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.
Housing is a Human Right will continue to work with our allies in the housing justice and union movements to urge the legislature to pass AB 1506, the bill to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act that was introduced at the request of AHF by Assemblymember Richard Bloom. With a supermajority in the legislature, it is clear that repealing Costa-Hawkins is a matter of political will for the Democrats, and not a matter of political power.
The filing of title and summary for the Affordable Housing Act will ensure that the option remains open for a statewide ballot initiative in November 2018 should the Democratic-controlled legislature fail to correct the severe housing crisis that has resulted from Costa-Hawkins, and thereby fail to provide relief to the state’s millions of renters.
The text of the act is as follows:
The People of the State of California do hereby ordain as follows:
Section 1. Title.
This Act shall be known and may be cited as “Affordable Housing Act.”
Section 2. Findings and Declarations.
The People of the State of California hereby find and declare all of the following:
a) Rents for housing have skyrocketed in recent years. Median rents are higher in California than any other state in the country, and among all 50 states, California has the 4th highest increase in rents.
b) Research by Apartment List indicates that the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in California is $1,410, an increase of 4.5% in just one year. A one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles costs $1,350 per month. In San Francisco, it costs $2,450. In San Diego, the cost is $1,560.
c) The federal government has concluded that rent is not affordable if renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. The State of California has found that more than half of California renter households (3 million) pay more than 30% and one-third of renter households (over 1.5 million) pay more than 50% of their income toward rent.
d) According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Californian earning minimum wage would have to work 92 hours per week in order to afford to rent an average one-bedroom apartment.
e) More Californians (5.8 million households) are renting than ever before, because overall home ownership rates in California have fallen to their lowest level since the 1940s, according to the state. One quarter of older millennials (25-34 years of age) still live with their parents. (U.S. Census Bureau)
f) Statewide labor unions, such as California Nurses Association, Service Employees International Union and the California Teachers Association, have made affordable housing a priority for their members. For example, teachers in California’s urban centers are paying 40% to 70% of their salaries on housing and many are being forced to live an hour or more from their jobs in order to afford a home.
g) Three times as many Californians are living in overcrowded apartments as compared to the U.S. as a whole. (U.S. Census Bureau)
h) Even though the state represents only 12% of the total U.S. population, California is home to 22% of the nation’s homeless population. (California Department of Housing and Community Development)
i) Homelessness is a major public health issue. People who are homeless are 3 to 4 times more likely to die prematurely and are more likely to have a communicable disease, according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
j) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that vulnerable populations face lower life expectancy, higher cancer rates and more birth defects when their homes are displaced due to the gentrification of their neighborhoods.
k) The increased cost of housing is worsening traffic congestion and harming the environment by forcing commuters to live farther away from their places of employment and increasing commute times. A report by the Pew Charitable Trust noted that the number of Californians who commute more than 90 minutes each way increased by 40% between 2010 and 2015; the increase is a direct result of the dearth of affordable housing near jobs.
l) A major factor in California’s housing crisis is a 20-year-old law known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Costa-Hawkins gives permission to landlords of residential apartments and houses to raise rents as much as they want in buildings built after 1995; despite local laws that would otherwise prohibit such increases, landlords in Los Angeles can raise rents as much as they want on buildings built after 1978 and in San Francisco, on buildings built after 1979.
m) Costa-Hawkins also allows a landlord to raise the rent in any building built before 1995 to the market value when it becomes vacant, and lets the landlord decide what market value is.
n) Costa-Hawkins prevents cities from implementing laws that keep rents affordable for their residents.
Section 3. Purposes and Intent.
The People of the State of California hereby declare the following purposes and intent in enacting this Act:
a) To restore authority to California’s cities and counties to develop and implement local policies that ensure renters are able to find and afford decent housing in their jurisdictions.
b) To improve the quality of life for millions of California renters and reduce the number of Californians who face critical housing challenges and homelessness.
c) To repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.
Section 4. The Affordable Housing Act shall be codified by repealing the following sections of the Civil Code:
Sections 1954.50, 1954.51, 1954.52 and 1954.53 of Chapter 2.7 of Title 5 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code are repealed.
Section 5. The Affordable Housing Act shall be further codified by adding the following section to the Civil Code:
Section 1954.54. (a) A city, county, or city and county shall have the authority to adopt a local charter provision, ordinance or regulation that governs a landlord’s right to establish and increase rental rates on a dwelling or housing unit.
(b) In accordance with California law, a landlord’s right to a fair rate of return on a property shall not be abridged by a city, county, or city and county.
Section 6. Liberal Construction
This Act shall be broadly construed to accomplish its purposes.
Section 7. Amendment and Repeal
Pursuant to Article II, Section 10, Subdivision (c), of the California Constitution, the Legislature may amend this Act to further its purposes by a statute passed in each house by roll call vote entered in the Journal, two-thirds of the membership concurring, signed by the Governor. No statute restricting or eliminating the powers that have been restored by this Act to a city, county, or city and county to establish residential rental rates shall become effective unless approved by a majority of the electorate.
Section 8. Severability
If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this Act are severable.
Section 9. Conflicting Measures
In the event that this Act and any other measure addressing the authority of local government agencies to establish residential rental rates shall appear on the same statewide election ballot, the provision of the other measure or measures shall be deemed to be in conflict with this Act. In the event that this Act receives a greater number of affirmative votes than another measure deemed to be in conflict with it, the provisions of this Act shall prevail in their entirety, and the other measure or measures shall be null and void.
Section 10. Legal Defense
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the State, a government agency, or any of its officials fail to defend the constitutionality of this Act, following its approval by the voters, the proponents shall have the authority to intervene in any court action challenging the constitutionality of this Act for the purpose of defending its constitutionality, whether in state or federal court, and whether such action is in any trial court, on appeal, or on discretionary review by the Supreme Court of California or the Supreme Court of the United States. The reasonable fees and costs of defending the action shall be a charge on funds appropriated to the California Department of Justice, which shall be satisfied promptly.
Section 11. Effective Date
Except as otherwise provided herein, this Act shall become effective the day after its approval by the voters.