After Threatened Arrests, Rent Control Advocates Cheer Passage of Key Bills

By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – Rent control advocates fighting for security for renters were willing to break the law here at the State Capitol late last week – they tried three times, as reported in the Davis Vanguard, but the California Highway Patrol and Assembly Sgt at Arms were not cooperating.

But now, two of three measures designed to alleviate the high rents plaguing millions of Californians have passed key committees, and maybe those gambits to “impress” lawmakers that change needs to come soon for renters were worth it.

Led by AACE and other rent reform groups, advocates last week occupied the offices of two lawmakers on key committees, and then the Governor’s office. No one was arrested or removed – although the Governor’s office did let protestors stay overnight, they were denied them restrooms, food and water overnight.

The Governor’s Chief of Staff also reassured demonstrators that Gavin Newsom had talked to “key lawmakers” about how he wanted the housing bills to pass – although she had to walk part of that statement back the next day when some lawmakers said they had not been encouraged to support rent control measures.

Attempts to pass meaningful legislation to help renters have failed in the past, maybe in part because many lawmakers are, in fact, landlords themselves. A CalMatters news report said at least 25 percent of lawmakers are also landlords, and some have admitted their “understanding” of the issue may have colored their view of the legislation.

In fact, of the 30 or more lawmakers/landlords, six sit on key housing committees.

But Tuesday, AB 1481 (Rob Bonta, D-Alameda), was approved 7-3 by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and moves to the floor of the lower house.

And AB 1482 (David Chiu, D-San Francisco) late last week was OK’d by the Assembly Housing Committee by a 6-1 tally.

So, someone maybe did get the message after all.

The third part of the Rent Reform package is AB 36 (Richard Bloom, D-West Los Angeles) – it was pulled late last week for lack of votes to pass, but is expected to reappear at some point, say proponents. It would allow local cities and counties to amend rent control laws easier and more completely by circumventing state rent control laws.

AB 1481 would, if signed into law, would prohibit so-called “no fault” evictions where a landlord can terminate a month-to-month tenancy for no reason. The practice, according to tenant groups, results in more evictions, causes health issues, poverty, homelessness and causes tenants to make few complaints about habitability issues because of fear of eviction, according to the bill analysis.

AB 1481 would stop those “no fault” evictions by prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants without “just cause,” which would be failure to pay rent, breach of the rental agreement or other “just cause” reasons.

The measure has support of labor, community, faith groups, legal services organizations, local governments, but was opposed by the rental housing industry and CA Association of Realtors/

AB 1482, according to its author, would “protect nearly 15 million Californians from large unforeseen rent increases without diminishing property owners’ ability to make a fair return on their investment. Renters shouldn’t have to choose between paying rent and keeping a roof over their heads or feeding their families.”

The measure mandates that landlords cannot increase the rental rates for current tenants any more than five percent plus the cost of living increase for the immediately preceding 12 months, said the author, providing relief for renters faced wit doubt digit increases, often annually.

Supporters argue that state housing costs have ballooned – in 1970, California housing costs were 30 percent higher than the U.S. average. But currently, state housing costs are 250 percent more than the U.S. average.

“Over half of renters and 80 percent of low-income renters are rent-burdened, meaning they pay over 30 percent of their income towards rent. Research by Zillow from 2018 found that some areas with a high percentage of rent-burdened households experienced a rapid increase in homelessness, and areas where high rents are combined with high poverty experienced triple the homelessness rate of the average community,” according to the committee analysis.

Opponents argued in committee that all of the housing reform bills would “create a huge disincentive to invest in rental housing at a time when California so desperately needs more homes. Study after study has demonstrated that price controls end up crippling the commodity that is controlled, including housing.”

However, the coalition of groups supporting these bills said Tuesday that “This is a significant achievement in the effort to protect California’s 17 million renters. But there still is a great deal of work to be done before these protections become law. This legislation, when passed, will protect tenants from unreasonable rent increases and unjust evictions.

“For many the passage of this legislation is about survival. No tenant, who has done nothing wrong, should be forced from their home and no tenant should face the dramatic rent increases we’ve seen over the past few years. AB 1481 and 1482 are complementary measures, with AB 1482 protecting tenants from dramatic rent increases, and AB 1481 keeping tenants in their homes.

The coalition sponsoring the Keep Families Home legislative package includes ACCE, Public Advocates Inc., PICO California, SEIU CA, TechEquity, the Western Center on Law and Poverty. AB 1481 and AB 1482 are supported by diverse groups, including California Labor Federation, California YIMBY and the California State Building and Construction Trades Council.

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    1. Ron Oertel

      “Are we going for rent control, or more places to live?”

      I think the question should be phrased as, do we want to help the state’s current population of 17 million renters, or do we want to continue pursuing a larger population of residents – regardless of whether they’re renters or homeowners?

      We already know what’s advocated on here.

      1. Craig Ross

        It’s not mutually exclusive.  Rent control potentially helps new renters and supply helps current renters who have to find places to live and benefit from higher vacancy rates.

        1. Ron Oertel

          The current 17 million renters won’t need theoretical “help” from higher vacancy rates, if rent control is enacted.

          Developers and their allies like to refer to vacancy rates (as a justification for more development), even though they’re not building to create “vacancies”.

          Despite massive/ongoing development in the Los Angeles region, it’s still “ground zero” regarding interest in rent control.


        2. Craig Ross

          Sure they do.  Vacancy brings about lower prices or reduced increased rents.  It makes it easier to find another place to live.  It makes it easier to move out if there is a problem in the current place – which is quite frequent.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Adding development accommodates a larger population.  (See Los Angeles, for example.) It does not necessarily ensure a higher vacancy rate, nor does it ensure that prices are kept in check.

          Perhaps you could persuade developers to just build vacant units, in an effort to maintain a high vacancy rate. 😉

        4. Craig Ross

          You stated: “The current 17 million renters won’t need theoretical “help” from higher vacancy rates” in your post at 12:46 pm.

          Then at 12:57 you switch to arguing that we can’t achieve higher vacancy rates.

          You do understand you’ve changed the argument in the course of 11 minutes?

        5. Ron Oertel

          I haven’t changed anything.  Show me two quotes that directly conflict with each other.

          I would think that you – out of all the commenters on here – should be among the most supportive of rent control, given your previously-stated concerns.

          Seems like you’re really more interested in pursuit of more development, regardless of the issue.

        6. Mark West

          CR: “Rent control potentially helps new renters and supply helps current renters who have to find places to live and benefit from higher vacancy rates.”

          You have it backwards, Craig. Rent control helps those who already have a place to live by limiting increases in the rent they pay, as long as they remain in that same apartment. Rent Control harms new renters by reducing the inventory of available units, making it harder to find a new place to live.


        7. Ron Oertel

          “Rent control helps those who already have a place to live by limiting increases in the rent they pay, as long as they remain in that same apartment.”

          The bolded text would no longer apply, if Costa Hawkins is effectively repealed.  In that case, cities could enact rent control on vacant units (as well as occupied units – which they’re already allowed to do).

        8. Mark West

          “cities could enact rent control on vacant units”

          Which would make all of the problems associated with rent control even worse. We would end up with a reduction in the number of available units and a deterioration in the quality of those units. What a brilliant idea…


        9. Ron Oertel

          That’s pretty much been the arguments put forth by the development and apartment owner lobbyists.  And yet, rent control still allows for increases in rent (including consideration of maintenance costs), and cities have allowed exceptions for newer buildings – thereby negating much of those arguments.

          Nevertheless, development activists and apartment owners will likely continue to prevail (as they almost always have), but will increasingly have to address displacement of existing lower-income populations, Affordable housing requirements, “fair wage” for construction workers, resistance from neighbors regarding increased density, etc.

          Ultimately, rents will continue to increase, some populations will be displaced, and cities will become more crowded and impacted.  Developers and apartment owners will continue to benefit, as they always have.

          The system itself is too corrupted by various interests to change, and will likely get worse.

      2. Bill Marshall

        And we already know what you advocate for on here, Ron… no more population, perhaps fewer residents… be they renters or owners… got it…

  1. Darryl Rutherford

    We need to think more holistically and remember one size doesn’t fit all. With the repeal or heavy revision of Costa Hawkins localities will have access to more tools to consider adding to their housing policy toolbox. Jurisdictions WON’T have to adopt rent stabilization if they don’t want to but at least they’ll have the option to EXPLORE it if the powers that be decide they want to see it. Just because something hasn’t worked somewhere in the past in some different community it doesn’t mean it won’t work today…especially since we can learn from the past as to why it didn’t work and then build that into something today that could work for OUR community.

    Check this out (you might need to sign up for the newsletter though-which isn’t a bad idea since you’ll get some good info and learn more about the affordable housing advocacy happening in the State):

    And since this town is led by developers and landlords I would imagine this discussion is pretty much dead in the water…unless of course there’s someone out there to willing to buckthe status quo.

  2. Jim Hoch

    “we can learn from the past as to why it didn’t work and then build that into something today that could work for OUR community” Odds of that are hovering near zero.

  3. Ron Oertel

    From article I posted, above.  (Other media sources also published articles regarding this phenomenon.)

    “California last year saw its slowest population growth in recorded history, according to a Department of Finance report published Wednesday.

    Dwindling immigration, a significant decline in births and an aging baby boomer population contributed to the low annual population growth of 0.47 percent, said Tina Daley, chief of demographic research for the department.

    Housing costs could be partly to blame for the trend.”

    The last statement is perhaps the most intriguing.  What if relatively higher housing costs are actually encouraging an environmentally-sustainable population?

      1. Ron Oertel

        Anyone concerned about high housing costs should (also) be encouraged by the article (the subject of which was covered by a variety of media sources).  It’s not difficult to envision what will occur (regarding market demand for housing), as the population stabilizes.

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