“This legislation will help bring some peace of mind and predictability to renters”
Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly unveiled several bills today aimed at protecting renters across California, including a far-reaching proposal for a statewide limit on rent hikes.
That measure, from Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), calls for a cap on how much landlords can raise rent every year. The amount has yet to be determined, but spokesperson Jennifer Kwart says it would be higher than what cities with rent control already on the books have adopted. In the city of Los Angeles, that’s typically around 3 or 4 percent.
“Renters are really having a hard time in California,” she tells Curbed. “We’re hearing horror stories of peoples’ rent being doubled or tripled.”
She shied away from calling it a proposal for statewide rent control.
“I’d call it an anti-rent gouging bill,” Kwart says. “This would be to protect against the large increases, the horrific things, where you hear about rent increases of 50 percent.”
About a dozen cities in California already have rent control laws. Chiu’s proposal, Assembly Bill 1482, would apply to cities that do not, including many in and around Los Angeles, from Burbank to Redondo Beach to Long Beach to Pasadena.
“This legislation will help bring some peace of mind and predictability to renters, allowing them to plan for their future and stay in their homes,” Chiu said in a statement.
Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) is pitching a bill that would allow cities with rent control to establish rent control in newer rental units.
Right now, California law blocks cities from applying rent control to units constructed after February 1995. (There’s an exception for the city of Los Angeles, where the cutoff is much older: October 1978.)
Bloom’s proposal would allow cities to apply rent control to buildings that are more than 10 years old and to single-family homes used as rental properties.
A third proposal, from Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) would make it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants. He’s proposing that California institute a “just cause” ordinance that would require landlords to “show a specific and valid reason” for booting tenants.
In a statement issued in response to the bills, the California Rental Housing Association argues that rent control in general is not effective.
“Rent control policies have not worked to create more affordable and accessible housing,” the statement says, adding that the association “supports smart and effective policies that will actually make a difference by rapidly increasing our affordable housing supply.”
According to the state’s housing department, California cities have not built enough housing, and experts say more supply—at all price levels—is needed to keep costs down.
But that will take time, said Anya Lawler, policy advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty.
In a statement, she said the assemblymembers are “taking bold and necessary action to keep families housed and bring stability to communities that are being devastated by California’s displacement crisis.”
The LA region’s severe shortage of affordable housing is an underlying cause of homelessness for many residents, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
By one estimate, more than 565,000 new affordable units are needed to meet demand in Los Angeles.
But median-income earners are struggling to keep up with costs too.
In October, a Zillow analysis found that residents in Los Angeles and Orange counties who earn close to the areas’ median income would have to set aside nearly half of their paychecks to afford a median-priced apartment.
Compare that to the 1980s and 1990s, when, according to Zillow, a typical rental would have required about 36 percent of a middle-earning resident’s salary.
According to Costar, in the last year, market-rate prices for non rent-controlled units in Los Angeles County have jumped 2.2 percent for one-bedrooms and 2.3 percent for two-bedrooms.
In Inglewood, Mayor James Butts has said he was compelled to draft an emergency rent control measure after mediating a proposed rent increase at an apartment complex where the property owner had planned to raise rents by as much as 138 percent. That measure went into effect this month.