Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Rent Control May Expand Through Vacancy Decontrol Ballot Initiative

As Homelessness Mounts, renters are desperate and homeless despair. But will a law solve anything?


November 1, 2017

Sign offers a one bedroom Santa Monica apartment for $2500 a month. Ten years ago, the same apartment cost about half that amount.

A bill before the State Legislature could reverse the Costa Hawkins Law. This 1995 law allows a landlord to get out from under rent control by declaring a kind of bankruptcy, and going out of business. It modified Santa Monica's 1978 Rent Control law.

Costa Hawkins also excludes from rent control single-family homes and apartments built after 1995. The new law would repeal Costa Hawkins through an initiative on the 2018 ballot.

California is in the grip of a housing crisis. The median price of a home in the state is $500,000, more than twice the national average. There is little doubt that any law that might lower rents, would be popular.

California's poverty rate is the highest in the nation, even while wages remain relatively high. And homelessness is spiking in cities as rents have skyrocketed.

On the other hand, landlords are often small businessmen, and they would no doubt oppose the initiative. It's possible that it would lower housing values, as the right to rent out property would be much more restricted.

"Not only are [people] losing their homes, they're displaced from their neighborhood, forced out of their city and eventually out of the state because they can't find housing," says Larry Gross, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Economic Survival. "If L.A. opened up its Section 8 waiting list [which is currently 11 years long], there would be 800,000 people eligible for Section 8 housing. That should give you an idea of the kind of crisis we are facing."


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