State Building Trades opposes radical rent control measure headed to November ballot

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The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California this week announced its opposition to Michael Weinstein’s radical rent control measure.

The union’s announcement came Monday just hours before the Secretary of State’s Office confirmed that Weinstein’s measure had qualified for November’s ballot.

The anti-housing crusader’s measure would repeal significant portions of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and welcome back the extreme forms of rent control that proliferated in California in the 1970s.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California contends that Weinstein’s initiative will undermine the newly enacted Tenant Protection Act of 2019.

“Californians are suffering from record levels of income inequality combined with skyrocketing rents,” said Cesar Diaz, legislative and political director for the California Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 450,000 construction workers. “This initiative, disguised as a solution to these problems, will interfere with historic renter protections and block the path towards future investment in the construction of affordable housing units for the working class.”

The Building Trades representative also said in the release: “The ballot measure is a distraction aimed at delaying important advances in protecting renters and building housing to alleviate the crisis impacting our working families. We will work hard to ensure its defeat in November.”

The Building Trades will work closely with Californians for Responsible Housing, the campaign committee created by CAA, to defeat Weinstein’s measure in November.

Late Monday afternoon, the Secretary of State’s Office said proponents of Weinstein’s measure submitted the requisite 623,212 valid voter signatures to place the measure before voters this fall. Official certification for the ballot is expected on June 25.

Weinstein pursued his initiative despite the overwhelming defeat of his 2018 radical rent control initiative, Proposition 10. Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, bankrolled that campaign though the organization and is tapping its coffers again for his new initiative. It also follows the recent passage of Assembly Bill 1482, the nation’s strongest statewide tenant protection law. Since last month, this measure has capped rent increases at 5% plus the consumer price indexfor most of California’s multifamily housing stock.

Specifically, Weinstein’s initiative would authorize cities and counties to impose rent controls at any level they choose – even below the rate of inflation — on buildings after they turn 15 years old; for the most part, this is the same housing covered by AB 1482. At present, state law bans cities and counties from capping rents on units built after 1995, or in some jurisdictions, an earlier date. Take San Francisco as an example. Under Costa-Hawkins, the city’s rent control law does not apply to housing built after 1979. Since Jan. 1, apartments built after that year but before 2005 have fallen under AB 1482s’ rent cap of 5% plus CPI, which comes to about 9%. If Weinstein’s measure passes, these units would likely become subject to the city’s rent control law, which caps increases at 60% of CPI, or 2.6%.

Weinstein’s measure would also once again allow vacancy controls, which were banned under Costa-Hawkins. When a city imposes vacancy controls, rents remain regulated even after a tenant moves out. This can prevent a landlord from ever returning a unit to market rates and creates an incentive to remove units from the market, which would worsen the housing shortage.

Tom Bannon, chief executive officer for CAA, said Weinstein’s latest measure is a warmed-over version of Proposition 10, which voters adamantly rejected.

“This is Prop 10 2.0 and yet another attempt by Weinstein to keep new homes out of California,” Bannon said. “Weinstein knows that if radical rent control comes back to California, multifamily construction will come to a screeching halt. And that’s what he wants. He’s abusing the statewide initiative process to impose extreme forms of rent control and satisfy his extreme form of NIMBYism.”

Weinstein also opposed SB 50, the most significant housing-supply bill of the year. The author of SB 50, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, says significant spending by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is partly to blame for the death of his housing bill.

“It is so reprehensible that an organization that is registered as a nonprofit, whose mission is supposed to be providing health care for people living with HIV and people at risk of HIV, would divert HIV health care dollars for political vendettas,” Wiener said, as reported by CalMatters.

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