Almost half of California’s population–17 million people–are renters. Many of them spend more than half of their income on rent, plunging many full-time workers into poverty.
The consequences of California’s skyrocketing rents are dire and unsustainable. People jam the freeways, commuting long distances into cities they can no longer afford.
Many Californians, including children, live in overcrowded and substandard apartments. Each year thousands of individuals, including people who work full-time, move into their vehicles or onto the streets.
Evictions in California are rising, driving up displacement and homelessness. Los Angeles has more than 30,000 homeless residents. These aren’t people who moved to L.A. for the weather. They are local residents who lost their housing due to landlords’ rent gouging and harassment.
The eviction crisis also grips Sacramento, San Francisco, and other cities as landlords evict families, often to cash in on gentrification. On any given block, the appearance of new luxury housing means that your affordable street is about to become unaffordable.
Unchecked, the situation could bring California to its knees. Quality of life has been compromised and stress levels are skyrocketing as fast as the rent check. Community ties are broken, eroding the social fabric we rely on.
The fact that people earning $15 an hour cannot afford an apartment in any major California city makes clear that a solution is needed now, not years down the road.
That solution is Proposition 10 on the November statewide ballot.
Until 1995, cities could limit rent increases. But the legislature took local decision-making away, and today’s housing mess is one result. Proposition 10 would return power to cities by allowing them to limit local rent increases.
Communities best understand how to urgently address the twin crises of housing affordability and homelessness. Proposition 10 is the only way to provide communities a tool to temper unreasonable rent increases so that nurses, teachers, seniors, and working families can thrive in their communities.
Proposition 10 will repeal the outdated 1995 state law called the Costa-Hawkins Act, signed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. We’re in a radically different era, where rent gouging is common among the new wave of corporate investors. It’s time to let cities and counties decide what rental laws work for them. Proposition 10 will do that.
The landlord lobby and developers who seek to protect soaring real estate profits perpetuate the myth that local rent control would halt construction. There’s no evidence from cities around the country with rent control that it slows down new housing construction. In fact, much of the Bay Area’s construction boom has unfolded in the few cities that the Legislature in 1995 allowed to preserve local existing rental caps.
Today’s skyrocketing rents hurt the economy by driving workers far from cities, creating urban labor shortages and massive traffic congestion. Cities that adopt rent controls save tenants from paying outrageously high rents. They spend most of the money they save in the local economy, helping local businesses.
Building owners who bought at inflated prices, assuming that rents would keep spiraling up, should not drive housing policy. Parents shouldn’t worry if their adult children can afford rent. Grandparents shouldn’t fear being displaced. People of color, low-wage earners and young children are even more severely harmed.
Our dysfunctional housing marketplaces profits over people’s lives. People deserve a decent place to live without paying half or more of their income to put a roof over their heads. We can right this ship and get California back on track by passing Proposition 10.
Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and founding chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College, [email protected]. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.