Across California, people are struggling to stay in their homes, as developers, landlords and Wall Street speculators are given free reign over our cities, quickly transforming stable neighborhoods into high-priced markets at the expense of working-class communities.
Teachers, nurses, long-term care workers and grocery clerks are being forced to commute far from their place of work just to live in housing they can afford. The less fortunate are forced to sleep on couches, in cars or can be seen on our streets.
This didn’t just happen naturally. In 1995, the California legislature passed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Act, a failed, outdated law that limits how California cities can address the housing crisis and protect residents from displacement.
Pushed by the corporate landlord lobby and signed by Governor Pete Wilson in 1995, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (AB 1164; codified in California Civil Code Sections 1954.50) places significant restrictions on the ability of cities and counties in California to implement rent control — or limits on skyrocketing rents.
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits local communities from limiting rent increases for any single family home, condominium or apartment constructed after February 1995.
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities that established rent control laws prior to the Act’s passage in 1995 from expanding rent control. For example, because when Costa Hawkins was passed in 1995, apartments built in Los Angeles after 1978 were exempt from the city’s rent control ordinance, L.A. – the largest city in the state – cannot place rent control on apartments built after 1978. San Francisco cannot place rent control on apartments built after 1979.
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities from implementing “strict” rent control, known as “vacancy control.” Landlords can raise the rental price to any amount following a tenant vacancy.
Because of Costa-Hawkins, landlords, especially corporate landlords, have an incentive to pressure long-term tenants who pay below market rate rents (BMR) to move out in favor of tenants who can pay higher rents. With new vacancies, rent often increases to levels unaffordable to lower income renters – contributing to displacement and the gentrification of formerly affordable working class communities.
EFFORT TO REPEAL
Repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act would remove the current restrictions, and give cities and counties the power and ability to implement rent control as they choose.
Housing justice organizations consider the Costa-Hawkins Act a key driver in the current housing affordability crisis, which is felt in every urban area in the state. Accordingly, almost all consider the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act the top statewide legislative goal.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING ACT
On Monday, October 23rd, 2017, Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Christina Livingston, State Director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action (ACCE Action), and Elena Popp, Founder and Executive Director of Eviction Defense Network jointly took the first step towards a statewide ballot initiative by filing title and summary with the Attorney General’s office for the Affordable Housing Act, a citizen’s initiative that would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.