Opinion: Vote Yes on Prop. 10: Repeal California’s...

Opinion: Vote Yes on Prop. 10: Repeal California’s Anti-Rent Control Law

California, the state with the highest rents and most evictions, is the battleground for rent control this mid-term election. The real estate industry and landlord organizations in their insatiable greed have spent $50 million so far flooding TV and media with all manner of lies and deceptions to retain a 23-year landlord-lobbied law that prohibits cities from enacting regulations on rent increases.

Under the Costa Hawkins law, owners can mandate immediate $1,000 or more rent increases—with no limits—and that cannot be protested.

The major factor in California’s runaway rent explosion causing widespread evictions and displacement of households throughout the state is Costa Hawkins.
Repeal of the 23-year-old Costa Hawkins State Housing Act is long overdue.

Costa Hawkins was enacted by the Legislature in 1995, pushed by landlord lobbyists as a response to rent control laws enacted in 1979 in Berkeley, Santa Monica, and San Francisco.

The purpose of Costa Hawkins was to “kill” rent controls by blanketly exempting rented houses and condominiums from ever having their rent regulated; by classifying as “new” and exempting “forever” any rental units built since 1995 (1983 in Oakland) from ever being rent-controlled; and by requiring that whenever any unit under rent control becomes vacant, the landlord cannot be prohibited from charging the new tenant any rent the landlord chooses to impose. (Many people currently renting houses or condominiums are receiving $1,000 per month increases overnight.)

Costa Hawkins also imposes “vacancy de-control”—which means that over time practically all rental units will have their rent amounts reset at the highest possible levels by greedy landlords, thereby nullifying the effect of any rent protections.

Proposition 10 is the result of many years of struggle by pro-tenant forces to remove the onerous Costa-Hawkins restrictions from state law and to restore to local cities and counties the ability to establish equitable laws and regulations as the locale may feel are needed to protect renters and rental units.

Proposition 10 does not make nor establish any new laws. Its repeal will only remove the existing statewide prohibitions that currently prevent cities and counties from being able to make needed laws to regulate rent increases.

This is all that Prop 10 does. The airways, radio, TV, and people’s mailboxes are filled with lies and deceptions by landlords, developers, and owners aimed at misleading people to vote against their own good and leave avaricious landlords and owners completely “free” to continue their wars of greed against renters without local governments having the ability to impose any restrictions or regulations.

If Prop 10 fails, rents that have tripled in many areas over the last decade will continue without limit and the displacement crisis that grips the city will see no end.  Woe to all tenants if a majority “buy” into the lies being fed by avaricious landlords and thieving real estate interests.

Why anyone would vote “no” to Proposition 10 against repeal of this horrendous scam law is immensely troubling.

James E Vann is co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union and a member of the Homeless Advocacy Working Group.



  1. Gavin R. Putland

    30 October


    Rent control doesn’t force owners to offer their properties “to let” at the allowed rent. Nor does it force land owners to build more housing. Indeed it discourages both, reducing the supply of housing and therefore RAISING the rents of whatever part of that supply is not subject to rent control. 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 housing stock — unless the exemption is only for a limited time, in which case you’re discouraging construction again!

    Will removing regulatory barriers to construction solve the problem? Not by itself, although it’s obviously a necessary condition. Cheaper housing requires developers, builders, and owners to increase supply to a point where it reduces their return on investment. They obviously won’t do that voluntarily. They will do it only if they are penalized for NOT doing it.

    SOLUTION: 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 increasing supply and reducing owners’ ability to tolerate vacancies, a vacancy tax strengthens the bargaining position of tenants and therefore reduces rents (and forces landlords to expedite any necessary repairs in order to attract tenants). It yields both an *immediate* benefit, by pushing existing dwellings onto the rental market, and a *long-term* benefit, by encouraging construction.

    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!

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