To address California’s housing affordability crisis, rent control advocates and Housing Is A Human Right have launched a statewide ballot measure called the Rental Affordability Act. Advocates intend to qualify the measure for the November 2020 presidential election ballot.
Housing Is A Human Right (HHR) is the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS medical-care provider. Advocates have filed papers with the California Attorney General’s Office for a Title and Summary for the ballot measure, the first step in the citizen initiative process. Housing Is A Human Right is providing financial support for the Rental Affordability Act.
“Rent control is still a very popular tool to address the housing affordability crisis,” said HHR Director René Christian Moya at a press conference last week. He added, “Increasing amounts of research show rent control is a necessary tool. Rent control works, and rent control works fast.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation Board of Directors Vice-Chair Cynthia Davis said, “This is a huge issue in the African American community and other communities of color. There’s a need for humane laws and policies” to address the housing affordability crisis. “It’s long overdue.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation President and Co-Founder Michael Weinstein said the Rental Affordability Act shows AHF’s “determination to address the plight of California renters.”
He further said that the housing affordability and homeless crises, fueled by unfair, excessive rents, have caused “unabated” suffering among middle- and working-class Californians.
In 1987, Weinstein and fellow AIDS activist Chris Brownlie co-founded AIDS Hospice Foundation during the height of the AIDS epidemic. People living with HIV/AIDS were treated as lepers at hospitals, abandoned by their families, and evicted by their landlords. As a result, AHF provided housing and medical services to terminally ill AIDS patients so they could live in a dignified, loving home in their final days.
Years later, the organization changed its name to AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Based in Los Angeles, it now serves 1.1 million patients in 43 countries, providing HIV drug treatment to vulnerable populations in such places as the United States, Mexico, South Africa, India, China, and Russia. AHF’s long-time mission statement is “cutting-edge medicine and advocacy regardless of ability to pay.”
In 2017, AHF returned to its roots as a housing provider as the housing affordability and homeless crises negatively impacted its patients in California. AHF created Healthy Housing Foundation, which offers low-income housing in repurposed hotels in Los Angeles. In line with AHF’s mission of providing cutting-edge advocacy, the organization also founded Housing Is A Human Right.
The Rental Affordability Act helps California’s cities and counties to develop and implement rent control policies that ensure renters can find and afford rental housing.
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.
In 2018, Proposition 10, which sought to repeal statewide rent control restrictions, lost statewide in California. But it won a majority of votes in numerous cities hardest hit by the housing affordability crisis and unfair rents. Prop 10 won in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Monica, Inglewood, Glendale, Pasadena, West Hollywood, and other cities.
Since last fall, there’s been a growing research trend in which experts from prestigious colleges such as Columbia University, USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley have found that rent control is a key tool to stabilize the housing affordability crisis.
Housing Is A Human Right also revealed that an anti-rent control study by former Wall Street executives was seriously flawed, with the researchers coming up with different versions of the study in order to downplay the positive impacts of rent control.
The Rental Affordability Act won’t come without strong opposition from a real estate industry that’s benefited from excessive rents, which have fueled the housing affordability and homeless crises. Advocates expect aggressive pushback from lobbying groups such as the California Apartment Association and the California Association of Realtors and from corporate landlords such as Blackstone Group and Equity Residential.
In 2018, the real estate industry spent $77.3 million to confuse and trick voters about Prop 10 in order to maintain the status quo of highly profitable, sky-high rents.
However, Prop 10 created a broad housing coalition in California that included more than 525 organizations and civic leaders, including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, civil rights and labor movement icon Dolores Huerta, the California Democratic Party, the California Labor Federation, the California Teachers Association, the California Nurses Association, ACCE, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and many others.
Housing Is A Human Right and AIDS Healthcare Foundation promote a people-first, multi-pronged housing strategy called the “3 Ps.” It seeks to urgently, and humanely, address the housing affordability and homeless crises.
Unlike the profits-over-people “build, baby, build” agenda pushed by the real estate industry and their political allies, the 3 Ps involve protecting tenants through rent control and other protections; preserving communities; and producing housing. The Rental Affordability Act is part of AHF’s 3 Ps strategy.