The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday to officially support Proposition 10, which would give local governments more leeway to enact rent control laws.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger dissented and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstained.
The measure on the Nov. 6 ballot seeks to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which bans rent control on single-family homes and units built after 1995 and also prohibits laws that limit rent increases for new tenants.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl recalled voting against Costa-Hawkins as an assemblywoman in 1995.
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"I want to emphasize how important one vote is," Kuehl told residents assembled in the board's hearing room to argue for and against Prop 10. "(Costa-Hawkins) passed by one vote."
But she was unable to garner support from Ridley-Thomas, who called the initiative too broad and warned of unintended consequences.
"There is no question that tackling the housing crisis must be a priority for Californians," Ridley-Thomas said in a statement to City News Service. "My focus is on advancing both local and statewide solutions to build more housing and prevent displacement. However, I am not comfortable with a sweeping and inelegant policy solution that is likely to have unintended consequences on the supply and quality of housing across the state."
Both sides turned out to argue their case before the board.
Proponents -- many wearing T-shirts printed with the slogan "the rent is too damn high" -- said rent control is critical to solving an affordable housing crisis that leads to homelessness.
One supporter focused on transit-oriented development and gentrification that displaces residents.
"Our folks are facing an impossible choice. Do I stay and pay 70, 80 percent of my income on rent? Or do I move hundreds or thousands of miles away? For many people, the choice is neither. The choice is ending up on the streets," said a representative for the Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles.
Opponents countered that Proposition 10 will not accomplish its stated goals and could actually lead to a decrease in housing supply.
"It stands to reduce rental supply by making it uncertain and financially unfeasible," said Diana Coronado of the Building Industry Association. "This will stop the building of new apartment complexes, further perpetuating our housing shortfall, and could move rental owners to push existing units into condo conversions or for sale."
People on both sides sometimes paint caricatures of themselves or their opponents, with pro-rent control forces claiming property owners are all greedy "Wall Street types," while pro-landlord groups claim to be representing a coalition of struggling "mom-and-pop" owners under attack.
The Legislative Analyst's Office has pegged the state's rent as 50 percent higher than other states and concluded that the passage of Prop 10 and related rent control legislation would likely lower rents but also reduce new construction and lower property values. The impact would depend on how many municipalities enact rent control laws and how strict those laws would be.
Lost state and local property tax revenues could range from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars annually, again depending on the specifics of new rent control laws, according to the LAO.
Prop 10's supporters include the California Democratic Party, California Teachers Association, California Nurses Association, Coalition for Affordable Housing and Mayor Eric Garcetti, and it has been endorsed by the Los
Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee. It is opposed by the California Republican Party and many business and trade organizations, including the California Apartment Association, California Business Roundtable, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Los Angeles County Business Federation.
Based on a board vote in September, county lawyers are in the process of drafting a local rent control ordinance that would temporarily limit rent increases to 3 percent in unincorporated areas of the county, as the board considers longer-term solutions. Ridley-Thomas voted in favor of that temporary measure, which he said was part of the county's obligation to provide a safety net for residents.
There are an estimated 119,000 rental units in unincorporated Los Angeles County, according to Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai.