This whole week, Bay Curious is exploring the 11 statewide propositions on the California ballot for a mini-series we're calling "Bay Curious Prop Week." Each day, we're dropping episodes looking at what the propositions are and how they came to be on the ballot in the first place. If you want to learn more about what's on your California ballot, check out KQED's 2018 Voter Guide.
You can replay our Q&A on Proposition 6, the gas tax repeal.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of our episode on Proposition 10. If passed, it would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which limits rent control across California.
OLIVIA ALLEN-PRICE: It might be the single biggest issue facing Californians…
Montage of news on cost of housing
ALLEN-PRICE: I’m Olivia Allen-Price. In this episode for the Bay Curious Prop Week, we’re going to be hearing about rent control, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and Prop 10. Here’s reporter Jessica Placzek
JESSICA PLACZEK: Prop 10 wants to overturn Costa-Hawkins. But what is Costa-Hawkins? To understand that, we need to go back to 1995. It was the year that Brad Pitt won sexiest man alive, Amazon sold its first book and one of my favorite Mariah Carey songs topped the charts...
"Fantasy" by Mariah Carey plays
PLACZEK: But we’re here to talk about housing.
PLACZEK: At the time, the state was recovering from a housing slump and construction of new housing had slowed down. That’s when two politicians decided to try to curb rent control. The politicians were Democratic Senator Jim Costa and Republican Assembly Member Phil Hawkins. Together they drafted the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.
MATT LEVIN: And it passed by one vote. That shapes rent control policy across California.
PLACZEK: This is Matt Levin, a data reporter for CalMatters and co-host of the housing podcast, "Gimme Shelter."
PLACZEK: Now, Costa-Hawkins limits rent control in a few big ways. For example, it barred rent control on most single family homes and condos. So most of the suburbs can’t have rent control. It also barred rent control on new buildings. So if a building was constructed after the law took effect, that building cannot have rent control on it.
LEVIN: You can't impose rent control on properties that were built after 1995.
PLACZEK: The thing is, before Costa-Hawkins was passed, about a dozen cities already had rent control laws. And some had their own cutoff dates that had been established earlier. Those dates were frozen by Costa-Hawkins. So in Oakland, the cutoff is in 1983. Berkeley in 1980. While in San Jose and San Francisco, nothing built after 1979 can have rent control.
LEVIN: And so anything new and nice looking in San Francisco is not going to have rent control on it.
PLACZEK: Another thing Costa-Hawkins changed: it eliminated vacancy control, which ties rent control to the apartment instead of the tenant. With Costa-Hawkins, we have vacancy decontrol, which means if a tenant moves out of a rent controlled apartment, landlords can raise the rent as high as they please.
LEVIN: I see old apartments all the time. They're total pieces of crap, and they're charging like a bazillion dollars, right? But once you get into that apartment, they're limited in how much more they can raise it.
PLACZEK: Today, only 15 cities have rent control in California.
LEVIN: It's really the bigger cities, so L.A., San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose...
PLACZEK: But because of Costa-Hawkins, many units in those cities are barred from having rent control.
PLACZEK: In California, more than one in five households pays over half its income on housing. People are looking for ways to ease housing costs and some are looking toward rent control. This actually won’t be the first attempt to overturn Costa-Hawkins. Earlier this year, a bill went before state legislators.
ASSEMBLYMAN DAVID CHIU: This bill required 4 votes to get out of this committee, at this time there are 3, so AB 1506 fails passage today.
PLACZEK: It didn’t get too far.