Runaway Trains and the People Who Stop Them
A mere six months ago, November 2018, Californians all across the State soundly rejected Proposition 10. Proposition 10 would have functionally repealed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and expanded local government’s authority to enact pricing restrictions on all rental housing single-family homes and new construction. In addition, it would have authorized local governments to establish vacancy control.
With a near 20 percent margin of victory, many assumed this particular proposed solution to addressing the housing shortage was no longer a viable alternative to consider for the Legislature.
Well, someone forgot to tell the losers and California State Legislators because statewide universal rent control is becoming the white hat offering by tenant advocates across the State. And, unless you think it will have no traction, remember what just happened to the death penalty. Two years ago, Californians voted to keep it AND streamline the process, but months ago the Governor issued a moratorium because he opined the State constitution allows him to do so due to his personal opinion about the death penalty.
Make no mistake, if there is no one to stand up and say something about an issue—in our case rent control—it will be passed. The argument that Californians just voted against Proposition 10 is not compelling to the power brokers. It should be, but it’s not. Legislators are acting like runaway trains and the only way to stop rent control from eliminating the already depleted housing stock in California is to change the narrative.
The narrative in the California State Legislature is that rent control is a reasonable and comprehensive response to the housing shortage. Like gaining weight, Legislators know that the crisis did not balloon overnight. It was a comprehensive and slow process that started with lack of housing production and inevitably got worse as the State applied band-aid solutions to the evolving problem. And now, in the digital age where everything comes fast, Californians like the narrative that “rent control” or “rent gouging” can reset the clock back to zero. Which is why our Legislative Day was so important for all of Californians, not just our Association. We know that rent control exacerbates existing housing problems and only pushes out the quality tenants that we have come to cherish over the years.
On April 3, 2019, our members met with State Legislators and their staff throughout the day to focus on three main points:
- Our members are the backbone of small businesses and new restrictions significantly harm mom-and-pop shops compared to rental corporations.
- Results-oriented solutions to the housing shortage are possible and we presented several solutions, and we are committed to solving the complex problem.
- A one-size fits all approach to housing makes no sense in such a geographically diverse state.
Every meeting provided an opportunity to educate policymakers and learn what challenges weighed heaviest in their offices. Every day our Legislators are hearing from low-income constituents that are struggling to pay rent. Unfortunately, those people calling have been manipulated into believing capping rent will solve their problems. We know that is not the case and, in many ways, could actually decrease tenants’ quality of life in the long term. Having our members share their stories helped staff in the Capitol realize that this is not a tenant versus housing manager
Remember, we must always be mindful of the old adage: silence equals concession.
Ron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org