Flipping the rent control fight: How California tenants and the left won statewide protection

As 2019 dawned, the idea of statewide rent control in California seemed dead.

The Legislature sharply limited cities’ ability to cap rents in 1995, and when tenant advocates managed to qualify an initiative for last November’s ballot that would loosen those restrictions, voters overwhelmingly rejected it.

That makes the Legislature’s passage of a bill this year limiting annual rent increases statewide all the more remarkable. The measure that Gov. Gavin Newsom was signing Tuesday caps annual increases at 10% at most, and protects tenants from being evicted without compensation if they’re up to date on their rent and following all the rules. Those who lose their homes if their landlords go out of business will be eligible for up to a month’s rent.

Newsom played a big part in getting the bill through the Legislature. The governor asked lawmakers to send him a package of tenant protections during his State of the State address in February, got behind a bill by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu, then upped the ante at a key moment by calling for a stricter rent cap than what Chiu was proposing.

“The issue of housing unaffordability is destroying not just the California dream, but the American dream,” Newsom said at the time.

That brought the state’s largest landlord group, the California Apartment Association, to the negotiating table, where Newsom helped broker a deal that cleared a path for the bill. Landlords had a strong incentive — Michael Weinstein, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation president who funded the unsuccessful November ballot measure, is making plans for another rent control initiative in 2020. Opponents spent $74 million to beat back the last one.

The full story on what rent control will mean for California is here.

%d bloggers like this: