“Proposition 10 on the Nov. 6 ballot has been linked with local rent control measures, such as Santa Cruz’s Measure M (which will be discussed in an upcoming editorial on this page).
As it should, since the measure if approved will allow cities to introduce new restrictions on allowable rents and expand existing rent control policies.
Why is it on the ballot? Because in 1995, the state California Legislature passed the Costa-Hawkins Act, which said any rent controls would be limited to multi-unit apartment buildings constructed before Feb. 1, 1995. Cities could no longer restrict rent increases on apartments built after 1995 or on any single-family homes. Plus, any city that wanted to have rent control on the books had to allow landlords to raise rents as soon as a tenant moved out.
For years, tenant advocates have complained Costa-Hawkins ties the hands of local officials so that they cannot respond when rents and displacement surge in their community. Proposition 10 would repeal Costa-Hawkins, allowing cities and counties to adopt rent controls for apartment buildings regardless of when they were built — and would allow rent control for single-family homes and condominiums.
It won’t work, which is why we are recommending a “no” vote on Prop. 10. The shortage of affordable housing, which has led to higher rents, can be mostly attributable to higher demand as the economy booms, and to governments’ inability to respond with changes in zoning policies, fees and restrictions.
The antidote is not to give government even more power to suppress housing supply.
Rent control advocates, either local or those trying to repeal the state law, are focused on the pain of soaring rents that price many people out of the rental market and make it difficult for working people to live where they are employed or for students to find affordable apartments.
And that’s because there are not enough housing units for a growing population. Rents go up when housing demand outpaces the supply and more people compete for fewer apartments or homes.
This isn’t just our opinion. Here’s what California’s nonpartisan legislative analyst said in assessing Proposition 10: “Rent is high in California because the state does not have enough housing for everyone who wants to live here. People who want to live here must compete for housing, which increases rents.” In 2016, the analyst wrote that ending the Costa-Hawkins restrictions would not increase the supply of housing “and, in fact, likely would discourage new construction.”
The only solution that will truly begin to solve this crisis is more housing. California needs to add 180,000 new housing units a year just to keep up with population growth. Construction, however, has lagged far behind those numbers.
Rent controls, however, will lead to two outcomes: Many properties will be taken off the market, which has happened in many cities where rent controls have been put in place; and fewer rentals will be built because price controls are a disincentive to investing in new construction.
Tenants, in addition, often hang onto rent-controlled units because of their relatively lower price, which then puts more pressure on the overall market.
There’s no question that California is in a housing crisis and something needs to be done. But Prop. 10 will instead scare away developers and investors. Instead, cities and counties need to summon the political will to fight NIMBYism by expediting applications and permit reviews, take a hard look at some environmental restrictions, cut fees and encourage both the construction of accessory dwelling units and the legalization of many of those built outside onerous planning and zoning regulations.
Voters in the Nov. 6 election can support state propositions 1 and 2, both of which this newspaper has supported. In Santa Cruz County, we support Measure H, a bond measure that will encourage affordable housing.
Sure, landlords and the real estate industry oppose Prop. 10 — but opponents also include Gavin Newsom, the Democratic candidate for governor; his Republican opponent, John Cox; many affordable housing developers; and organizations representing veterans and seniors.
Why? Because government or quasi-government price controls don’t work and will make a bad situation worse. Vote No on Proposition 10.”