Monday, August 19, 2019
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Repealing Costa-Hawkins
By Clarice Brown, Chair of 9th District Chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
Published November 1, 2018

California is in a massive housing crisis. Though housing prices vary across the state, housing affordability is a clear problem when resident income is compared to housing costs. In many cities, renters are paying over half of their income in housing costs, leaving very little to go towards anything else. Some 61 percent of renter households in California are lower-income, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Passing Proposition 10 and repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act would tremendously help struggling California Renters. Signed into law be Republican Governor Pete Wilson in 1995, Costa-Hawkins has decimated California’s rent-control laws and has prevented local governments from doing all they can to prevent displacement, causing my community here in the 9th District of Los Angeles to change drastically. The reality is real families live in fear of being put out on the streets. The landlord lobby, which spent over $50 million to push the bill in 1995, claimed its passage would lead to more affordable homes, as builders would be incentivized to build more housing and the price of renting would fall.

This has decidedly not occurred.

Instead, rents have risen astronomically, forcing original tenants out of their homes and in some cases, into homelessness. Evictions have sharply increased over the last several years, disproportionately affecting vulnerable, low-income minority groups. According to Tenants Together, landlords have filed an average of 166,000 evictions annually over the last three years.

The affordable housing supply in California does need to be increased. No one is arguing against that, but the supply of affordable housing is so far behind demand that it would take decades and hundreds of Billions of dollars to develop enough affordable housing to meet the demand.

Rent Control has actually proven to help construction too. In cities with strong rent control, construction is strong. The three largest Bay Area cities with rent control (San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland) have only 27 percent of the housing in the region, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, have built 43 percent of the new multifamily rental units in buildings with five or more units since the year 2000.

It was a general lie to say that rent control had any impact on construction in the first place. A comprehensive 1998 report by Berkeley’s Planning and Development Department that looked at the city’s rent control policies found that, “the best available evidence shows that rent control had little or no effect on the construction of new housing.” Analyzing new construction across the decades, the report demonstrates that building permits hit their highest levels between 1971 and 1989—right around the time rent control was first implemented.

Corporate landlords like Invitation Homes, Essex Properties and big real estate groups, including many of Donald Trump’s friends, have continued to sponsor misleading studies against rent-control to protect their profits. They continue to falsely claim that establishing rent control would slow construction and eliminate the profit incentive for development.

Even with rent control, what would discourage constructing in the state? Because there is such a strong housing need right now, property developers and landlords will practically be guaranteed long-term tenants. Landlords will still be able to raise rents annually, but at reasonable limits.

The evidence shows that rent controls eliminate abusive increase in rent, but landlords can still get profits necessary to encourage investment in private rental housing. The insatiable corporate greed has a chokehold on regular people who are being displaced out of the city or onto the streets. I witnessed my neighbor of over 30 years be forced out of her home, unaware of the rapidly evolving landscape of rent in LA.

Let’s return the right of local communities to make rental policy that’s right for them, not corporate landlords. Our local communities need all the tools at their disposal to address skyrocketing rents.

As a homeowner in the 9th District and someone who has been here for 74 years, I support passing Prop 10 and repealing Costa-Hawkins so we can give our communities an option to fight skyrocketing rents and the fragmentation of communities.

Categories: Op-Ed | Opinion
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