A November ballot initiative that would allow cities to enact strong rent control across California is widely unpopular, even among renters, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.
Roughly half of likely voters — 48 percent — oppose Proposition 10, according to the poll — the first conducted on the measure. Just 36 percent are in favor and 16 percent are undecided, the poll found.
Proposition 10 would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, passed by California lawmakers in 1995 and restore the ability of cities across the state to enact strong rent control laws.
Currently, the state says cities with some form of rent control — there are at least 15 in California — cannot strengthen their existing ordinances, and new rent control laws cannot apply to a large share of California’s housing supply, including single-family homes, condos and anything built after 1995.
Backlash to rising housing costs across the state, and concerns about rampant displacement of low-income tenants and communities of color, prompted renter advocates to advance the ballot measure.
But support for it is lagging, even among renters. A slight majority of renters — 51 percent — said they’d vote against the measure, while 43 percent said they’d vote in favor.
“Given the amount of attention to housing affordability and the stress it’s causing, you would expect it to start out with more support,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “This might be an issue that Democrats rally around, but not (one) that (is) important to people.”
The California Democratic Party, and its liberal base have endorsed the measure, though the Democratic candidate for California governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, opposes it. Newsom’s Republican opponent, John Cox, also opposes it. In the poll, support was split nearly equally among Democrats, though Republican opposition far outnumbers Republican support.
Baldassare said voters appear confused over major “complex” questions, including “who is supporting it, what their motivations are and whether it will actually help voters.”
“Whereas many Californians feel that housing is one of our top issues today, people are not making the connection between Prop. 10 and the cost of housing,” Baldassare said. “When there are so many questions, it’s easier to just vote ‘no’ and hope there’s another (way) to solve it.”
Support for the measure is greatest in Los Angeles, the poll found, with 45 percent of likely voters saying they’d vote in favor. The Central Valley ranked second highest in support among likely voters, with 39 percent.
Opposition to the measure is highest in California’s Inland Empire, where just 29 percent of likely voters support it, and 51 percent are opposed. In the San Francisco Bay Area, with a high concentration of rent-controlled cities, just a third of likely voters support the measure.
Campaign spending is expected to ratchet up in the roughly five remaining weeks before Election Day.
Tenants’ rights organizations and renter advocates have raised more than $13 million, according to Secretary of State campaign finance filings. That is far less than the $31 million raised by the state’s real estate interests, including the California Apartment Association and the California Association of Realtors.
“Proponents have a lot of work to do to make the connection between what is happening in the market and this policy change being an improvement,” Baldassare said.
Staff Writer Alexei Koseff of The Bee’s Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.