In the last two statewide elections, California voters spoke out against rent control policies. With both Proposition 10 (2018) and Proposition 21 (2020), nearly 60% of the state’s voters rejected the notion of stricter rent controls across California.

But the organization that sponsored Propositions 10 and 21, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), refuses to relent. In January 2021, AHF published its housing platform, affirming its commitment to “working with housing justice groups and through collective alliances, helping to foster local pro-renter ballot initiatives.”

Never mind that managing a city rent control program requires a multimillion-dollar budget with dozens of employees to monitor and enforce regulations on rental housing providers. In the past few years, San Jose has spent around $3.2 million annually; Mountain View’s rent board has a budget of approximately $2 million; Los Angeles’ rent stabilization program estimates it will cost over $20 million; and Berkeley budgets to spend around $6 million annually.

AHF ignores the California Legislature’s adoption of AB 1482 (Chiu), which established comprehensive protections for most of the state’s renters by capping rent increases at 10% and banning unjust evictions.

And we cannot forget that California’s own Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded in 2016 that owners of units subject to strict rent control laws receive less income and “cut back their operating costs by forgoing maintenance and repairs.”

Yet, over the past year, new groups — with funding from various nonprofit foundations — have emerged in cities across the state to significantly limit rent increases and expand the eviction protections tenants already have under state law. Undeterred by these attacks on the rental housing industry, CAA’s commitment to fight extreme rent control proposals, while promoting the production of new housing to meet our growing needs, only gets stronger.

To succeed, the rental housing industry must remain vigilant and committed to winning local battles like the following:   

Santa Ana

On Oct. 19, 2021, the Santa Ana City Council adopted the most extreme rent control ordinance in California. Without community outreach or engagement, the council adopted a law drafted in secret and then passed it in the dark of night. The next day, CAA, with a broad coalition of housing providers and residents, hit the streets to challenge the measure. This campaign has until Nov. 19, 2021, to collect the required number of signatures from Santa Ana voters to halt the law and let the voters decide if it’s right for their community. CAA has successfully led similar efforts in Richmond, Pacifica, Santa Rosa, and El Cerrito.


Creating a rent board and imposing rent control is among the top recommendations in a report commissioned by the city of Fresno. In addition to capping rents, the report calls for a city-run tenant deposit program, a rent board-controlled lease buy-out program, and mandatory extended leases for all tenants. The policy recommendations are under review by the city’s Anti-Displacement Task Force, with a discussion by the Fresno City Council expected late this year or in early 2022. CAA mobilized housing providers to challenge the report and oppose the rent and eviction restrictions. To learn more about how you can engage in this effort, click here.

Palo Alto

In the Silicon Valley community of Palo Alto, the City Council rejected rent control in 2017 and 2019. The November 2020 City Council election, however, brought in two council members who favor rent control and related policies, which brings the council close to a majority that supports additional regulations on rental housing providers. Additionally, the city is engaged in the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, which has strategically placed housing policy fellows in certain cities to help craft “anti-displacement” and “tenant friendly” policies. On Nov. 8, the Palo Alto City Council intends to discuss policies such as rent control, a rent registry, and restrictions on security deposits. Grassroots opposition is vital if we are to expose the misguided nature of these proposals to council members. Learn more here.


It’s Groundhog Day in Pasadena. After failing to qualify a rent control ballot measure in 2020, the Pasadena Tenants Union has submitted a new rent control measure targeted for the November 2022 ballot. To qualify the initiative, proponents must submit 14,000 valid voter signatures by early December.


Earlier this month, the Oxnard City Council voted unanimously to pursue a rent control ordinance, limiting annual rent increases to 5%. CAA wants the ordinance to mirror AB 1482, the statewide rent control law, and include an education and outreach program. CAA staff lobbied council and continues to convey that rent control won’t solve the housing affordability issues facing Oxnard. Staff will come back in January with a draft rent control ordinance. CAA continues the fight to protect the industry in Oxnard against this draconian price-fixing effort.

CAA Won’t Back Down

CAA recognizes the frustration many California rental owners feel given the perennial onslaught of attacks on the industry. After all, groups like AHF maintain their ongoing pursuits of extreme rent control policies, despite:

  • Strong public opposition to expanded and strict forms of rent control.
  • CAA’s defeat of prior rent control efforts in cities across California.
  • The extensive costs for cities to manage rent regulations.
  • Comprehensive statewide tenant protections already in place.

Given this reality, it is essential that rental housing providers work together, speak out at city council meetings, rally their colleagues, friends, and other owners, and support candidates for elected office who understand the importance of a strong rental housing market.

Inspired by the lyrics of Tom Petty’s 1989 hit song “I Won’t Back Down,” the rental housing industry cannot afford to back down or to be turned around. We will not get dragged down. Together we will continue to promote balanced housing policies and pragmatic solutions, while never relenting in these ongoing fights to protect the rental housing industry and quality housing for all Californians.

Joshua Howard CAA’s executive vice president of local government affairs. Email him at Ignoring voters, tenant groups keep pushing rent control