On April 23, a statewide movement powered by tenants — and supported by labor, economic justice, civil rights, and faith-based groups — announced that 595,340 voters have signed the Affordable Housing Act petition to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, the harmful anti-rent control law. With such a successful signature drive, Californians and political leaders are showing strong approval for a repeal ballot measure.
“You have my full support,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at the LA rally outside City Hall. “I know we can get this done in November.”
The 595,340 far exceeds the 402,468 valid signatures required to qualify for the November ballot. The announcement was made at “Renters Rising” rallies in Sacramento, Oakland, and Los Angeles.
Costa-Hawkins, which was passed by the state legislature and signed by former Republican Governor Pete Wilson in 1995, created a loophole in California’s rent control laws. Pushed by powerful real estate interests, it prohibits cities from enacting stronger rent control protections — even though Californians are facing dire housing-affordability and homeless emergencies.
Up and down the state, corporate landlords, like Blackstone, have been slamming tenants with 30 to 60 percent rent increases — and sometimes more. Such rent gouging has fueled the nation’s worst housing-affordability crisis.
At the Sacramento Renters Rising rally, Jefferson McGee, an activist and real estate broker, said his father was a landlord and told him that sky-high rent increases weren’t needed to make a living. “We know we don’t have to raise rents,” McGee told the crowd. “It’s just greed.”
Hundreds of tenants and leaders chanted: “The rent! The Rent! Is too damn high!”
Gloria Cortez, whose family was evicted from their home in Pomona after complaining about mold, said, “They didn’t want to fix the issue so they evicted us. We all deserve to have a home… we deserve something affordable. Costa-Hawkins has got to go.”
In Oakland, City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said before the Renters Rising rally there: “California can do better, and we need immediate change to stop this wave of displacement to keep people in their homes.”
Local officials say they need to urgently address displacement and housing affordability emergencies in their cities, but Costa-Hawkins keeps them from taking swift action.
“We have a toolbox that’s missing an essential tool,” said LA City Councilman Mike Bonin, referring to rent control, “and we need to take that tool back from Sacramento.”
The growing statewide movement to repeal Costa-Hawkins is a broad coalition of social and housing justice groups and labor unions, including AFSCME Local 3299, Unite HERE Locals 11 and 2850, California Nurses Association, United Teachers of Los Angeles, Painters & Allied Trade 36, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Black Community Clergy & Labor Alliance, ACLU-Southern California, Democratic Socialists of America groups in LA, the East Bay, Orange County, Sacramento, and San Francisco, Inland Empire United, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, PICO California, the tenants unions of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Glendale, Pasadena, and Isla Vista, and more than 100 other organizations.
At the LA Renters Rising rally, Los Angeles Tenants Union founding member Walt Senterfitt said: “Our communities are struggling to keep food on the table to stay in their places.”
Pastor William Smart, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, said, “The affordable housing crisis is a moral crisis. Rent gouging has got to go!”
Up and down California, Smart said, “we are all crying the same thing: The rent is too damn high!”