Why We Support Yes on Prop 10
Stabilizing vulnerable residents is an essential part of addressing our affordable housing crisis. Prop 10 is a key tool for stopping displacement, and would be a huge win for housing justice.
What is Prop 10?
Let’s start at the very beginning. Prop 10 is a measure that seeks to overturn a 1995 state law named Costa-Hawkins.
What is Costa-Hawkins?
I’m glad you asked. Costa-Hawkins was introduced in 1995 to place certain limitations on rent control in California.
It prevents cities from enacting what is known as “vacancy control,” or limiting how much a landlord can raise the rent for a unit once a tenant moves out.
It prevents cities from establishing rent control—or capping rent—on units constructed after February 1995 (or whenever the city’s rent control law was passed).
It exempts single-family homes and condos from rent control restrictions.
It’s worth noting that Costa-Hawkins has had significant lasting implications for affordable housing in California.
Doesn’t the Bay Area already have rent control?
It does, but there are important caveats, many of which were implemented as a result of Costa-Hawkins. In effect, Costa-Hawkins froze our ability to expand rent control in important and necessary ways. In Oakland nothing built after 1983 can have rent control, Berkeley is 1980, and in San Jose and San Francisco it’s 1979. It also goes without saying that these pre-existing rent control caps disproportionately benefit older residents–younger tenants find it significantly harder to access rent controlled apartments, not least because landlords are able to raise the rent once a unit is vacated.
What will the effect of repealing Costa-Hawkins be for California?
Not much in the immediate! By getting rid of Costa-Hawkins, Prop 10 opens up possibilities and tools for cities, giving cities greater flexibility when setting rent control policies. But if Prop 10 passes, each city still has to decide what rent control policies are best for its community, and go through the process of passing new rent control legislation. Many cities may not even choose to change anything about their current rent control laws.
Why does this matter?
Alright, you nihilist. This matters because California has the highest poverty rate in the US, and extreme wealth inequality. Why, when California is the 5th largest economy in the world (ahead of the UK) does it have such high poverty rates? A lack of affordable housing. In San Francisco alone, the average rent for a one bed apartment is $3,442 – this would require tenants to be earning $58/hr to afford average rent in San Francisco. That requires an annual income of more than $120,000. And that’s just in San Francisco – the state at large has an affordable housing crisis. Our inability to put rent control on any new units means that the amount of rent-controlled housing is always going down. We are losing rent-controlled homes every day (to demolitions, owner move-in evictions, and other legal and illegal means) that we can never get back. In San Francisco, for every two new affordable homes we build, we lose three rent-controlled units. In Los Angeles, 5 rent-controlled units are lost every day.
For the cities that do choose to expand rent control legislation, the impact on the affordability and displacement crisis could be huge. Protecting and stabilizing vulnerable tenants through policies like rent control is a key part of a complete strategy for making housing more affordable and just (watch out for a coming blog post on the 3 Ps: Protecting tenants, Preserving housing, and Producing new affordable housing). Keeping residents in the homes they already have by stabilizing rents and preventing evictions is much cheaper and more impactful than building new affordable housing and helps protect existing communities that are currently under intense threat of displacement. And which communities are the ones facing displacement right now? Low-income and communities of color. Passing Prop 10 is a justice issue.
This isn’t a measure that will finance new affordable housing, it is a measure that gives cities greater control over regulations around rent control. However, for cities that do choose to expand rent control legislation, they may choose to prevent landlords from raising rent on a unit once a tenant moves out (also known as passing “vacancy control”)–which will preserve the existing affordable housing we have, and offer more affordable housing to lower-income residents and working families.
Who is in favour of Prop 10?
It’s a massive list of organizations! Funnily enough, it’s very well supported by affordable housing groups (including YAH!) - as well as labor unions, politicians, and local governments (among others!) The City of San Francisco has come out in favor of it, as has Oakland and Berkeley.
Who opposes Prop 10?
No surprises here, but landlords, real estate investors, and their lobbyists! You can read more about who’s backing them here. Something that is important to note is that corporate landlords have been funnelling millions of dollars into the No on Prop 10 campaign. Where did they get the money from? Their tenants. It’s been a long time since the 1980s, I think we can all agree that “Greed is good” is a flawed system to live by.
Won’t this just encourage landlords to raise the rent ahead of the election?
Frustratingly, yes. There are many examples of this happening, that are being tracked. Doesn’t this disturb the democratic process? Why yes, yes it does. It’s not so much a case of voter intimidation, more that tenants are being punished before they’ve even had a chance to vote.
What’s the bottom line?
If you believe that California needs more tools to stop displacement, vote Yes on Prop 10! If you believe communities should have more ability to set the rent control policies that work for them,
vote Yes on Prop 10! If you think the rent is too damn high, vote Yes on Prop 10! There is serious opposition from corporate landlords and their representatives (to the tune of $65 million), and we need to do everything we can to get the word out. If you can, phone bank, join a mobilization, do a lit drop. Be part of the democratic process!
YAH! Will be co-hosting a mobilization this Saturday, October 27th, at Precita Park. Come through and spread the word in Mission & Bernal Heights!
Proposition 10: Estimating the Scale of Expanded Rent Control in the Bay Area - Urban Displacement Project