Tenant Protections on the Ballot in November
Measure M, on the ballot for the City of Santa Cruz this November, 2018, is a three-part rent stabilization and protection plan for Santa Cruz, modeled after similar laws passed by voters in other California cities in recent years. The three sections are:
- Rent Control, including limits to yearly rent increases in protected rental units. These limits will be tied to inflation, based on the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index for the SF Bay Area.
- Just Cause for Eviction, to strengthen tenants’ right to remain in their rental units. Current state law allows landlords unrestrained use of eviction as a tool to increase their profits, by resetting controlled rents to market rates when a new tenant moves in, or to retaliate against a tenant who asks for repairs or is involved in a dispute. Therefore, for rent control to be effective, it must be paired with protections that allow evictions only for specific, valid reasons. Just Causes for Eviction due to action by the tenant include failure to pay rent, violating the terms of the lease, engaging in illegal activity, creating a nuisance, denying access, or refusing to sign a new lease. If tenants are forced to move due to no fault of their own, such as in the event of owner move-in or removal of the property from the rental market, landlords are required to pay relocation assistance to the tenants, to help defray the costs they incur by their displacement.
- Elected Rent Board, to administer the Rent Control law and provide legal assistance to tenants and landlords. The initial members of the Rent Board will be appointed by the City Council. Thereafter, like the City Council and other rent boards across the Bay Area, its members will be elected by, and fully accountable to, the voters of Santa Cruz. [link to sentinel article on cost of rent boards]
This proposition aims to repeal Costa Hawkins, the statewide restriction on local rent control laws. Costa Hawkins, as noted above, prohibits rent control from applying to many forms of housing, including single family homes and units built after 1995, and institutes vacancy decontrol, allowing units to be decontrolled as soon as a tenant leaves. Opponents have long argued that this unfairly restricts communities' ability to protect their residents, leaves thousands of California tenants vulnerable to rent hikes and unfair evictions, incentivizes landlords to evict rent controlled tenants, and ultimately erodes the stock of regulated units through decontrol. On the other hand, anti-tenant laws like Costa Hawkins are useful for big corporate landlords and Wall Street funds looking to buy up California’s housing, as we have seen over the previous two decades. Backers of Prop 10 argue that our housing laws should create opportunity for tenants, first-time homebuyers, and property owners who live and invest in their communities through repeal of Costa Hawkins. For more info, see:
What are: rent control, rent review boards, and just cause eviction protection?
What support services exist for tenants?
Who would be covered?
Why rent regulations are needed
Responding to common arguments against rent control
Early history, 1970s-2010s
The growing rent control movement
City of Santa Cruz Measure M
California Proposition 10