“Few subjects have the ability to spark a heated Bay Area debate like rent control.
Rent control has always been a divisive topic between Bay Area tenants and landlords, but the matter has taken on a newfound significance with Prop. 10, which will appear on California voters’ ballots in November. It’s also attracted big money: $62.8 million have been poured into campaigns for and against the measure.
If passed, Prop. 10 would overturn the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which prevents units built after 1995 and single-family homes and condos from being rent-controlled, and allows landlords to raise rents up to market rates after tenants move out of controlled units.
If Costa-Hawkins were repealed, cities would be able to set their own rent control restrictions. In the Bay Area, this could mean an expansion of rent control to include newly built homes, which proponents argue will mitigate the housing affordability crisis.
“Prop. 10 removes a state impediment to local action on rent gouging and skyrocketing rents,” said Amy Schur, the campaign director for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, one of the sponsors of the Yes on 10 coalition.
The Yes on 10 campaign has raised $14.4 million, 86 percent of which comes from the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its founder Michael Weinstein, who brought this measure to ballot.
A slew of behemoth real estate investors and mega-landlords, many of which own and operate thousands of units across the Bay Area, have contributed $48.4 million to the campaign against Prop. 10. They include San Mateo-based Essex Property Trust, Chicago-based Equity Residential and New York-based Blackstone Property Partners.
“Prop. 10 is a flawed attempt to make a difference in this situation,” said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for Californians for Responsible Housing, one of the main Prop. 10 opposition groups backed by the California Apartment Association and the California Association of Realtors, which contributed $5 million to the campaign.
“You can’t build affordable housing under rent control. It simply doesn’t pencil out,” Maviglio said. “We firmly believe that the way to solve the housing crisis is to build more housing.”
Schur said that ultimately her coalition does “share a common interest” with the opposition: building more housing.
“We support building more properties, but we know that alone doesn’t address the crisis that millions of California renters are experiencing today,” she said, adding that further measures need to be passed to protect tenants and ensure fair rents.
A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll showed that 48 percent of voters oppose Prop. 10, while 36 percent are in support of it and 16 percent are undecided.”