1 rent con­trol mea­sure sur­vives As­sem­bly

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY HAN­NAH WILEY hwi­[email protected] Han­nah Wiley: 916-321-1387, @han­nahcwi­ley

Land­lords and re­al­tor groups earned a win in the Cal­i­for­nia Capi­tol this week af­ter law­mak­ers shelved a bill to re­strict evic­tions and amended an­other to limit caps on rent.

The As­sem­bly ad­journed on Thurs­day with­out tak­ing up As­sem­bly Bill 1481, which would have es­tab­lished a “just cause” evic­tion law in Cal­i­for­nia, pro­hibit­ing land­lords from evict­ing ten­ants un­less they vi­o­late the terms of their lease or fail to pay rent. On Wed­nes­day, the cham­ber nar­rowly passed As­sem­bly Bill 1482, which caps “egre­gious” rent in­creases.

Assem­bly­men Rob Bonta of Alameda, Tim Grayson of Con­cord and David Chiu of San Fran­cisco sig­nif­i­cantly changed their mea­sures in an at­tempt to win over op­po­si­tion.

The three Democrats sought to ne­go­ti­ate a last­minute deal with the Cal­i­for­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors this week. The group dropped its op­po­si­tion to the rent cap mea­sure af­ter win­ning ma­jor con­ces­sions from a coali­tion of ten­ant ad­vo­cate groups.

The Cal­i­for­nia Apart­ment As­so­ci­a­tion and the Cal­i­for­nia Cham­ber of Com­merce ar­gued that with­out changes, the rent­cap mea­sure would dis­cour­age con­struc­tion of rental hous­ing at a time when Cal­i­for­nia sorely needs more homes.

AB 1482 would now limit rent in­creases to 7% plus in­fla­tion, up from 5% in a for­mer ver­sion of the bill. The leg­is­la­tion would also sun­set af­ter three years — less than a third of its orig­i­nal time frame — and now ex­empts own­ers who rent 10 or fewer sin­gle-fam­ily homes.

“These bills did not help ad­dress Cal­i­for­nia’s hous­ing prob­lems,” said Alex Creel, the Cal­i­for­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors’ vice pres­i­dent of gov­ern­men­tal af­fairs. “(Real­tors) ne­go­ti­ated amend­ments to ben­e­fit land­lords and ten­ants and are pleased that, through work­ing with the bill au­thors, leg­is­la­tors and other or­ga­ni­za­tions, the bills will be amended to ad­dress our con­cerns.”

But some op­po­nents worry that a rent cap would cre­ate un­in­tended consequenc­es. The av­er­age rent in­creased nearly 2% in Sacra­mento from 2018 to 2019. But that num­ber could con­tinue climb­ing if land­lords see the leg­is­la­tion as wig­gle room to charge ten­ants more un­der a 7% cap.

“If they have a li­cense now to raise the rent (7%), they will be­cause they don’t want to be left be­hind,” Assem­bly­woman Blanca Ru­bio, D-Bald­win Park, said. “I’m re­ally cau­tious about how we vote to­day be­cause it’s go­ing to price low-in­come folks out of hous­ing be­cause they know in five years they won’t be able to af­ford the in­crease ev­ery year.”

Chiu said AB 1482 is not rent con­trol, but does pro­tect ten­ants against ex­treme rent in­creases while also “al­low­ing land­lords to make a fair re­turn on in­vest­ment.”

But the fail­ure of the evic­tion bill “cre­ates an enor­mous loop­hole,” Chiu said, con­tin­u­ing that “it’s crit­i­cal the two poli­cies come to­gether.”

Af­ter a two-week sprint to meet a dead­line to pass bills from their orig­i­nal cham­bers, the three law­mak­ers at­trib­uted their de­feat on the evic­tion bill to fa­tigue and skep­ti­cism.

For some mem­bers, Bonta said, the rent cap mea­sure was al­ready “a heavy lift,” and pass­ing an­other con­tro­ver­sial mea­sure just wasn’t in the cards.

“AB 1482 mov­ing yes­ter­day was his­toric, un­prece­dented,” Bonta said. “But to­day wasn’t the day to get enough votes to get AB 1481 to off the floor.”

Though the stake­hold­ers said they found com­pro­mise, the re­vi­sions re­veal the pow­er­ful in­flu­ence Real­tors main­tain in the Capi­tol halls as Cal­i­for­nia seeks to ad­dress an on­go­ing cri­sis of hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity and home­less­ness.

“We’ve made one com­pro­mise af­ter an­other. We’ve been giv­ing and giv­ing and giv­ing,” said Amy Schur, cam­paign di­rec­tor with Cal­i­for­ni­ans for Com­mu­nity Em­pow­er­ment, in the lead-up to the vote. “We have ceded to one de­mand from (the Real­tors) af­ter an­other. If the real­tors are this un­will­ing to al­low ten­ant pro­tec­tions to ad­vance, the ball is squarely in the court of the leg­is­la­tors, the gov­er­nor and the speaker.”

The Keep Fam­i­lies Home coali­tion re­leased a state­ment fol­low­ing pas­sage of the rent cap mea­sure, say­ing its “grass­roots ef­fort” faced “one of the largest lob­by­ing cam­paigns in the state.”

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