Capitol Alert

California rent control strengthened under proposed ballot measure

Apartment construction takes off in midtown Sacramento

Hundreds of apartments are under construction in midtown Sacramento. Opponents of rent control say it discourages building of new housing.
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Hundreds of apartments are under construction in midtown Sacramento. Opponents of rent control say it discourages building of new housing.

California housing advocates have filed paperwork to launch a 2018 ballot measure allowing cities and counties across the state to strengthen local rent control laws, a move they see as critical as California confronts a statewide housing shortage.

The request for title and summary – the first step toward gathering signatures for an initiative – was received by the state Attorney General’s Office on Monday. If advanced to the November 2018 ballot and approved by voters, the measure would repeal California’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, passed in 1995, which sets tight limits on the type of housing that can be covered under local rent control ordinances. Local rent control laws restrict the amount landlords can raise rent for tenants living in controlled units.

Under state law, rent control cannot apply to any housing built after 1995. In areas that have rent control, like San Francisco and Santa Monica, much of the housing stock is exempt, including single-family homes, duplexes and condos. Once rent control is in place, city and county officials are prevented from changing or strengthening local laws.

Housing advocates want to lift those restrictions.

“Rent in California is out of control,” said Ismail Marcus Allgood, an activist who lives in South Los Angeles. “The homeless problem in L.A. is only going to get worse if we don’t repeal Costa-Hawkins right now.”

He is active with the nonprofit LA Voice, part of the statewide coalition pushing for Costa-Hawkins repeal.

The initiative move comes after a bill from Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, died earlier this year amid opposition from the the California Apartment Association.

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