( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)
Well, today the good folks who want to “reform eminent domain” (notice the quotation marks there) have turned in their signatures to the Secretary of State. This little shadily crafted hidden agenda masquerading as a eminent domain reform was attacked from all sides. But one quote stood out to me, from Nan Brasmer, president of the California Alliance for Retired Americans:
Wealthy apartment and mobile home park owners spent close to $2 million to qualify their deceptive rent control rollback proposition for the June 2008 ballot. The landlords are going to try to trick voters into believing their measure is about eminent domain. But they won’t be successful. We will wage an aggressive campaign to educate voters that this measure is nothing more than a greedy scheme by landlords to eliminate rent control so they can make millions of dollars off the backs of seniors, veterans, working moms and other Californians.
Something came up on Calitics a few days ago about why language to abolish rent control was included in the Hidden Agendas measure. It seems pretty clear the rent control language is in there to help raise money from apartment owners.
Now, rent control is a fairly popular concept. I’m not saying its universally popular, but, in many of these safe-Democratic seats held by many of the leaders in the Assembly and Senate Caucus, rent control is viewed as a positive. And leaders who take a strong pro-rent control position are generally well-received. You don’t really need to look much further than the very well-attended event last Wednesday to see that there’s quite a bit of support in San Francisco. A couple of weeks earlier a similar rally was held in Los Angeles and I’m sure that same rally could have been held in several other cities across the state with equally strong attendance.
Unfortunately, the Legislature hasn’t been too kind to tenants in the last few years. Sure, it could be worse, but major pieces of pro-tenant legislation have been few and far between. That is the case for a variety of reasons, but there has been no real incentive for legislators to touch rent control for a while.
But, if the Howard Jarvis/Howie Rich eminent domain “reform” package makes it to the ballot, rent control will be a major theme of the race. And once that disastrous package goes down in flames, housing activists can work on using that informal poll on the popularity of rent control as a means to pursue more tenant protections.
So, as a little suggestion, I refer you to the Costa-Hawkins Act. More over the flip…
This little piece of legislation, passed back in 1995, allowed what is now known as “vacancy decontrol”. Basically, vacancy decontrol allows landlord to set the initial rate of rental whenever the unit is vacated. So, in many ways, it’s a slow weaning off of rent control. Well, here’s a bit more about Costa-Hawkins from our good friends over at the California Apartment Association:
This law cleared the way for owners in rent control communities to establish initial rental rates when there was a change in occupancy at a dwelling unit – a policy known as vacancy decontrol. While cities and counties continue to maintain the ability to implement local rent control laws, they must follow the parameters established in the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. At the heart of Costa-Hawkins are a number of basic rules: (1) housing constructed after 1995 must be exempt from local rent controls, (2) new housing that was already exempt from a local rent control law in place before February 1, 1995, must remain exempt, (3) single family homes and other units like condominiums that are separate from the title to any other dwelling units must be exempt from local rent controls, and (4) rental property owners must have the ability to establish their own rental rates when dwelling units change tenancy. (CAA)
In other words, Costa-Hawkins is a huge gift to the landlords of the state. So, if I’m a freshman legislator from, say, San Francisco (future Asm. Ammiano, I’m looking at you), I think I would invest a fair amount of my time pushing Costa-Hawkins reform. I mean, given the extremely high rental rates in San Francisco, we could, at the very least work on fixing vacancy decontrol. And, the argument for Costa-Hawkins reform becomes a whole lot stronger after an initiative was defeated based primarily on its inclusion of rent control restrictions. I’m just saying…