A statewide anti-housing measure that could bring extreme forms of rent control back to California has officially qualified for the Nov. 5, 2024, general election ballot.  

The measure, backed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its president, Michael Weinstein, would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995, California’s most important rental housing-protection law.  

The California Secretary of State’s Office confirmed on Wednesday that initiative proponents had submitted more than 600,000 valid voter signatures, surpassing the requirement to place the measure before the state’s voters. In repealing Costa-Hawkins, the “Justice for Renters Act,” as it is called, would allow local governments to impose strict rent control on newer apartments and single-family homes and eliminate the state’s ban on vacancy control. 

“With vacancy control, landlords lose any hope of ever charging fair market value for their investment,” said Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of the California Apartment Association, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. “There is little incentive to keep the unit on the market, let alone invest in improvements.” 

CAA warns that, if passed, the proposed repeal could drastically slow down the construction of affordable housing, adversely impact homeowners and small landlords, and exacerbate the state’s homelessness crisis. 

The measure would also prohibit the state from limiting the right of local governments to maintain, enact, or expand residential rent control. All property owners, including mom-and-pop landlords and homeowners renting their homes or rooms, would be subject to price controls set by local governments. 

It’s worth noting that Weinstein opposed AB 1482, formally the California Tenant Protection Act of 2019, based on his belief that rent control should apply universally across the state’s housing stock, without the modest exemptions included in that law, such as for unit turnover, some housing types, and building age, and that rent caps should be determined at the local level, no matter how extreme.

For instance, San Francisco has set an annual cap on rent increases at 60% of the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which in the past decade has seen lows of half a percent. Furthermore, Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation contend that landlords should not be permitted to raise rents to market rates when a unit is vacated. 

This is Weinstein’s third attempt to repeal Costa-Hawkins via a ballot measure. Both previous attempts were rejected by voters by more than 20 points.  

“We joined a broad coalition of pro-housing groups in soundly defeating similar measures from Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, namely Props 10 and 21, and we will prepare to fight this latest proposition as well,” Bannon said.