This article was posted on Tuesday, Aug 15, 2023

By John Carroll / General Assignment Reporter & Anchor
Contributors: Roland Lizarondo / Video Journalist

A decades-old law governing rent control in California could change in a big way.

This is the third time supporters of rent control have tried to get a measure passed that would give cities and counties the power to establish it.

The announcement Wednesday night from California Secretary of State Shirley Weber that the initiative had qualified for the November 2024 ballot was met with joy on a statewide zoom call on Thursday.

“Over 601,000 ballot signatures were submitted, and today the secretary of state is certifying us for the November 2024 ballot,” said Susie Shannon, of the group Housing Is a Human Right.

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A statewide zoom call about the Justice For Renters Act qualifying for the November 2024 ballot is shown on July 27, 2023.

One by one, housing advocates, elected officials and former elected officials held forth on why they think that the ballot initiative is so important. Among them was longtime activist Dolores Huerta.

“Hit the voters, hit the streets so that we make sure everybody votes to make sure this initiative passes,” Huerta said.

Dolores Huerta
Longtime civil rights activist Dolores Huerta is shown on a statewide zoom call on July 27, 2023.

There is state law that governs annual rent increases. They’re now limited to 5% plus the local Consumer Price Index — or a maximum of 10%. Next month, that limit will decrease to 8%.

But it’s a 1995 law that rent control advocates said is doing damage. The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995 prevents cities and counties from limiting initial rental rates and it prevents the limiting of rent increases for existing tenants in residential properties first occupied after February of 1995, as well as single-family homes and condos.

The Justice For Renters Act would do away with that law.

now leasing
A ‘now leasing’ sign is shown in this undated photo.

“We need to be able to let people age in place, to let people raise their kids in the cities and towns that they come from, and I’m very excited to campaign and vote and to get my friends to understand why this measure is so important at the statewide level,” Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony said on the Zoom call.

But Jeff Faller, the president of the Apartment Owners Association of California, had a very different take.

“People who signed that, I don’t know that they fully understand the impact,” he said.

Faller said if the Justice For Renters Act passes, it will actually make things worse.

“Because it’s not creating more housing, it actually creates a shortage and so, the less of something you have, the more expensive it becomes, so it’s not helping them in any way,” Faller said.

He went on to say that a better approach is to have government subsidize rent for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

for rent sign
A “for rent” sign is shown in this undated photo.

Faller said pro-rent control groups would spend a ton of money to make sure the measure passes.

Rent control advocates said the same thing about landlords, so expect to see lots of commercials on this in the coming months.

One this is for sure: The decision on the third statewide attempt to pass rent control in the last five years will ultimately be up to the voters in November of next year.