By Timothy Curry, Clarion Staff
There is a current political battle in California over rent control, two words that can be defined as government preventing a tenant’s rent either from being charged above a certain level or from increasing at a rate higher than a predetermined percentage.
There are proponents on both sides of the issue. People who support rent control want to help California’s poor and middle classes afford the rising rent costs. Opponents argue that changing current rent control laws would bring housing developments to a standstill.
Rent control proponents want to ease the current burden on many middle class and poor families through the use of government limits. They argue that the market forces take years to get around to an affordable level for most renters while rent control is one option to help solve the growing housing crisis across California. The supporters of rent control also want a repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act of 1995. They dislike two major parts of the bill that allow landlords to raise rent on their property after a tenant moves out and prevents cities from placing rent caps on buildings built after February, 1995.
Proponents of rent control have pointed to the over 565,000 signatures they have obtained from voters to put their initiative into law. They hope that at least 365,880 of these signatures are deemed valid by the California Secretary of State for their initiative to be on the ballot in November. Their new initiative not only repeals Costa-Hawkins but gives each city control over a rent cap for their area. According to SF Chronicle the average rent for a tenant in California is $3,433 a month with places like Berkeley having a higher rent in excess of the average. These high rent prices are precisely why the supporters of rent control want controls in place to support poor and middle class tenants.
Rent control opponents believe that capping the rent that landlords charge will lead to more expensive housing to cover the costs and delayed housing projects. According to an Econometer panel of fourteen economists, they believe that rent control would not benefit San Diego’s economy and lead to shortages in quality or quantity of housing. The California Apartment Association is also opposed to repealing Costa-Hawkins, advocating that it would do more harm than good by exacerbating the housing crisis. They suggest rent control keeps many tenants at current housing cost levels leading to wealthier tenants paying less than the market price for rent. The maintenance costs or getting a new tenant on the property once a tenant moves out with rent control is difficult due to the lower costs leading to less income. In addition to reducing housing units, rent control also will reduce local property tax income by lowering the value of the property.
The opponents of rent control suggest easing housing regulations and rent controls to build more available housing which would ultimately stabilize rent prices in the market through the demands for housing being met with new projects. The Combination of reduced money and challenges to construct new houses could make California’s housing crisis even worse by implementing rent control from the opponents perspective.
The political climate in California shows that rent control will be a tough battle for either side to gain an advantage. On the one hand the proponents of rent control want to help the poor and middle class tenants afford the high costs of rent. On the other hand if new housing and tax money are greatly reduced rent control will not benefit California. This is one development in the Golden State that’s worth watching this fall so stay tuned and more importantly vote to make your voice heard on this critical issue.