California residents will get to vote on stronger rent control laws in November

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California voters will weigh in this fall on whether to expand rent control options in cities around the state.

On Friday, Secretary of State Alex Padilla confirmed that supporters of a voter initiative calling for repeal of the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act had gathered enough signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

If passed, the measure would give city leaders new options when establishing or updating rent control policies. Longstanding rules limiting rent control to properties built before February 1995—or earlier, in many cases—would be struck from the books, giving local governments the power to place newer buildings under rent control regulations.

“The time for rent gouging by corporate landlords is coming to an end,” campaign director Damien Goodmon said in a statement.

Should the measure pass, most Californians wouldn’t notice any immediate effects. Statewide, less than 20 cities have rent control regulations, and most local governments would need to pass new ordinances to take advantage of a Costa Hawkins repeal.

But in the long run, the initiative could have significant impacts for both tenants and landlords. Local leaders would be able to establish policies that ensure units remain under rent control even after a tenant moves out—something that Costa Hawkins explicitly prohibits.

Right now, when a tenant moves out of a rent-controlled apartment, property owners can re-list the unit at the market rate. Landlord advocates insist that’s necessary to encourage owners to invest in a building and to keep it in good shape; tenant groups say this policy limits the number of affordable apartments on the market.

If the ballot measure passes, local lawmakers would also be able to put rent control regulations on single-family homes and condominiums, greatly increasing the number of housing units subject to limits on yearly price increases.

The initiative has already drawn the support of key Los Angeles officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has promised to explore updates to the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance should the initiative pass in November.

The law, which currently limits yearly rent hikes to 3 percent and provides eviction protections to tenants, has received only minor updates since it went into effect nearly 40 years ago.

This isn’t the first time that opponents of Costa Hawkins have sought to repeal the law. An effort to do so in the state legislature failed to make it out of committee hearings earlier this year.

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