In just two short months, rent control advocates in California have collected more than 325,000 signatures for the Rental Affordability Act, a statewide ballot measure that will allow local communities to expand rent control in California. The total number collected so far by the organizations leading the effort, Housing Is A Human Right and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), is slightly more than half the 623,212 signatures needed to qualify the initiative for the November 2020 California election. Backers of the initiative intend to collect more than 915,000 voter signatures as a cushion for the state’s signature verification process.
On August 8, initiative backers announced they had collected 31 percent of voter signatures needed (195,309 signatures)—well above the 25 percent benchmark of signatures that forces the California State Legislature to hold joint legislative committee hearings in Sacramento on the initiative. These required hearings must be held no later than 131 days before the November 2020 election (by or before June 25, 2020).
However, backers of the initiative are also urging legislators in Sacramento to act independently and act now to fix the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995, the state law that prevents all but a handful of California cities or towns from instituting some form of rent control.
“There are still a few weeks left remaining in the 2019 California legislative session and we are strongly urging legislators to work now to craft alternative legislation to amend the Costa-Hawkins Act to allow for rent control measures in more communities statewide,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Costa-Hawkins is a harmful bill—one passed by just one vote in 1995—that places a stranglehold on nearly California communities, preventing them from instituting any form of rent control measures in their jurisdictions. Make no mistake: if the legislature fails to enact meaningful rent reforms before June 25, 2020, we will take the Rental Affordability Act to the November 2020 ballot.”
For years, seniors, families, teachers, recent college graduates and millions of other renters have been struggling with a devastating housing affordability crisis, but the California State Legislature has refused to substantively respond to the persistent problem of skyrocketing rents.
The Rental Affordability Act allows local governments to expand their rent control policies to housing that is more than 15 years old; allows local governments to limit the rent increase for a new tenant who moves into a vacated unit; and exempts the owner of one or two homes from any rent control law.
“Millions of Californians desperately need relief as they are being forced to pay unfair, excessive rents simply to keep a roof over the heads,” says René Christian Moya, director of Housing Is A Human Right. “The rent is still too damn high, and these ever-increasing rents also contribute to a sharp spike in homelessness. As one of our ballot initiative signature gatherers aptly noted: ‘Rents Up, tents up!’ We need urgent solutions to our housing affordability crisis and the Rental Affordability Act is one of those key solutions.”
A recent poll conducted by A/B Consulting and commissioned by AIDS Healthcare Foundation found that 75 percent of voters who are likely and extremely likely to vote in next year’s General Election said they were likely to support the Rental Affordability Act.