We Win With Proposition 10 Rent Control
Ed. Note: To learn more about the Yes on 10 campaign and how you can get involved in the weeks before the election, you can contact Liz Hirsch at email@example.com, who is with the Democratic Socialists of America-LA chapter, which has made repeal of the Costa-Hawkins prohibition on rent control by cities one of its top priorities.
Over protests from landlords and real estate brokers, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of an ordinance to temporarily limit rent increases to 3 percent in unincorporated areas of the county.
Dozens of renters turned out carrying signs reading “The rent is too damn high,” while many landlords and agencies that represent property owners countered that the ordinance would hurt rather than boost housing supply.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger cast the dissenting vote against the interim ordinance, which is expected to come back to the board for another vote in 60 days and, if adopted, to take effect 30 days later. It would set base rents as of Sept. 11 and impose a cap for six months.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl championed the plan to limit rents while the county considers longer-term solutions, saying it will help solve the homelessness crisis. She said she was mystified by some policymakers’ inability to see the link between rental rates and homelessness.
“They look at 58,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County and they say why?” Kuehl said. Helping those living on the street with mental illness has been a critical focus, but Kuehl pointed to statistics showing that only one-third of the homeless population has an identifiable mental health problem. Most of the remaining two-thirds are newly homeless and without a home because of economic issues, she said.
Seniors are particularly hard-hit, Kuehl said, the last annual point-in-time count by the L. A. Homeless Services Authority found a 22 percent jump in homeless people 62 years and older. Advocates on both sides said research was on their side. Kuehl and Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion, cited research by USC and UCLA professors finding that rent regulations can help make housing more affordable.
“Limiting rent increases cannot fully solve the housing crisis confronting much of urban California, but rent regulations are one tool to deal with sharp upticks in rent and have less deleterious effects than is often imagined,” said Manuel Pastor, a USC sociology professor. However, the argument seems unsettled. Recent research by Stanford University professors concludes that rent control incentivizes condominium conversions and sales to owner-occupants, reducing the supply of rental housing and increasing gentrification.
In evaluating the effects of a proposed repeal of the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act — which limits rent control to older housing stock — the state Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded that rent control would likely lower rents but also reduce new construction and lower property values.
Beverly Kenworthy of the California Apartment Association told the board that “rent control is not the same as affordable housing” and once the ordinance is passed, “(renters) will still not be able to afford their rent.”
However, Tyler Anderson of the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action told the board that tenants are seeking help with rent increases of 40 to 80 percent. Beverly Roberts, a 30-year resident of South Los Angeles who advocates rent control and also owns income property, said she is seeing her “community being ripped apart” by high rents. “Landlords don’t need to gouge tenants to get a fair return on our investment.”
Some in favor of rent control said private equity firms are buying up property, while landlords and landlord associations said the county ordinance would hurt small property owners and decrease the value of properties they worked hard to own.
Landlord advocates suggested other solutions, including offering rental vouchers for seniors and low-income renters.