In this November’s election, the Justice for Renters Act will reach the ballot. This bill would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which is a 1995 state law that prohibits rent control for certain properties. Repealing it would allow local city governments more freedom in making decisions on rent control. This isn’t the first attempt — similar bills were put on the ballot in 2018 and 2020, but neither passed.
That doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of support, though. What has actually happened in the past is that those who benefit from a lack of rent control are both more vocal and wealthier. Of course, it should come as no surprise that landlords are typically wealthier than those renting from them, and therefore able to contribute more campaign funds. But you may not be aware that renters are less likely to vote, particularly because non-citizens are more likely to rent than buy. In addition, the share of renters in California is slightly smaller than the share of homeowners. Even if homeowners also includes non-landlords, homeowners generally aren’t negatively impacted by high rent prices. This time, though, rent prices have become so exorbitant that the bill has a higher chance of passing this year.