Rent Control Supporters Encourage ‘Yes’ on Prop 10
October 26, 2018
By Marielena Castellanos
Three full-time, time-minimum wage jobs are needed to afford a two bedroom apartment in California, meaning those who earn minimum wage would have to work 119 hours per week to only consume 30 percent of their income on housing.
The numbers are from an annual report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition published in June of this year and reported on NBC 7 News on how much you need to make to afford paying rent in the state. They also point out how difficult it is to live in California.
Worried about the increasing numbers of people who don’t have a secure place to live and the rising numbers of people struggling to pay their rent, a group of rent control supporters gathered on a busy and windy Friday evening on a bridge over Interstate 5 to hold signs with neon lights spelling out “Yes on 10.” This group is encouraging voters to support Proposition 10, the rent control initiative in the upcoming election.
Martha Sullivan, a member of the San Diego Housing Emergency Alliance was among the group holding the Yes on 10 signs. She explained why the group was standing at the freeway overpass supporting Proposition 10.
“It’s up to each local jurisdiction. Everybody is going to have the opportunity to feed into that process. Prop 10—all it does is remove the statewide ban. It lets local jurisdictions develop their own policies and laws about how they best think they can serve their residents,” Sullivan said.
Formed by several organizations including Disability Rights California, Grassroots Oasis, Heartfelt Voices, and other disability advocacy groups, the Alliance has been advocating for homeless people and low-income housing for the last year and a half.
“Sadly, it still continues the criminalization of unsheltered people. Last year it was ramping up at the time and we really wanted to put a face on who people are, unsheltered people, to people living in cars, people on the verge of homelessness, people in the process getting back into housing, others facing medical emergencies bills that forced them into bankruptcy and they wound up on streets, or it was domestic violence. Some women flee. There’s a lack of shelters, particularly with children,” Sullivan said.
Homelessness continues to climb in California. Last year, the New York Times reported more than one-quarter of the total homeless population nationwide lives in California, roughly 114,000. In San Diego, Latinos were 23 percent of this year’s unsheltered population, meaning people living in a place not meant for human habitation including cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings, or on the street.
If passed, Proposition 10 would not immediately impose rent control laws in the state, but it would allow cities and counties who are interested in rent control to adopt rent control on any type of rental housing. Landlords’ rights to a fair financial return on their properties would also be protected. Cities and counties that are not interested in rent control would not be required to impose it.
The initiative’s outcome could have a major impact on the Latino community. Fortune magazine reported that in 2016, for Chicana/o Latinx/Hispanic communities, about 48 percent of income goes to the monthly rent check, up from 41 percent in 2011.
Sullivan is not the only one who believes Proposition 10 can help those struggling to pay rent. Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, now the United Farm Workers, also supports the ballot measure.
In a video in Spanish for the campaign in support of Proposition 10, Huerta said she will vote in support of the ballot measure because, “Rents are too high” and “Are too high for hundreds of thousands of people who find themselves without a place to live.”
The initiative could also have a major impact in the state, depending on what types of programs are implemented. In April of this year, the San Diego Union Tribune reported the average rent in San Diego County was $1,887 a month in March.
The report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition also found Californians need an hourly full-time wage of $32.68 to afford a two-bedroom rental home at fair market value to consume less than 30 percent of their income. The figure makes California the second most expensive state.
Proposition 10 also overturns a state law known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which limits local rent control laws. Costa-Hawkins right now allows landlords to increase rent prices to market rates when a tenant moves out, which is blamed for evictions and increases in rental rates.
Not everyone sees Proposition 10 as a solution, including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and former gubernatorial candidate and former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.
Fred Romero, state commander with the American GI Forum of California, believes the initiative is, “flawed,” and “won’t rollback rents.”
A study from Stanford University published in January of this year points out rent control could lead to a scarcity of available units. Some economists have said supply and demand would worsen because developers wouldn’t be motivated to build in cities that have rent control. There’s also concern property owners would take rental units off the market and list their units for housing that isn’t subjected to rent control, such as AirBnB.
Some solutions from the San Diego Union Tribune include the California legislature passing bills which make it easier and cheaper to build housing, and making sure affordable units are included along with credits from the state and federal government for renters, but those ideas have yet to come to fruition.
Meanwhile a study also published this year from Urban Habitat states, “mom and pop” landlords do not withdraw from the rental market to avoid rent control. Another study from the USC Dornsife published in October of this year states rent stabilization will not address everything, but it also will not impede the housing market.
The state Legislative Analyst said Proposition 10 would most likely reduce state and local revenues in the long term, but that would also depend on a number of factors including on whether rent control is applied on a large or small scale.
“We can at least try it. How much money is the state losing from all the unsheltered people?” Sullivan quickly responds. “I mean really, it’s not losing, it’s spending, on emergency room visits, and all the criminalization activities, the courts. I think it’s a smoke screen. The state is spending hundreds of millions of dollars now to deal with homelessness,” Sullivan added.
Sullivan also said since the original Costa Hawkins law was first passed in 1995, “Housing prices have skyrocketed, homelessness has skyrocketed, so clearly their approach hasn’t worked.”