Rent cap bill won’t fix California’s housing crisis

By Jared Martin, Special to CalMatters

When California lawmakers vote on a rent cap bill in the coming days, they must consider the consequences it will have on our state’s housing crisis for years to come.

Our state’s housing affordability and availability crisis deserves a comprehensive approach that prioritizes building more homes for rent and ownership. Unfortunately, Assembly Bill 1482 does neither.

The version of the legislation by David Chiu, San Francisco Democrat, headed to the Senate Floor will not incentivize production of rental housing or help more people find an affordable place to live. 

It discourages new rental housing, which is why the California Association of Realtors, representing more than 200,000 real estate agents and brokers across California, strongly opposes it.  

We see the catastrophic impacts of the housing crisis first-hand and understand that the only meaningful, long-term solution is increasing the housing supply. This bill would make it more difficult for hard working Californians to find an affordable place to live. 

We have been working with the bill’s proponents for several months with a common purpose: to achieve a balance between promoting tenant protections and private property ownership. California tenants and property owners deserve nothing less. Our consensus language has not been included, which is why we will be opposing AB 1482.

Just last year, when more Californians than ever before voted in a midterm election, their message was clear. They want a balanced solution to our affordability crisis.

Voters in 56 of California’s 58 counties rejected a statewide ballot measure that would have dramatically expanded rent control without respecting property rights.

California’s renters deserve more affordable housing, but a restrictive rent cap proposed in AB 1482 with no incentives for housing production or protections for property owners will take our state backward.

This comes at a time when headline after headline shows the immediate need for more housing. 

In recent weeks, we learned that the state has issued just 111,000 permits for new homes in 2019, 12% less than a year before. Even worse, apartment development is down 42% from last year.

For context, Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for building 500,000 units per year to achieve his goal of building the necessary 3.5 million units to end the state’s housing shortage. That means we need to build new units five times faster than the current rate.

Californians are being forced to make tough decisions because of the housing crisis. In a recent survey, 53% said they were considering leaving the state due to high housing costs and an even greater share of young people said the same. 

That number bears repeating: more than half of Californians think leaving the state may be the best option for them if they want to find more affordable housing.

If our state is to continue leading the nation, we must address the housing shortage with policies that will actually lead to more housing. Simply put, this rent cap would be a bandage on a festering wound and would do nothing to solve the root cause of higher rents.

That’s why on behalf of California’s Realtors, respectfully ask our lawmakers to vote “no” on AB 1482. Californians deserve substantive and balanced housing policy that puts the long-term future of our state ahead of short-term talking points.

Jared Martin is president of the California Association of Realtors, [email protected] He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.  To read his previous CALmatters commentary, please click here, and here.

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