Renters Rights Advocates Support Affordable Housing Act

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Carroll Fife, a longtime Oakland activist, speaks at a rally in support of proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, which would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Photo courtesy of voteyesonprop10.org.

California voters will decide this November on Proposition 10, a statewide ballot initiative that would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

“Costa-Hawkins repeal is one of the primary goals of the renters’ rights movement,” said Shanti Singh, communications and development coordinator for Tenants Together, on Wednesday’s “Your Call” radio show on KALW.

“We pushed very hard for that to happen with Assembly Bill 1506,  (but) it did not pass committee. So now we’re taking it directly to the voters because we know that is what California’s renters want,” said Singh.

Costa-Hawkins sets restrictions statewide on rent control. It exempts from rent control units built (or heavily renovated) after 1995, as well as single-family homes, and condos.

There has been a growing movement for the repeal of Costa-Hawkins, which could allow local governments to create their own rent control laws. Several tenants’ rights organizations, including Tenants Together, endorsed a similar bill last year introduced by Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, David Chiu, and Rob Bonta. It failed early on in the hearing process.

Bonta tweeted shortly after the vote: “I’m disappointed we came up one vote short on AB 1506 to repeal Costa Hawkins, but I’m grateful for the strong show of support at today’s hearing. Every great movement has a beginning, middle and end. We are in the middle!”

Activists who showed at the State Capitol building in January to support Assembly Bill AB1506 described Costa Hawkins in a press release: “It effectively limits local jurisdictions’ ability to address their specific housing issues and prevents them from stabilizing local communities,” the release read.

This year it will be up to the voters to decide. The California Democratic Party has endorsed Prop. 10, also known as the Affordable Housing Act.

The proposition is backed by over $12 million from supporters, including one major contribution by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The anti-Prop 10 opposition committees have over double that funding, from several real-estate companies including Western National Group, Essex Property Trust, and Equity Residential.

Opponents of the ballot initiative say the repeal would dissuade future developments, preventing more affordable housing projects from being built if landlords don’t find the industry sustainable or lucrative enough.

But proponents say that under Costa-Hawkins, it’s too easy for landlords to take advantage and displace tenants, “When I first moved into this home, the rent was $1850. Four years later my most recent notice is taking my rent to more than $3000,” said Blackstone/Invitation Homes tenant and ACCE member Renita Barbee living in Los Angeles. “My landlord Stephen Schwarzman is worth $12.7 billion while I’m on the verge of losing my home. Our elected officials need to prioritize homes for families like mine instead of unlimited profits for corporate giants like Invitation Homes.”

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