On Monday, March 5, West Hollywood City Council joined tenant groups, community organizations and unions in endorsing the Affordable Housing Act, unanimously passing a resolution in support of the ballot initiative that would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and allow cities to pass more robust rent control measures. With less than two months since signature gathering started, the campaign has already collected over 328,000 signatures to appear on the November 2018 ballot.
The Resolution, Consent Calendar item 2-V, is consistent with the City’s 2017-18 Legislative Priorities, passed in Jan. 2017, which included the repeal of Costa-Hawkins. To that end, the Council had previously adopted a Resolution in support of Richard Bloom’s State Assembly bill to repeal Costa-Hawkins, AB 1506, that failed to pass out of the Housing Committee in January.
“California is experiencing a housing and homeless crisis like we’ve never seen before and policies like Costa-Hawkins have had a devastating effect on housing affordability,” said Councilmember Lindsey P. Horvath. “The City of West Hollywood was born out of a grassroots movement to protect affordable housing and rents. Costa-Hawkins has undermined our ability to protect our residents from being displaced, especially the most vulnerable, due to skyrocketing rent increases. We fought Costa-Hawkins in the past, and continue to do so now, to protect people from the housing affordability crisis sweeping our state.”
Costa-Hawkins was initially passed to “rein in” the strong rent stabilization ordinances of five municipalities in California, including West Hollywood. The City’s ordinance, passed in 1985, regulates the rental price of residential units in multifamily apartment buildings with certificates of occupancy first issued before July 1, 1979, and initially included units after rent-controlled tenants moved out. Since the enactment of Costa-Hawkins in 1995, the latter practice has been prohibited, establishing what today is referred to as “vacancy decontrol.”
Since then, household income needed to afford an apartment in West Hollywood has more than doubled across the board. Average rent for tenancies beginning prior to 1996 ranged from $848 for a studio to $1,642 for a three bedroom unit. Average new rents for the same units now range from $1,590 for a studio to $3,743 for a 3-bedroom unit.
“As it stands today, we are approaching a situation where there are two West Hollywoods,” said West Hollywood Councilmember Lauren Meister. “One for those who ‘have,’ and one for those who ‘have not’. This goes against our core belief in inclusion and diversity in all its forms, including socioeconomic. This initiative will allow us to preserve housing units and keep them affordable.”
Filed by Christina Livingston of ACCE Action, Elena Popp with the Eviction Defense Network and Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Affordable Housing Act is also supported by dozens of other organizations including the California Nurses Association, Los Angeles Tenants Union, Tenants Together, HERE Local 11, SAJE, LA CAN, LA Voice (a PICO California affiliate), UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles), UFCW Local 770, AFSCME Local 3299, PolicyLink, Housing Long Beach, North Bay Organizing Project, Inquilinos Unidos, Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance and others who have joined forces to ensure the necessary signatures are gathered.