Ballot initiative filed to repeal Costa-Hawkins, California’s rent control limitation law

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A statewide ballot initiative filed Monday, Oct. 23, seeks to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, landmark legislation that protects property owners and renters from radical, local rent control measures.

For over 20 years, the Costa-Hawkins Act has prohibited local governments from regulating the price of rents on rental units built after 1995. Costa-Hawkins also prohibits a local government from regulating rents on single-family homes, individually owned condominiums and townhouses.

Moreover, the act also requires all rent control ordinances to allow a rental property owner to set the rent at market rate once a new tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in, a policy known as vacancy decontrol.

“If local rent control ordinances are allowed to regulate rents on new construction and single-family homes, new private investment into rental housing will come to a screeching halt,” said Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of the California Apartment Association. “Without private investment in the development and construction of new rental housing, California’s economic expansion will be in jeopardy.

Bannon continued: “California is already facing a critical housing shortage. Should Costa Hawkins be repealed, the housing situation will go from a serious problem to a catastrophic problem. Furthermore, recent housing legislation passed by the California Legislature and signed by the governor to address California’s housing shortage will all have been for naught.”

Supporters of the repeal measure include a national community organizing group, an eviction-protection group and a no-growth advocate who attempted to pass a ballot measure in the City of Los Angeles earlier this year. That measure – Measure S – which ultimately failed passage, would have placed a moratorium on most apartment construction in Los Angeles for a period of two years.

The proponents of the measure to repeal Costa-Hawkins can begin circulating the petition to qualify the initiative for the November 2018 statewide ballot in approximately 60 days, following review by the state attorney general and the Legislative Analyst’s Office. To qualify the measure for the ballot, supporters must gather 366,000 valid signatures no later than June 28, 2018.

The Association, which opposes all forms of rent control, will fight this measure should it ultimately qualify.

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