It’s Time to Repeal Unfair Costa Hawkins Law: MEDA Backs a “Yes” Vote on Prop 10 Affordable Housing Act this November

Article and photo by Director of Policy & Advocacy Norma P. Garcia

$4,560. $3,200. $2,290. No, these are not the costs of extravagant overseas vacations. It’s actually the median respective two-bedroom rent in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Such exorbitant housing costs leave California’s families rent-burdened, with little cash left over each month to put food on the table and pay electric bills: You can’t put money aside for a rainy day when you are in the midst of a torrential downpour.

To create equity of housing, Prop 10 was put on the ballot this November 6. The goal is the repeal of the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a California state law enacted in the mid-1990s to limit local oversight of rent-control ordinances. While Costa Hawkins was not an outright ban on rent control, it created numerous loopholes, thereby limiting what can be done at the local level.

A vote of  Yes on Prop 10 — also called the Affordable Housing Act — will put that control back into the hands of these municipalities, who best know how to meet their affordable-housing needs via the implementation of rent control. With Costa Hawkins currently our state’s law, local commitments to renter protections are going unmet.

A 2015 analysis by the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO) revealed an interesting fact: There are three times more rent-controlled units in San Francisco than all other types of affordable-housing units combined. Imagine the negative impact if these units had never been protected … and ponder the positive impact on affordable-housing stock if rent control in San Francisco could be expanded.

In San Francisco, Costa Hawkins restricts rent control in multi-family units built after 1979. Additionally, Costa Hawkins eliminates vacancy controls, translating to a landlord raising rents to market rate once a unit becomes vacant by a tenant’s own volition. And then there’s the lack of rent control of single-family homes and condos — even for rentals owned by speculators — if the tenant moved in after January 1, 1996.

Most economists agree the City needs to build more housing units to meet a rising demand fueled by a bustling economy that daily brings in newcomers. With difficult-on-which-to-build hilly terrain and a mere 49 square miles attempting to be home to 885,000 denizens, it is imperative that our busting-at-the-seams metropolis can implement the expansion of rent control to buildings constructed after 1979. When coupled with limits on rent increases of vacant units, there would be an immediate rebalancing of the ratio of housing aimed at six-figure earners versus our affordable-housing stock, and displacement would be stemmed.

MEDA urges you to cast your vote vote this November in favor of diversity in San Francisco and equity of housing opportunity. Vote Yes on Prop 10.


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