Bill Blocking ‘Rent Gouging’ Draws Attention in Capitol

housingLess than six months after voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have gutted a 1995 state law banning new types of rent control on all single-family homes and all rent control on apartments or condos built after the law passed, state lawmakers hoping to help Californians deal with the extreme cost of housing have introduced four new bills.

By far the most buzz is going to Assembly Bill 1842 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, that is being framed as much different than Proposition 10, which lost by 18 percentage points in November. Chiu says his bill would prevent “rent gouging.”

Instead of the hard caps on rent increases seen in many local rent control ordinances adopted by California cities before 1995, Chiu’s measure would ban landlords from increasing rents each year by more than an as-yet-undetermined percentage more than inflation.

Oregon recently became the first state in the nation to adopt an “anti-gouging” rent law. The measure limits annual rent increases to inflation plus 7 percent for existing tenants in buildings that are at least 15 years old. Rents can go up by more than that when apartments are vacated, but the law contains additional protections meant to prevent landlords from seeking to evict tenants with solid records of timely rent payments solely so they can raise the rent.

UC Berkeley researchers concluded that if a similar law passed in California, 4.9 million homes, condos and apartments would be covered.

Some landlord and business groups didn’t oppose the bill as it moved through the Oregon Legislature – seeing it as preferable to the harder, smaller caps that some state lawmakers and activist groups preferred and that polls suggest are popular.

But stronger and more consistent opposition to Chiu’s bill looms in California. “We need to encourage new housing, not create policies that stifle its creation,” Tom Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association, told the Bay Area News Group. He said any state law capping rent increases would be counterproductive and ineffective at remedying the housing crisis.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has not taken a public stand on Chiu’s bill. Last month, however, he told lawmakers at his State of the State address, “Get me a good package on rent stability this year and I will sign it.”

Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, has also once again introduced a bill including more traditional rent control provisions. Assembly Bill 36 would allow local governments to mandate rent control on apartments and single-family homes as soon as they were 10 years old. Landlords with only a few units would not be covered.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, has also once again introduced a bill meant to make it significantly more difficult to evict tenants. Assembly Bill 1481 would set a statewide “Just Cause for Evictions” standard. Most cities already have such policies.

The least controversial measure affecting renters was proposed by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland. Assembly Bill 724 would set up a state housing information clearinghouse that would list all available units, their monthly rents, how long units were vacant and how many tenants are evicted. Landlords would be required to submit this information on a timely basis.

Wicks thinks this would lead to more informed decisions on housing by the Legislature and the Newsom administration.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com