Pushed by the landlord lobby and signed by Governor Pete Wilson in 1995, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (AB 1164; codified in California Civil Code Sections 1954.50) places significant limits on the ability of cities in California to implement rent control.
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities from implementing rent control for any single family home or condominium, and any apartment constructed after February 1995.
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities that established rent control laws prior to the Act’s passage in 1995 from expanding rent control. For example, because when Costa Hawkins was passed in 1995, apartments built in Los Angeles after 1978 were exempt from the city’s rent control ordinance, L.A. – the largest city in the state – cannot place rent control on apartments built after 1978. San Francisco cannot place rent control on apartments built after 1979.
- Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities from implementing “strict” rent control, known as “vacancy control.” Landlords can raise the rental price to any amount following a tenant vacancy.
Because of Costa-Hawkins, landlords, especially corporate landlords, have an incentive to pressure long-term tenants who pay below market rate rents (BMR) to move out in favor of tenants who can pay higher rents. With new vacancies, rent often increases to levels unaffordable to lower income renters – contributing to displacement and the gentrification of formerly affordable working class communities.
EFFORT TO REPEAL
Repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act would remove the current restrictions, and give cities and counties the power and ability to implement rent control as they choose.
Housing justice organizations consider the Costa-Hawkins Act a key driver in the current housing affordability crisis, which is felt in every urban area in the state. Accordingly, almost all consider the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act the top statewide legislative goal.
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. Now known as Prop 10, voters will get the chance to vote to repeal Costa-Hawkins on November 6, 2018.