The California Apartment Association today vowed to fight anti-housing activist Michael Weinstein’s efforts to have Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature suspend the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, California’s most important landlord-protection law.

CAA is preparing to mobilize its members to oppose any suspension of Costa-Hawkins, which would allow vacancy controls and authorize cities and counties to limit rent increases — even below the rate of inflation — on single-family homes, condominiums and apartments built after 1995. 

Vacancy controls would keep local rent caps in place during changes in tenancy, preventing units from reaching market rates. 

Although Weinstein claims his proposal comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clearly an attempt to wipe Costa-Hawkins off the books.

In 2018, Weinstein bankrolled Proposition 10, a failed statewide initiative seeking to repeal Costa-Hawkins. This year, Weinstein is back with a new version of that measure, dubbed Prop 10 2.0, which would severely weaken Costa-Hawkins. The measure has qualified for November’s ballot, and CAA is leading a campaign to defeat it.

Perhaps considering the lopsided defeat of Prop 10 two years ago, the Prop 10 2.0 campaign, facing an uphill battle at offered to withdraw its initiative if California suspends Costa-Hawkins in response to COVID-19.

About Costa-Hawkins

For over 25 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 requires all rent control ordinances to allow a rental property owner to set the rent at market rate once an existing tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in, a policy known as vacancy decontrol.

Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of CAA, said the association is not interested in any such deal.

“Mr. Weinstein is interested in one thing — keeping new homes out of California,” Bannon said. “Although billed as a COVID-19 relief measure, Mr. Weinstein is attempting, disingenuously, to open the door to a legislative repeal of Costa-Hawkins.

Tom Bannon

“CAA will not take the bait. We will keep Costa-Hawkins in effect uninterrupted and defeat Weinstein and his anti-housing measure at the ballot box, just like we did in two years ago.”

Bannon said California’s rental housing industry recognizes that the COVID-19 crisis has left many tenants struggling to pay for housing. That’s why the association unveiled its Safe at Home Guidelines, which includes a voluntary freeze on rent increases, and why CAA has sponsored SB 1410, a new legislative proposal that would cover the rent payments for tenants cash-strapped by the pandemic.