Prop 10 won’t bring rent control to Long Beach, but it could open more units to future ordinances

California voters will get to decide the fate of 12 ballot initiatives next month, with questions over whether emergency medical workers should remain on call during their break periods, the required size of cages for farm animals and other issues.

While the effort to repeal Senate Bill 1, more commonly referred to as the “Gas Tax” has dominated headlines and front yards, one of the more controversial votes will be Proposition 10, which could expand cities’ abilities to implement rent control.

Advocates for Prop. 10 say that repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act and granting the ability to cities to expand rent control is one of the state’s best options at combating rising housing costs and keeping people in their homes and off the streets.

Opponents, meanwhile, say that its passage will lead to a halt in construction in a state that is already not producing enough homes and only serve to exacerbate the housing crisis by leading more property owners to convert apartments to condos and stop renting out single-family homes.

If approved, Prop 10. would repeal a law known as Costa-Hawkins, which narrowly passed through the State Legislature—it passed the State Senate by one vote—before being signed into law in 1995.

Costa-Hawkins prohibits rent control from being implemented on single family homes, prohibits rent control policies on units built after 1995 and allows landlords to raise rents to market rate after a tenant moves out of a rent controlled unit.

It’s back to the bargaining table after rent control advocates abandon ballot initiative

While an effort to bring rent control to Long Beach ultimately failed to qualify for the ballot this year, a repeal of Costa-Hawkins could impact the 15 California cities that currently have rent control policies. It would allow those cities to potentially change their retroactive dates for rent control policies that were in place at the time of Costa Hawkins’ passage. For instance, Los Angeles rent control is limited to units built prior to October 1978.

Does a vote for Prop 10 ensure rent control will come to Long Beach?

The short answer would be no. For now.

The current City Council and mayor have all gone on record as not supporting rent control measures as a way to combat the rising costs of living in the city. Over the past few years city leaders have continuously whittled down proposals from community groups calling for greater protections for renters, stating that rent control was not the answer to the city’s housing issues.

A ballot initiative pursued by renter advocate groups to circumvent the City Council by taking the issue to voters next month fell short earlier this year of the required number of signatures.

However, what Prop 10’s passage would do is expand the number and types of homes that would be subject to a rent control ordinance that any California city chooses to enact in the future.

For Long Beach, the vast majority of its housing stock is already subject to rent control even with Costa Hawkins’ 1995 cutoff date. With the exception of the numerous new market rate apartment developments sprouting up in Downtown, and one single-family development in East Long Beach, the city has seen very few new units come onto the market in the past two decades.

Business Groups Remind Council of Past Statements on Rent Control As Ballot Initiative Progresses

According to the city’s most recent Housing Element, a document that is compiled periodically to assess the housing situation in the city, about 47 percent of homes in Long Beach are of the single-family variety. The document also showed that 86 percent of renter occupied housing was built before 1990. The figures used were based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey.

The implications for Long Beach if Costa-Hawkins were to be repealed is that the other half of its housing stock—single-family homes—could be included under the purview of any future rent control ordinance.

However, Prop 10’s passage does not guarantee that future City Councils will enact rent control or that it would include single-family homes or the city’s newest developments in any ordinances, it would merely codify the option to.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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