California Lawmakers Announce Measures to Protect Renters and Combat Housing Crisis

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Proposals would protect renters from unfair evictions and rent increases

Sacramento, CA--A group of California lawmakers and advocates announced multiple proposals today to address California's housing crisis by giving tenants throughout the state greater protections. The bills would give localities more flexibility to stabilize rental prices, protect tenants across the state from large rent increases, prevent unfair evictions, and collect data about the California rental market.

The majority of California’s 17 million renters do not have access to stable and affordable housing. Over half of California renters are rent-burdened, meaning they spend over 30 percent of their income on rent, and one-third of renters spend over 50 percent of their income on rent. 160,000 families appear in eviction court annually. 

Tenants have been hit especially hard by California’s housing crisis. Skyrocketing rents and an increase in evictions have led to mass displacement and a severe homelessness crisis. The bills announced seek to stem that tide and ease the burdens renters face.

To give local jurisdictions more tools to address their housing needs, Assembly Bill 36 authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) would make modest reforms to the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, allowing cities to apply rent stabilization measures to rental units that are more than 10 years old. The bill also allows cities to stabilize rents in single family rentals and condominiums with an exemption for small landlords who own two or fewer rental units. 

“Recent efforts to address one of the state’s most glaring problems have failed, but the problem has not gone away,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “Skyrocketing rents threaten many people, particularly seniors, the disabled, and young families with children. The time to come together around a solution is now.”

Assembly Bill 1482 authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would institute a statewide anti-rent gouging law to protect against the most egregious rent increases tenants face. The bill would cap annual rent increases at a level above the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all rental properties in California that are not subject to local rent control ordinances. This bill would not supersede local rent control ordinances.

“Millions of Californians are just one rent increase away from becoming homeless,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “This legislation will help bring some peace of mind and predictability to renters, allowing them to plan for their future and stay in their homes.”

Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) announced Assembly Bill 1481, which would prevent discriminatory, arbitrary, and retaliatory evictions. This bill would prohibit a landlord from evicting a tenant without a demonstration of cause. A handful of cities throughout California have existing “just cause” ordinances that require landlords to show a specific and valid reason outlined in statute in order to evict a tenant.

“The housing crisis is more than an issue of supply and affordability,” said Assemblymember Bonta. “We must do more to stop unjust evictions that threaten the estimated 17 million Californians who rent the place they call home. My Just Cause legislation will extend fair protections that are badly needed to keep a roof over our neighbors’ heads.”

The only public data available on the California rental market is collected by local rent boards.  Most jurisdictions do not have a rent board making the statewide data woefully incomplete. To address this, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) introduced Assembly Bill 742 to establish a statewide rental registry.  Landlords would be required to report on an annual basis the rental units they own, rent collected, and other details. 

“Right now, we lack statewide data on rent hikes and tenant displacements because there's no one agency responsible for keeping track, and not every city gathers this data,” said Assemblymember Wicks. “In order to achieve evidence-based policies that fight displacement and protect tenants, we need a more complete picture of the reality renters face. My bill, AB 724, gets us there by creating a statewide rental registry to track key stats on rental housing and evictions.”

These bills are expected to be heard in Assembly policy committees in March and April.

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