Costa-Hawkins: Real estate speculation and price-gouging are driving Californians to impossible commutes, overcrowded housing, and into the streets. According to a 2014 UCLA study, California is the least affordable state and Los Angeles is the least affordable city for renters in the nation. A third of Angelenos spend more than half their income on rent. When housing costs are factored in, one in four of us lives in poverty.
By voting for the Affordable Housing Act ballot measure this November, Californians can restore the rights of cities to use a powerful tool to stop this escalating crisis: rent control.
At a time when shrinking state and federal budgets can’t provide enough government-subsidized housing to meet our needs, rent control doesn’t require government funding. It takes years to build subsidized homes and decades for market-rate ones to become affordable; rent control can be implemented immediately. By keeping rent increases reasonable and protecting tenants from eviction, rent control builds strong and stable communities.
Twenty years ago, however, Sacramento legislators took away the rights of local California governments to regulate the cost of rental housing. Passed by one vote in 1994, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act froze or undid California’s municipal rent-control laws. Ratifying the Affordable Housing Act would repeal Costa-Hawkins and give those rights back.
Republicans and the landlord lobby, which spent $50 million to push Costa-Hawkins, claimed the law would incentivize developers to build more housing, which would cause rents to fall. Yet rents are soaring, and affordable housing is scarce. When Boston lost its rent control laws in 1994, both median rent and the homeless population doubled.
Instead of a building spree beneficial to California renters, Costa-Hawkins accomplished four things, each devastating to the affordability of housing in the state.