California Voters Support Rent Control; Huge Victory for Tenants and a Stinging Defeat for Landlords

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Tenants Together

California voters have squarely rejected a landlord attempt to abolish rent control in California. Prop. 98 would have amended California's constitution to ban rent control. Voters opposed the measure by a hefty 22 point margin.

Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California's new statewide organization for renters' rights, hailed this as a major victory for rent control, and predicted that the election would usher in a new era for tenant rights in California. "The landlords' attack on rent control was squarely rejected by voters. Landlords will regret waging this campaign. This election has reinvigorated a grassroots movement for tenant rights in California."

Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union led get-out-the-vote efforts against Prop. 98 in San Francisco. Gullicksen stated: "This was a resounding victory for rent control in California. Landlords spent a fortune trying to spread misinformation about rent control. But Californians understand how important rent control is to protect California's seniors, working families and low-income residents. After this election, there can be no doubt that Californians support rent control."

Recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California released before the election supported these claims. PPIC found that a majority of Californians support rent control. The polling data, which surveyed renters and homeowners alike, showed that rent control remains popular in California.

Although framed as an "eminent domain" measure, Proposition 98 quickly became a referendum on rent control because the measure sought to amend the state's constitution to ban rent control. Prop. 98 was backed by landlord groups and opposed by tenant groups. Proponents of 98 made rent control abolition a key point in their campaign, and attracted millions of dollars from landlords in their effort to abolish rent control. Over 80% of the funding for Prop. 98 came from landlords and groups that represent them.

Larry Gross, director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, spearheaded get-out-the-vote efforts in Los Angeles. Gross declared victory for rent control: "From the beginning, this measure was about whether to abolish rent control. In this election, rent control won big."

Gross commented: "We know that landlords will be back with some other scheme to throw people out of their homes and jack up rents. That's why today we're not just celebrating victory. We're going to build on this victory and continue to organize. We will be even stronger the next time these landlords come knocking on our doors."

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