Rent control activists submit signatures to qualify initiative

With a Costa-Hawkins repeal measure expected to qualify for November’s ballot, the California Apartment Association has launched a full-fledged campaign to defeat the initiative and prevent extreme rent control from returning to California.

The CAA-led  Californians for Responsible Housing has unveiled the “Stop the Housing Freeze” campaign and companion website

The name of the CAA-led anti-repeal campaign and website reflect the certain impact of overturning Costa-Hawkins. Without Costa-Hawkins, cities will apply rent control to single-family homes and new multifamily housing and allow for permanent rent caps, even after changes in tenancy. That sends a message to investors: Do not build in California.

“This ballot measure will pour gasoline on the fire of California’s affordable housing crisis,” said Tom Bannon, CAA’s chief executive officer, as reported in this Sacramento Bee story. “It will do exactly the opposite of what it promises. Instead of helping Californians, it will result in an affordable housing freeze and higher costs.”

The website launched Monday as tenant activists said they were submitting more than half-a-million signatures in hopes of placing the measure before voters. It’s now up to county election officials to check whether petitioners met the 365,880 valid-signature threshold. If they did,  the Secretary of State will qualify the initiative for November’s ballot.

In addition to submitting signatures on Monday, rent control activists held rallies in Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento, generating a great deal of press.

Attending the Los Angeles rally was the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, who said he would “absolutely” consider applying rent control to new housing should the repeal measure pass.

Beverly Kenworthy, CAA’s vice president of public affairs in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times that such a move would undermine Garcetti’s goal of adding 100,000 housing units to the city by 2021.

“The mayor would essentially be sabotaging his own housing goals,” Kenworthy told the Times.

In addition to allowing rent control on new housing — including single-family homes and condos — a repeal of Costa-Hawkins would bring back vacancy controls. These policies prevent property owners from setting the rent at market rate when one tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in. With no prospect of ever returning rents to market rate, owners are sure to take rentals off the market, further constraining housing stock.

In an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee this week, CAA board member Joshua LaBarge warned that repealing Costa-Hawkins is the wrong move for California.

LaBarge writes, “It is important for voters to understand that the proposed rent control initiative on the November ballot would have catastrophic consequences for our state.”

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