Decision 2020

Californians to Decide on Prop 21, The Rent Control Measure

California's Proposition 21 asks voters to decide if local municipalities should establish rent control

NBC Universal, Inc.

California voters will be asked to decide during the 2020 Presidential election whether to allow local governments to establish rent control on properties over 15 years old.

Rent control is a hotly contested issue that has failed in front of voters before.

In 2018 voters said ‘no’ to a rent control measure but its supporters are trying again in November with a scaled-down version that allows local governments to place rent control only on residential properties that are more than 15 years old.

Proposition 21, a petition-led initiative, would allow local governments to come up with their own kind of rent control. Supporters have said this is necessary to combat rising rents. However, opponents say this will hurt future housing.

Voting 'yes' on Prop 21 would allow cities or counties to limit how much landlords can increase rent each year.

"Rent control is a key element to making sure that San Diego's working class is protected and that we can preserve affordable housing," said Rafael Bautista, a member of the San Diego Tenants Union.

Prop 21 would limit cities to enacting rent control measures only on housing that is more than 15 years old and would cap rent increases on vacant units.

Bautista is part of the San Diego Tenants Union, a group that has been rallying to cancel rent during the pandemic, which is why he believes Prop 21 could help renters out in the long term.

Opponents argue more rent control will make the housing crisis worse.

"It's an incentive for an owner to vacate the tenant they have that may have been there 10 to 15 years and get a new tenant in at the 15% increase and make that the standard to try to get it up to the market rate," explained Rachael Callahan.

Rachael Callahan is an evictions attorney that represents landlords, she worries rent control could hurt developers and future housing.

"If an owner can't increase the rent they have no incentive to make their properties better," said Callahan. "Because if I'm going to spend $10,000 to upgrade the windows so that they're soundproof and I can't recap that in a year's worth of rent afterward it's problematic and I'm not going to do it."

Proposition 21 would allow local governments to enact rent control on housing that was first occupied over 15 years ago, with an exception for landlords who own no more than two homes with distinct titles or subdivided interests. NBC4's Conan Nolan explains.

Bautista said everyone's main goal should be to want to avoid evictions and curtail homelessness.

"We need to prioritize people first and then property and profits should be our second worry," said Bautista.

Prop 21 does have an exception for landlords who own no more than two homes with distinct titles or subdivided interests.

"So, Prop 21 being a very stagnant 'this is the rule, this is the rent cap and localities can do what they want,' I think it's just too confusing," said Callahan.

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