Prop 10: The Ballot Initiative Tenants Need to Know

costa hawkins

Proposition 10 to Repeal Costa Hawkins will be on the ballot this November

Proposition 10, or the Affordable Housing Act ,is on the ballot this November 6. If you are a tenant this is a very big deal. Prop 10 seeks to repeal one of the most draconian housing laws ever enacted in California – Costa Hawkins.

What is Costa Hawkins?

Costa Hawkins limits the kind of buildings covered by rent control. It has three main effects:
  1. Prevents rent control from applying to any building built after 1995.
  2. Excludes single family homes and condominiums from rent control (where tenancy began after the law’s passage)
  3. Allows landlords to rase the rent to market rate once a the last original occupant vacates. (This is known as “vacancy de-control.”)

History

Landlords love this law. In fact, they wrote it. In the late 1970s, the real estate industry began lobbying for statewide restrictions on rent control. Finally, in 1995, the state legislature pushed through Costa-Hawkins. Due to ferocious industry support of the bill, it’s long been untouchable. But with the current housing crisis affecting the entire state, there is real momentum to repeal Costa-Hawkins.

What’s so bad about Costa-Hawkins?

A lot. For one thing it prevents any new housing from being rent controlled. It creates an arbitrary cut off for rent control of 1995.
 
Here’s a common worst-case scenario under Costa Hawkins. Let’s say Jim moves into a unit in 1985. Under San Francisco’s rent control laws, Jim receives reasonable increases each year. He’s a model tenant and always pays on time. In 1997, Jim marries Susan, who is the parent of a young disabled child. The small family thrives together in Jim’s rental unit, until Jim passes away in 2017.
 
Since Susan and her child are not original occupants, the landlord can raise the rent to market rate. What’s more, “market rent” isn’t defined, so her landlord can raise her rent without limitation. Often landlords do this as a way to evict a long term tenant without having to go through the eviction process. Situations like this are all too common in San Francisco today.
 
Another problem with Costa-Hawkins is that it keeps cities from expanding the number of rent-controlled properties. Even worse, the number of rent controlled units is shrinking. Advocates report that Los Angeles is losing 5.5 rent-controlled units every day. In San Francisco, the percentage of rent controlled units has declined from 92% in 1979 to only 69% today.
 
Finally, Costa-Hawkins exempts single family homes and condos from rent control. The purpose was to protect “mom-and-pop” landlords. Today Wall street investment firms and corporate “mega landlords” own tens of thousands of single family homes and condos in California. These owners lean on Costa-Hawkins to extract the greatest profits from their tenants.  

Vote Yes on Prop 10 for Real Rent Control

Want to know how valuable Prop 10 could be to California’s renters? Look at the how much landlords are willing to spend to oppose the measure. As of this August, the No on 10 campaign had banked well over $20 million in cash. In the coming months, they’ll be using those funds to blast voters with ads that claim that Prop 10 will somehow make our state’s housing more expensive. (Local housing guru Randy Shaw demolishes their falsehoods here.)
 
Can you tell we’re riled up about this? We hope you will be, too! If you’d like to get involved in the Yes on 10 campaign to support Californians’ right to rent control, start at voteyesonprop10.org.