California voters are set to vote this November on an initiative that would allow California cities and counties to adopt stronger rent control laws, which limit how much landlords are allowed to raise rents each year.
The Secretary of State’s office reported last week that initiative backers have enough valid signatures to qualify it for the Nov. 6 ballot. Christina Livingston, a tenants’ rights activist and one of three main proponents behind the initiative, said the coalition collected nearly 600,000 signatures in total, while 365,880 valid signatures were needed to qualify.
“They were so easy to collect because the severity of the housing crisis is broad,” Livingston said. “Low-income people and working-class communities are experiencing it, not just in coastal cities but in the Central Valley — everywhere in California.”
It would repeal a 23-year-old state law that sets tight limits on all forms of rent control across California.
The 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act said any local rent control passed after February 1995 would not apply to large amounts of housing stock, including new apartment buildings occupied after that date, single-family homes, duplexes and condominiums. Local politicians and activists seeking to pass new laws could only limit rent increases for tenants living in housing built before that year.
But more than a dozen cities across the state, from Santa Monica and Los Angeles to San Francisco and Berkeley, had already in the late 1970s and early 1980s adopted local rent control ordinances. The 1995 law essentially froze those in place, preventing them from being changed.
Repeal would allow cities and counties seeking to adopt new rent control to apply limits on rent increases to any housing of their choice. It would also allow jurisdictions to change or strengthen existing local rent control laws.
Costa-Hawkins also gave landlords more power over what they could charge for their rentals. It says after a tenant vacates a rent-controlled apartment, the landlord is permitted to adjust the rent to market rate prices, setting a new price floor for the next tenant. Repeal of the state law would allow jurisdictions to change that and set more restrictive policies.