Rent control backers say they expect to qualify for ballot

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Supporters of more rent control in California say they have gathered enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot and held a Monday rally to generate support for the measure.

If the secretary of state certifies that the campaign collected enough signatures, voters will weigh in on repealing a 1995 law that restricts rent control.

The law, known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, bars cities from capping rent on buildings constructed after the law took effect and puts other limits on rent control policies.

Roughly 200 people gathered on the California Capitol steps in support of the measure, which would allow communities to pass new rent control laws.

“I’m here fighting for my rights and my kids’ rights,” said Gloria Cortez of Pomona, a speaker at the rally. “We don’t have nowhere to go and we don’t have no one to protect us.”

Cortez said she and her family became homeless 10 months ago when they were evicted from their rental unit after she complained about mold. She was pregnant at the time and has since given birth to her sixth child. Her family can’t find an affordable place to live, she said.

Supporters of the measure say corporate greed is raising rents so high many can’t afford to live in the state.

“With the increased number of corporate landlords, we’re seeing a lot of rent gouging take place,” campaign spokesman Damien Goodmon told The Associated Press last week. “We’ve been able to put together a very formidable and growing progressive coalition that we think will make this a simple choice to anyone who is looking to the direction that progressives would like to go.”

Opponents say the measure will exacerbate the state’s affordable housing shortage by discouraging developers from building. Developers’ profits — and their incentive to build — will drop if communities cap rents, they say.

“This ballot measure will pour gasoline on the fire of California’s affordable housing crisis,” California Apartment Association CEO Tom Bannon said in a statement. “It will result in an affordable housing freeze.”

If the rent control proposition makes the ballot, it will join a $4 billion bond measure to fund housing for low-income people and veterans.

Lawmakers approved the bond measure last year as part of a series of bills aimed at addressing the state’s housing shortage. The bills passed last year included a new fee on real estate transaction documents to generate money for subsidized housing and policies to streamline regulations that slow housing construction.

Housing prices are a top issue for residents in California, where not enough housing is being built to accommodate the growing population. As a result, California has higher housing prices and higher rates of homelessness than most parts of the United States.

Although everyone agrees the state needs more affordable housing, there’s little consensus on how to solve the problem.

Lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to repeal Costa-Hawkins with a bill that died earlier this year. Supporters say they hope to have more success taking the issue directly to voters.


This article has been corrected to fix the spelling of Damien Goodmon’s last name.