Santa Cruz council imposes temporary rent control, just-cause measures

Over the objections of CAA and its members, the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday imposed interim emergency rent control and just-cause eviction ordinances, effective immediately.

Although most attendees objected during public testimony, the council voted to instate a temporary 2 percent cap on rent increases for all apartment buildings built before 1995, with exemptions for condos, townhouses and single-family homes. The council also approved a temporary just-cause ordinance that applies to all housing, including single-family homes and accessory-dwelling units. The only exemption to the just-cause ordinance is for those who own only one rental unit. Landlords with maintenance costs that cannot be covered under the 2 percent cap can request an adjustment by contacting City Manager Martin Bernal at mbernal@cityofsantacruz.com.

The council’s action comes after tenant activists recently filed an initiative to place rent control and just-cause eviction requirements on the November 2018 ballot. Some council members and tenant activists have said the emergency rent control and just-cause measures are necessary to prevent landlords from imposing unreasonable rent increases and conducting mass evictions before Election Day, an assertion disputed by the California Apartment Association.

Both emergency ordinances approved Tuesday are short-term. If the rent control initiative fails to qualify, both ordinances will sunset in September. If the initiative qualifies but fails to pass, the ordinances will sunset in November.

If the rent control initiative ultimately qualifies and is approved by voters, it would cap rents based on the Consumer Price Index , create an elected rent control board and require six months of rent for relocation, to name a few of the more onerous changes. Tenants activists, who need 8,000 valid signatures to qualify the initiative, are now circulating their petition. The California Apartment Association is working to defeat the proposed ballot measure.

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CAA, allies derail AB 1506, the bill to repeal Costa-Hawkins

The California Apartment Association and its allies today derailed AB 1506, a bill to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and bring radical rent control back to California.

This morning, following lead testimony from the California Apartment Association, FPI Management and the California Association of REALTORS, AB 1506 failed passage in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, all but closing the door on the bill for the balance of the legislative session.

Over 400 rental property owners came to the microphone and indicated their opposition to the measure, outnumbering the tenant advocates, who totaled nearly 300.

Following hours of testimony, AB 1506 lacked the needed votes to be passed out of the committee. The failure of the committee to vote the bill out today likely stops the bill from advancing to the Senate by the Jan. 30 legislative deadline.

Stopping AB 1506 — and protecting Costa-Hawkins — was a top priority for CAA. For more than 20 years, the Costa-Hawkins Act has prohibited local governments from applying rent control to units built after 1995, as well as single-family homes, individually owned condominiums and townhouses. Costa-Hawkins also requires all rent control ordinances to allow a rental property owner to set the rent at market rate once a tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in, a policy known as vacancy decontrol.

CAA has argued that repealing Costa-Hawkins would discourage investment in the existing rental housing stock and create a significant disincentive for the construction of new rental housing, worsening the state’s ongoing housing crisis.

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Long Beach city attorney clears signature-gathering for rent control measure

An effort to place rent control and eviction controls before Long Beach voters will soon enter the signature-gathering phase.

On Tuesday, the Long Beach city attorney gave petitioners the green light to begin collecting signatures for a measure titled the Long Beach Rent Control Ordinance.

Once rent control backers publish a notice of intent to gather signatures, they’ll have official clearance to hit the streets. To qualify the measure, need to gather more than 26,000 valid voter signatures in 180 days.

Tenant advocates in Long Beach have been working for several months to reach this point. Late last year, the group Housing Long Beach filed measure language, but it was rejected by the city attorney. The group refiled on Jan. 12.

The California Apartment Association is organizing housing providers and industry partners in the city to ensure that negative and counterproductive housing policies are defeated.

Price controls on the housing market have been proven failures wherever implemented, doing far more harm than good.

If you are interested in getting involved with this issue, please reach out to Fred Sutton, CAA’s vice president of public affairs, at Fsutton@caanet.org.

San Jose rejects CPI-based rent control, sticks with 5 percent cap

After hours of debate, the San Jose City Council on Tuesday rejected a proposal to begin basing its annual rent cap on the rate of inflation.

At the urging of CAA, the council instead voted 6-5 to maintain the city’s current 5 percent limit on annual rent increases.

The California Apartment Association attended Tuesday’s meeting in force, with members speaking against the proposal to base rent control on the Consumer Price Index. The CPI is now about 3.4 percent but fluctuates.

Extended its current policy on Ratio Utility Billing Systems, or RUBS, until March
The city’s 5 percent cap, on the other hand, provides a fixed, predictable limit, making it easier for owners and renters to budget for annual adjustments.

The council Tuesday also rejected a proposal to begin applying rent control to duplexes. The city’s rent control policy will continue to apply to multifamily rental units built before 1979.

Moreover, the council extended the existing policy on utility cost sharing (also known as Ratio Utility Billing Systems or RUBs) until March of next year, when it can be further studied.

The council’s decision to maintain current policies on RUBS and rent increases marks a significant victory for CAA and its members.

CAA extends its thanks to Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmembers Chappie Jones, Lan Diep, Dev Davis, Tam Nguyen and Johnny Khamis for their leadership.

Had the council approved CPI-based rent control, it would have marked the second time in two years that the city lowered its limits on rent adjustments.

The city’s 5 percent rent cap won approval in 2016. It had previously been set at 8 percent annually.

Pacifica’s rent control measure defeated in landslide

Pacifica voters on Tuesday, Nov. 7, overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have enacted both rent control and eviction controls on multifamily housing in the city.

Measure C went down in defeat, with 62.03 percent of the vote cast against the proposal. This marks the third time a rent control ballot measure has been resoundingly defeated in San Mateo County. Last year, voters of San Mateo and Burlingame overwhelmingly rejected rent control.

CAA is pleased that voters have rejected a law that would have been disastrous for the city. If implemented, the program would have cost Pacifica nearly $2 million, establish a non-elected bureaucracy at City Hall, diverted money earmarked for street repairs, and led to overcrowding in apartments.

The battle against rent control in Pacifica has been a long one, having started in 2015, when the City Council majority voted against the punitive policy to address the region’s housing shortage. Instead, they voted to create a Rent Advisory Task Force to explore programs that would improve relations between renters and owners. Earlier this year, however, after a change in the makeup of the City Council, the new Council majority overturned that decision, placed Measure C on the ballot, and passed an interim rent control ordinance to be in effect from May to Election Day.

CAA was instrumental in defeating both the temporary ordinance and Measure C, working in partnership with both the local Stop the Hidden Tax committee and the Pacifica Coalition of Housing Equality, which is sponsored by the San Mateo County Association of Realtors. These efforts have helped ensure that neither of these dangerous measures would cause significant damage to Pacifica, its budget, and its housing market.

Ballot initiative filed to repeal Costa-Hawkins, California’s rent control limitation law

A statewide ballot initiative filed Monday, Oct. 23, seeks to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, landmark legislation that protects property owners and renters from radical, local rent control measures.

For over 20 years, the Costa-Hawkins Act has prohibited local governments from regulating the price of rents on rental units built after 1995. Costa-Hawkins also prohibits a local government from regulating rents on single-family homes, individually owned condominiums and townhouses.

Moreover, the act also requires all rent control ordinances to allow a rental property owner to set the rent at market rate once a new tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in, a policy known as vacancy decontrol.

“If local rent control ordinances are allowed to regulate rents on new construction and single-family homes, new private investment into rental housing will come to a screeching halt,” said Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of the California Apartment Association. “Without private investment in the development and construction of new rental housing, California’s economic expansion will be in jeopardy.

Bannon continued: “California is already facing a critical housing shortage. Should Costa Hawkins be repealed, the housing situation will go from a serious problem to a catastrophic problem. Furthermore, recent housing legislation passed by the California Legislature and signed by the governor to address California’s housing shortage will all have been for naught.”

Supporters of the repeal measure include a national community organizing group, an eviction-protection group and a no-growth advocate who attempted to pass a ballot measure in the City of Los Angeles earlier this year. That measure – Measure S – which ultimately failed passage, would have placed a moratorium on most apartment construction in Los Angeles for a period of two years.

The proponents of the measure to repeal Costa-Hawkins can begin circulating the petition to qualify the initiative for the November 2018 statewide ballot in approximately 60 days, following review by the state attorney general and the Legislative Analyst’s Office. To qualify the measure for the ballot, supporters must gather 366,000 valid signatures no later than June 28, 2018.

The Association, which opposes all forms of rent control, will fight this measure should it ultimately qualify.

Mountain View tenant advocates dispute start date of rent control law, seek refunds

Tenant advocates are trying to force Mountain View landlords to refund considerable amounts of rent money collected for the period during which a court-ordered postponement of the city’s rent control law was in effect.

The tenants coalition in Mountain View is pushing the city’s Rental Housing Committee to publicize Dec. 23 as the effective date of Measure V, the rent control law approved by voters in the November 2016 election.

The California Apartment Association contends that April 5 is the true effective date, as reflected in a court order.

Tenants are expected to make their case for the earlier effective date during next week’s Rental Housing Committee, which meets at 7 p.m. Monday, July 24, at Mountain View City Hall.

While Measure V had been scheduled to take effect Dec. 23, a lawsuit filed by CAA led a Superior Court judge to postpone implementation of the law pending the association’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The rent control ordinance remained on hold until early April, when the judge rejected that motion.

In addition to establishing rent control in Mountain View, Measure V rolls back rents to levels collected in October 2015.

If tenant advocates succeed in moving the start date for Measure V back to Dec. 23, then landlords could be forced to refund the difference between the October 2015 base rent established by the measure and the rents paid for the period covering Dec. 23 through April 2017.

CAA is calling on members with property in Mountain View to attend Monday’s Rental Housing Committee meeting and be ready to speak out against the push for an earlier Measure V start date and rent refunds.

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Fremont spurns rent control, elects to work on existing mediation program

In a victory for the apartment industry, the Fremont City Council on Tuesday opted against using rent control or just-cause eviction policies to address rising rents.

Instead, the council opted to focus on improving its current non-binding rent mediation program. City staff will report back in September with options to enhance the program.

The council gave this direction after hearing a consultant’s report on options for addressing the rising costs of rental housing.

About 40 representatives of the rental housing industry spoke at the meeting, responding to calls from the Rental Housing Association of Southern Alameda County, a chapter of CAA, as well as the Bay Area Housing Network.

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Santa Rosa rent control defeated

Facing a strong grassroots opposition campaign, Santa Rosa’s rent control and just-cause eviction measure went down in defeat Tuesday, June 6.

The people of Santa Rosa rejected Measure C with 52.5 percent of the vote, compared with 47.5 percent in favor of rent control.

“Voters understood that Measure C would have come at high costs while assisting only a fraction of the population,” said Joshua Howard, senior vice president for the California Apartment Association in Northern California. “Now, Santa Rosa can focus on the real solution to its housing crisis — building more homes.”

Measure C threatened to roll back rents on affected apartments to Jan. 1, 2016, levels and cap rent increases at 3 percent per year.  It would have cost an estimated $1.25 million annually to administer.

Events leading to Tuesday’s special election began in summer 2016, when the Santa Rosa City Council approved a rent control and just-cause ordinance over CAA’s strong objections.

CAA responded with a signature-gathering effort to place the ordinance before Santa Rosa voters. After the referendum qualified, the City Council in January called for the special election.

In the intervening months, CAA spearheaded a grassroots campaign that knocked on over 18,000 doors, sent 19 mailers, engaged voters on social media, helped secure a No on Measure C editorial in the newspaper, and enjoyed strong support from community coalitions, as well as several current and former mayors and council members.

CAA will remain vigilant in its opposition to rent control while advocating for policies that address the root cause of California’s housing crisis – a lack of homes for the state’s growing population.

Defense of Ellis Act successful in 2017

Amid fierce opposition from CAA, lawmakers have once again fallen short in their efforts to weaken California’s Ellis Act – the 1985 law that protects a property owner’s right to exit the rental housing business.

Since 1985, the Ellis Act has provided an important safety valve for landlords operating in rent controlled jurisdictions, guaranteeing they can walk away from the business when rent control becomes too burdensome.

For three straight years, lawmakers have taken aim at this legislation, and each time, the California Apartment Association has derailed the proposals.

The latest efforts included AB 423 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and AB 982 by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica.

AB 423 would have exempted residential hotels in Oakland from the Ellis Act, prohibiting owners from closing their buildings, even if facing financial hardships. The bill, however, failed passage Tuesday on the Assembly Floor after receiving only 21 votes. It needed 41 votes to pass.

AB 982 would have expanded the number of tenants who are entitled to receive a year’s notice from the landlord before the owner closes a building as allowed under the Ellis Act. While Bloom suspended efforts to pass AB 982 this year, the bill could be reconsidered in 2018.

Under current law, tenants who have lived in the unit for at least one year and who are at least 62 years of age or are disabled are entitled to a year’s notice from the landlord before the building is closed. Other tenants are entitled to a 120-day notice.

AB 982 would have extended the one-year notice requirement to all tenants, regardless of age or disability.