Landlords Protest Proposed Rent Control Changes at Assembly Housing Hearing

An Assembly bill that would repeal state limits on rent control laws drew protest Friday at a hearing in San Francisco from landlords who said it would put many of them out of business and take housing units off the market.

Assembly Bill 1506 would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, which prohibits rent control on units built after 1995, exempts single-family homes and condos and allows landlords to raise rents to market value between tenants.

Introduced by Santa Monica Assemblyman Richard Bloom last month with the backing of San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu and Oakland Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the bill would allow local jurisdictions to set their own laws.

AB 1506 is only one of more than 100 bills on housing affordability and homelessness related issues introduced in this year's legislative session, Chiu said.

An Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee hearing held in San Francisco Friday, one of a series of such hearings to be held throughout the state, was intended to highlight those efforts and allow local housing experts to weigh in.

A large group of landlords from San Francisco and San Jose, however, made it clear that the issues would not be easy to resolve. They complained that the legislation would make it difficult for small property owners to continue renting to tenants and said legislators should instead focus on building more affordable housing.

"This is the same sort of law that caused thousands of units to be abandoned across New York City, the owners just couldn't maintain their buildings," said Noni Richen, president of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco.

Richen argued that increasing rent control restrictions would lead to the creation of more vacant units in the city and increase the housing shortage.

The bill is expected to draw the support of tenants' organizations. One San Francisco-based group, Tenants Together, described Costa-Hawkins as a "failed" law that has "exacerbated California's affordable housing crisis.

"The Act unfairly ties the hands of cities that are attempting to deal with runaway housing costs at the local level," the group said in a statement after the bill was introduced.

Chiu, who is committee chairman, emphasized that legislators were looking at a range of solutions, ranging from finding ways to build more affordable housing to ensuring that cities and counties build the housing they are supposed to be building, as well as ways to protect tenants from displacements.

"These are not easy conversations," Chiu said. "If we don't work together, we're going to be stalemated, and what we'll be left with is the highest rents in the country and the highest housing costs."

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