Soapbox

Proposition 10 will let cities protect tenants from unfair rent hikes

Supporters of Proposition 10, a ballot initiative that would loosen Californias restraints on local rent control laws, hold a rally in San Francisco on Oct. 2.
Supporters of Proposition 10, a ballot initiative that would loosen Californias restraints on local rent control laws, hold a rally in San Francisco on Oct. 2. The New York Times

Proposition 10 will allow local communities to protect tenants from unreasonable, unnecessary and harmful rent increases.

Rising rents in California have pushed millions of people into poverty and forced tens of thousands into homelessness. Too many tenants are forced to choose between spending more than half of their income in rent, or living in their car or moving away from their jobs, relatives and communities to find housing. Researchers have found that this generates enormous stress that can be devastating to human physical and mental health.

Opinion

We know that stable communities are safer and healthier communities. We also know that rent control is the only way to provide tenants with the stability they need right now.

The big real estate investors and corporate landlords who profit most from the current crisis — and who are funding the opposition to Proposition 10 — tell us that all will be well if we are just patient and wait for new housing construction to “catch up” and “trickle down” to the average tenant. But that will take 20 or 30 years while tenants are suffering now and our homelessness crisis is growing.

Stephen Barton.JPG
Stephen Barton

Some economists believe it is more efficient to kick seniors, teachers, nurses and working families out of their rented homes so that higher-paid newcomers can move in, but that’s not the kind of community we want. Families need stability to do well at work and in school and maintain connections with relatives and friends.

Cities with rent control build more new apartments than cities without it. San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland have only 27 percent of housing in the Bay area, but added 43 percent of the region’s new multi-family rental units since 2000. Similarly, Los Angeles, with 42 percent of the housing in Los Angeles County, has built 62 percent of new multifamily rentals since 2000.

To be clear, Proposition 10 only removes a restriction imposed by the Legislature, so that cities and counties can decide how to implement rent control, if they choose. It doesn’t mandate any city impose rent control. It simply allows local governments to engage in a deliberative process to implement the housing policies that make the most sense for their communities.

Without an ability to put a check on unaffordable rent increases, we will see even more hardship, poverty and homelessness. If voters pass Proposition 10, landlords will continue to receive a fair return on their investment. They just won’t be able to take advantage of our broken market to push people out to get extra profits.

Stephen Barton is the former housing director for the city of Berkeley. He can be contacted at Fundaffordablehousing@gmail.com.

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