By Ignacio Hernandez V. / ACCE
Today, more Californians are paying more than half their income on rent. Every day, the number of families struggling to make ends meet increases. According to the Los Angeles Times, every 5 percent of rent increase in Los Angeles today leads to 2,000 people becoming homeless. Seniors, families, workers, teachers, and all others on fixed incomes who have lived in their homes for years are being forced out due to unscrupulous real estate speculators.
We need a solution — and that solution is voting Yes on Proposition 10.
Passing Prop. 10 this November 6 is an easy, fair, and necessary step to help tackle the affordable housing crisis. We need to give back the right of local communities to make rental policy that’s right for them, not just for corporate landlords. Our local communities need all the tools at their disposal to address skyrocketing housing costs.
The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, passed in 1995, was supposed to prevent our current housing crisis from happening. But it hasn’t. This Act removed the power from local governments to implement rent control policies in single-family homes, condos, and new construction built after 1995, or the year that a city passed rent control. It also allows vacancy de-control, meaning that rents can be dramatically increased between outgoing and new coming tenants.
It decimated California’s rent-control laws. In 1995, more than $50 million was spent to push the bill, claiming its passage would lead to more affordable homes, as builders would be incentivized to build more housing, and the price of renting would fall. Before 1995, 82 percent of Santa Monica’s rent-stabilized apartments were affordable to low-income households. A decade after Costa Hawkins superseded Santa Monica’s law, eliminating the city’s vacancy control and restricting its rent-controlled units, only 14 percent of the rent-stabilized apartments remained affordable.
Tenants have been advocating for tenant protections for years, and we finally succeeded in collecting more than half a million petition signatures across the state of California to place Prop. 10 on the November 6 ballot. Proposition 10 is simple. It protects the majority of Californians by allowing cities to pass new rent control policies to include single family homes, condos, and new construction. Most importantly it will control vacancy.
In National City, a similar rent control initiative was successful in making it on to the ballot this year: Measure W. Measure W protects the 68 percent of residents in National City by allowing no more than a 5 percent rent increase per year. It creates Just Cause Protections and creates a five-member-appointed rent board that will decide on the annual rent increase percentage and handles disputes between landlords and tenants.
When it comes to supplying of housing that is affordable to average Californians, the quantity of affordable housing units needs to be increased. This is a necessary step. Despite what corporate landlords claim, however, rent control does not slow down construction. The three largest Bay Area cities with rent control (San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland) have only 27 percent of the housing in the region, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, have built 43 percent of the new multifamily rental units in buildings with five or more units since the year 2000. Even under rent control, landlords and property owners are guaranteed a fair rate of return under the California State Constitution (Cal. Civ. Code § 1947.15).
Housing affordability has been an issue for a long time and there is finally an opportunity to do something about it. The solution is voting Yes on Proposition 10. Voting Yes on Prop. 10 puts people over profits and does what is morally right. Passing Prop. 10, repealing Costa-Hawkins, will give communities the option of fighting skyrocketing rents and keeping families in their homes.
Ignacio Hernandez V. is a 22-year-old tenant living in National City. Majoring in Film Studies, he graduated from San Diego City College and is transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. Since he began college, he has been active in effectuating social change. He is a leader in various organizations, including the student government at his college, and is an intern for the American Federation of Teachers Local 1931, CPI: Student for Economic Justice, and others. He is passionate about serving his community and creating opportunities for those who aren’t as fortunate or have limited opportunities to succeed.