Housing in Brief: Rent Control Will Be on the California Ballot Again

Housing in Brief: Rent Control Will Be on the California Ballot Again

And: New York rent laws haven’t killed the market for rent-regulated buildings. Spokane weighs a ban on devices meant to deter teens and homeless people.

Protestors dressed as characters from The Handmaid's Tale demand rent control in Pasadena, California, in this photo from May 2018. (Photo by Orlando C. / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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California Voters Will Consider Rent Control, Again

A proposal to establish new statewide rent-control rules will be on the California ballot in November, two years after a similar effort failed and one year after the state legislature passed a law limiting rent gouging, the Sacramento Bee reports. According to the report, the “Rental Affordability Act” would change rules that prevent cities from applying rent control to single-family homes, condos, and any buildings built after 1995. “The proposal would hand cities more power to block rent increases on units built after 1995, though the buildings have to at least be 15 years old. Landlords could still increase rent up to 15 percent over three years once a unit is vacated, and owners of one or two homes would be exempt from the proposed law,” the Bee reported. Proponents of the measure filed more than a million signatures to get it on the ballot, well above the 623,212-signature threshold, according to the report.

The new rent control initiative is being backed by some of the same proponents that were behind Proposition 10, the previous ballot effort that failed in 2018. The real estate industry reportedly spent millions to defeat the measure. But proponents are still pushing for a stronger law than last year’s rent gouging bill. ““The statewide anti-rent gouging law stops the most egregious rent increases for many Californians,” one proponent told LAist.” “But it does not do anything to actually stabilize rents at the levels of affordability that most people need.”

Meanwhile, the number of rent controlled units in California dwindles. Landlords sought to remove 1,689 apartments from rent control in Los Angeles last year, according to Curbed L.A.

Investors Are Back to Buying Rent-Regulated Buildings in New York

Fears that a new set of rent stabilization laws adopted last year in New York would kill the market for rent-regulated buildings are turning out to be overstated, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Last year, lawmakers in Albany adopted new rules for rent-stabilized buildings in New York City that limit the amount that rents can be raised when tenants leave or when the owners are making repairs, as Next City reported. According to WSJ, “landlords widely predicted that the new state law … would dull interest in these properties.” The values of rent-regulated buildings did drop by about 25 percent after the laws were passed in June, according to the paper. But real estate investors have returned to buying them, on the belief that “rents are pretty good where they are now,” and housing is still a good investment, the Journal reported. Some investors also believe that the laws will eventually be weakened, according to the report.

“I’m proud that we’ve broken the wheel that was incentivizing evictions in order to increase the value of a property,” state Sen. Mike Gianaris, who sponsored the new laws, told the paper.

Spokane Considers Banning Noise Machines Meant to Deter Homeless People

A city council member in Spokane, Washington, introduced a bill in December that would ban “high-pitched noise emitters used to deter loitering around downtown businesses,” and which are meant to target young people and people experiencing homelessness, according to The Spokesman-Review. The proposed ban was aimed at devices like The Mosquito, which bills itself as “an ultrasonic anti-loitering teen deterrent solution used to disperse unwanted youth gatherings.”

Kate Burke, the councilmember who proposed the ban, told the paper that the noise emitters were creating an unwelcoming atmosphere downtown. The council was scheduled to vote earlier this week on a revised version of the bill, with reduced penalties and provisions clarifying that the devices would only be banned from use if they could be heard on public property, the Spokesman-Review reported. But it elected to hold off on considering the bill for another six weeks while it solicits more input from business owners, according to the paper. The Mosquito has also been in the news in Philadelphia, where the Department of Parks and Recreation uses the devices to deter teens from public parks at night, according to Billy Penn.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: new york cityreal estatehomelessnesscaliforniayouthrent control

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