California’s statewide renters’ rights organization today announced its formal support for a proposed state ballot measure to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and allow cities to pass stronger tenant protections.
“Tenants Together and our member organizations across the state have been fighting for years to pass local rent control laws and dismantle state barriers like Costa-Hawkins and the Ellis Act,” noted Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together. “Costa-Hawkins has been a complete disaster and it needs to be repealed now.”
A coalition of 50 tenant organizations across the state, Tenants Together (TT) has extensive experience on rent control, just cause for eviction, code enforcement, and other tenant protection policies. TT formed in 2008, playing a key role in defeating a landlord state ballot measure that year that would have abolished rent control. TT operates a statewide renters’ rights hotline, coordinates a statewide lawyer network of over 100 tenant attorneys, has trained hundreds of tenant organizers and counselors, and is a support center and network for tenant groups across the state. TT regularly serves as a resource for media, legislators, and activists seeking to better understand local anti-displacement policies and how they interact with state law.
California has some of the highest rents in the nation; in response to runaway rents and rampant displacement, tenants across the state are demanding rent control expansion in their hometowns. In 2016, Mountain View and Richmond became the first California cities in decades to adopt new rent control laws. In the first two months of 2018 alone, new ballot measures for local rent control have been proposed in Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Glendale, Inglewood, Pasadena, and Long Beach. Tenants Together actively works to build the capacity of local tenant groups to counter landlord talking points, organize renters, and adopt and enforce stronger tenant protections, including rent control.
Passed in 1995, Costa-Hawkins prohibits rent control on certain properties (recent construction, single family homes, condominiums) and bans “vacancy control” (regulating initial rents in new tenancies). As a result, a growing number of tenants are completely unprotected from skyrocketing rents. Meanwhile, vacancy decontrol, mandated by Costa-Hawkins, incentivizes landlords to drive out long-term tenants in order to take advantage of unlimited rents after a vacancy. For cities like Sacramento, where rents are rising faster than any city in the nation and the majority of the rental housing stock consists of single-family homes, the repeal of Costa-Hawkins is imperative. Cities must be allowed to tailor their tenant protections to local realities.
17 million Californians, nearly half the state, are renters. Yet their interests are rarely protected in the state legislature thanks to the power of the real estate lobby. Earlier this year, California legislators rejected a state bill to repeal Costa Hawkins, voting down AB 1506 (Bloom) in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. On the eve of the hearing, Aimee Inglis, Associate Director of Tenants Together wrote: “This showdown will reveal if our legislators side with tenants or with real-estate speculators using the Costa-Hawkins loopholes to double and triple rents.” The legislators made their choice clear, prompting a surge of interest in repealing Costa-Hawkins at the ballot.
Tenants Together is proud to stand with a broad coalition of community, labor, and tenant groups across the state in support of this ballot measure to repeal Costa-Hawkins.