By Daniel Yukelson
Will it be a rough road ahead? Perhaps, but let’s hope not. Let’s all band together and support the opposition and fight against the ballot initiative that could pose devastating, long lasting impacts on those of us in the rental housing business in California.
The threat? It’s the so-called “Justice for Renters Act” that will be on the November 2024 ballot. The initiative repeals an important state law called the “Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995” (Costa-Hawkins). This important law restricts the scope of both state and local rent control regulations and prohibits price (rent) controls on new construction and even single-family homes and condominiums. Passage of this latest of three attempted initiatives will only discourage new construction, encourage owners to remove rental properties from the market, and will only make housing shortages and affordability in California far worse.
Passage of this latest version of a rent control ballot initiative that is being funded once again by Micael Weinstein who is the head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will only have devastating and far reaching negative consequences for property values as potential, future rent increases and rental income will be severely restricted. Of great importance to those of us in the rental housing industry, Costa-Hawkins prohibits “vacancy control,” so in other words, when your tenant vacates their apartment unit in a rent-controlled jurisdiction, you can increase your rent to whatever is the going market rate rent. Without today’s protections under Costa-Hawkins, cities like Santa Monica, San Francisco, West Hollywood, Berkeley and others will most certainly place “price caps” on how much rent may go up when you have vacant units, irrespective of whether you have remodeled your unit before occupancy by the next tenant.
There are many reasons for opposing this poorly thought-out ballot initiative:
- By far, most economists agree that rent control slows growth and significantly reduces the construction of new housing. So, expanding rent control restrictions only serves to make matters worse. Even California’s own Legislative Analyst’s Office and Governor Newsom were against the past two attempts under Proposition 10 (2018) and Proposition 21 (2020) to repeal Costa-Hawkins. Additionally, there is an obvious nexus to small businesses – small businesses in the construction industry would be severely impacted as investors would be discouraged from building new construction and companies providing goods and services to the rental housing industry would be negatively impacted, and as a result, many jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue would be lost.
- This latest initiative empowers unelected rent boards and commissions to impose new rent control regulations and fees on rental housing without a local vote of the people or even the approval of elected city officials. The initiative also has no limit on how high unelected rent boards could drive up fees, making housing even more expensive.
- With the previous two rent control initiatives, Propositions 10 and 21, the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office found that rent control reduces property values, not only for properties under rent control, but properties in the vicinity of those under rent control (because landlords under rent control have less money to upkeep their properties, again impacting small businesses in construction, maintenance and supply industries).
- Passage of this latest initiative would surely hurt California taxpayers due to a significant decrease in state tax money, meaning less money for schools, roads and emergency services. Reduced property tax revenues will also create pressure on the state and local governments to increase taxes to make up for the lost tax revenue.
- Passage of the initiative opens the door to price controls on single-family homes and condominiums when owners decide to rent a room or their home in the future.
- The initiative, once passed, can only be amended by another vote of the people. The State Legislature will be “handcuffed” from amending the law or from adopting future statewide tenant or property owner protections.
- Property owners will be encouraged to convert properties to more profitable uses, like condominiums and short-term vacation rentals, which will only serve to reduce the amount of long-term housing available for renters, drive prices even higher and make the housing shortage much worse.
DON’T BE FOOLED, THE INITIATIVE: The so-called “Justice for Renters Act”:
- Will NOT increase funding for affordable housing.
- Will NOT force local communities to build the housing approved in their general plans.
- Will NOT provide any immediate relief for people facing higher housing costs.
- Will NOT result in the construction of new housing.
- BUT IT WILL adversely impact your income and property values, and therefore, HURT YOU!
The so-called “Justice for Renters Act” is nothing about justice. It hurts housing providers and in turn will hurt renters and adversely impact the supply of housing in California. Spread the word! Encourage everyone you know to VOTE NO this November 2024.
More importantly, it takes money to fight. Please write your check today to the “Issues PAC of AAGLA”, c/o Reed & Davidson, LLP, 515 South Figueroa Street, Suite 1110, Los Angeles, California 90071-3301; Attn. C. Davidson, Treasurer, or contribute online at www.aagla.org/issuespac. Now more than ever, invest in your investment today. Let us help you protect your property rights and investment.