In his recent column for CALmatters, Dan Walters argues that two state bills that would reform the problematic Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and institute anti-rent gouging would defy the “will of the voters” after the defeat of Proposition 10 last year. Housing Is A Human Right believes that line of logic misunderstands the result of the 2018 vote, and ignores the broad popularity of rent control as a necessary tool in the fight against displacement and the crisis of housing affordability.
“We know that rent control is a crucial tool our cities and counties need to tackle the housing affordability crisis in California,” says René Christian Moya, the Director of Housing Is A Human Right, “Rent control works, rent control is fast, and rent control is still popular in California. Costa-Hawkins was a horrible mistake by a California legislature all too happy to do the will of Big Real Estate in the 1990s. It is time that’s corrected.”
California’s housing affordability crisis cannot be overstated. A majority of tenants are overburdened by rent costs, while one-third of California renters are “severely rent-burdened” — spending over half their income on housing costs. A resident earning minimum wage would have to work 92 hours per week in order to afford to rent an average one-bedroom apartment, forcing many families to choose between paying their rent and affording other necessities such as medical care. It is no wonder why California is home to a quarter of the nation’s homeless population.
The Yes on 10 movement faced a powerful, deep-pocketed opponent — the real estate industry shelled out $77.3 million to defeat Prop 10. Despite this, the initiative won in the cities that are most impacted by the housing affordability crisis: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Burbank, Culver City, Glendale, Inglewood, and Pasadena, among others.
More importantly, polling before and after the election showed that Californians not only know rent control is necessary, but also that the lack of rent control is contributing to the problem. The statistics bear this out: less than 1 million of the 5.9 million renter households in California are currently protected by rent control. Prop 10 lost not because rent control is unpopular, but because some of the biggest financial interests in California spent tens of millions to confuse voters.
More than 525 organizations and civic and elected leaders endorsed Prop 10, creating a broad housing coalition that included AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Sierra Club, the ACLU, the National Urban League, the California Democratic Party, major unions like SEIU and AFSCME, the Housing Now! California coalition, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Like California’s voters, they know rent control is a necessary policy tool for our cities and counties struggling to fight the housing affordability crisis, fueled by the unfair, excessive rents of corporate landlords.
We applaud the California legislators who have put this issue back on the table despite the concerted opposition of some of the biggest political donors in the state, such as the California Apartment Association and the California Association of Realtors. We urge the legislators, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, to go beyond the proposals they are currently considering, ensuring that 17 million renters have the protections they urgently need. California voters are behind them.