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Proposed Ballot Initiative to Repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act

In October of 2017, a proposed ballot initiative entitled the “Affordable Housing Act for the California November 2018 Ballot” was submitted to the California Attorney General’s Office. In addition to repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (“Costa-Hawkins”), the ballot initiative would allow local governments to adopt amendments, ordinances or regulations to govern how much owners can charge residents for renting apartments and houses.

Costa-Hawkins was passed in 1995 in response to draconian vacancy control ordinances in place at the time in several California communities. The law allows cities and counties to continue to implement local rent control laws, but within specific parameters. Costa-Hawkins says that housing constructed after 1995 is exempt from local rent control and preserves the same exemption for any new housing already in place before February 1, 1995. Further, single-family homes and condominiums are also exempt from local rent control under the law. Finally, Costa-Hawkins allows rental property owners the freedom to establish their own rental rates at the time of a change in tenancy.

In response to this ballot initiative, the California Responsible Housing Coalition (“the Coalition”) was formed. The group includes leading apartment housing firms like Essex, Equity Residential, Western National, Camden, Irvine and AvalonBay. This group is coordinating industry advocacy against the ballot initiative, should it make it onto the November ballot.

Tenant advocacy groups are now actively working to get the 365,880 signatures required to get the initiative on the ballot. According to state rules, they have until June 25, 2018 to do this. In addition to working with the Coalition, NAA is developing an awareness and outreach plan in coordination with the National Multifamily Housing Council. Because the ramifications of the ballot initiative extend beyond the borders of California, the awareness campaign will be executed nationally.