California considers repealing rent control restrictions

SACRAMENTO — As rents soar, causing widespread financial strain and displacement, a highly charged and polarizing debate is brewing in California over a statewide prohibition on some types of rent control policies.

California lawmakers are taking a hard look at a 1995 state law known as Costa Hawkins that bars cities from enacting rent control rules on single-family rental homes, condominiums or apartments built after a city adopted rent control.

“It is in my opinion a conversation we can no longer avoid,” said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, who is carrying the repeal bill, Assembly Bill 1506.

AB 1506 was batted down so quickly by opponents last year that it didn’t get a single hearing. But as the crisis worsens and a tenants’ rights coalition gathers signatures for a November ballot initiative to repeal the law, the landscape has shifted. The bill is having its first hearing Thursday before the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.

Many hundreds of tenants — and landlords — filled the hearing room and packed the long hallway outside to make their case for throwing the law away or keeping it intact. Assemblyman David Chiu, the committee chairman, repeatedly asked those in the audience to stay silent — muting their reactions to a show of “jazz hands” — while witnesses testified. But the hundreds of activists in the hall outside, representing renters and landlords, found a way to make their voices heard, chanting and occasionally pounding on the walls.

Supporters argued that tenants needed immediate protections against sharp rent increases, even as the state pushes to make it cheaper and easier to build more housing — a solution aimed at stabilizing prices in the long run. But opponents, including witnesses from the California Apartment Association, which represents landlords and developers of rental housing, and the California Association of Realtors, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business

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