2:1 ($2.7 million vs $1.4 million) compared to No Prop 10 people. Yet the people of California see through the lies of the Yes slogans. The polls show overwhelming numbers of Californians are against this economically illiterate nonsense known as Prop 10.

    1. Prop 10 will remove protections on new constructions of apartment buildings. Result: investors, when facing a choice of building an apartment building (for tenants) or a condo (for rich people) will choose to build the condo. This hurts tenants.

    2. Prop 10 will remove protections on single family homes. Result: seniors or temporarily relocated people (in other words, mom and pop landlords) will not want to rent out their homes. This hurts the landlords and the tenants alike.

    3. Prop 10 will remove vacancy de-control, so (a) putting a property on rental market will cause the owner to permanently put the property under rental control boards and (b) remove incentive to repair/renovate. This hurts the landlords, tenants and the communities alike.

    Prop 10, if passed, will destroy housing supply. Those chanting “Rent is damn too high” should know that Prop 10 will make the rent go damn higher.

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