Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Rent cap analysis + Lead-contaminated water in schools + California’s Census win

Happy Wednesday, California. We’re taking time off tomorrow to enjoy Independence Day, and we hope you have a safe and relaxing holiday as well. See you Monday!

WHO DO RENT CAPS HELP?

When Assembly Bill 1482 narrowly passed its chamber floor at the end of May, it was due to a compromise lawmakers made to appease housing lobbyists battling the rent cap legislation.

Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, agreed to raise the cap from 5 to 7 percent plus inflation, as well as to sunset the measure in 2023. The bill would also not apply to landlords who own 10 or fewer single-family homes, or buildings built in the last decade.

The Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley released a report on Tuesday that analyzed how the bill, which was amended to include a “just-cause” provision this week, would affect certain communities.

The data:

  • 3 million Californians spend 30 percent or more of their paycheck on rent. Low-income families earning less than $25,000 are particularly affected, with 92 percent considered “rent-burdened.”
  • AB 1482 would extend rent increase limitations to millions of households, and particularly to renters living in cities without rent control.
  • The center reported that rent caps would help formerly affordable communities like Oakland, San Francisco’s Mission District and Boyle Heights in Los Angeles.
  • Thousands of single-family and multifamily units in communities without rent control, like South Stockton, West Sacramento and West Fresno, would be protected under AB 1482. Rents in these areas increased by more than 9 percent in recent years.

The highlights:

  • The Terner Center analyzed 10 communities and found that rent increases did not exceed AB 1482’s 7 percent plus inflation cap. The median rent increases in these areas is less than 5 percent.
  • However, some areas are experiencing 10 percent rent hikes, which would no longer be allowed should the legislation go into effect.

“In other words, these numbers suggest that, most of the time, the rent cap would not affect a landlord’s ability to charge market rents, but it would ensure that renters in areas facing the steepest price pressures aren’t confronted by 10 to 15 percent (or even higher) increases on an annual basis.”

  • It said cities with rent control like San Francisco, Oakland and L.A. would also benefit from AB 1482, because new limitations allowed by the legislation would extend to some single-family homes and older buildings. In Oakland, Boyle Heights and the Mission District, 32 percent more units would acquire additional protections.

Housing lobbyists and skeptical lawmakers, however, have expressed concern that the bill would choke construction and harm property owners. Others critics have said the ceiling is too high and that landlords not meeting the 7 percent threshold will see the legislation as opportunity to raise rent to meet that threshold.

  • The Terner Center argued that the proposed cap would not stymie production because the cap allows for modest rent increases. It also said excluding new buildings “provides a buffer to ameliorate these concerns.

Still, “...it would be important to monitor landlord practices to understand how different types of landlords in different types of markets respond to the new regulation.”

  • Tenants might not know their rights should the bill become law, so the research group recommended rolling out educational resources to help renters navigate their freedoms.

LEAD WATER

The Environmental Working Group reported on Tuesday that nearly 20 percent of California’s schools have lead-contaminated water.

The State Water Resources Control Board emailed data that confirmed it found at least one fountain with traceable amounts of lead in 1,166 of 6,595 schools, according to the environmental group.

The lead levels were five times greater than what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not to exceed. The academy said lead’s toxicity can “cause serious damage to children’s developing brains.”

“One-fifth of all K-12 schools have found at least one faucet on their campus that delivers a dose of lead to the children who use them,” said Susan Little, the environmental group’s senior advocate for government affairs in California. “These fountains are placed in areas easily reached by children, and many of the fountains haven’t been cleared. Parents should be concerned that their children might be drinking lead during recess.”

WHITE FLAG

President Donald Trump bowed to critics on Tuesday when his administration confirmed on Tuesday that 2020 Census forms would begin printing without a citizenship question added.

The news delighted liberal states like California, and lawmakers throughout the state were quick to pat themselves on the back.

““This is a victory for Californians and for our democracy and a defeat for the Trump administration’s relentless attack on our immigrant communities,” Gov. Gavin Newsom released in a press statement. “California has refused to stand by and let this administration succeed in its attempt to undermine our census count. Everyone needs to be counted.”

But, not so fast.

Some damage - done. While vulnerable populations like undocumented immigrants won’t have to answer a question that could expose their status, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said it’ll be an uphill battle to achieve a complete count.

“The Trump administration’s tone and actions have created a deep mistrust of government, especially by immigrant communities,” he said. “Trump would like nothing more than for Californians to sit out the 2020 Census.”

TWEET OF THE DAY

I usually refrain from sports references, but when they intersect with politics...

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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.
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