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Santa Monica Lawmaker's Rental Bill Fails to Pass Committee

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By Jorge Casuso

January 12, 2018 -- In a major victory for landlords, a state bill introduced by Santa Monica lawmaker Richard Bloom that would allow California cities to expand rent control failed to pass out of committee Thursday.

AB 1506 -- which failed on a 3-2 vote in a raucous meeting of the Assembly's Housing and Community Development Committee -- would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that dealt a major blow to rent control in cities such as Santa Monica.

Co-written with Assemblymembers David Chiu (D–San Francisco) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Bloom's bill would allow cities to enact rent control ordinances, such as the one approved by Santa Monica voters in 1979.

The bill would include single family homes and new construction.

"Rising rents continue to be an issue facing so many of our constituents," a KPCC report quoted Bloom as saying. "We can agree that it's not one that is easy to address, but address it we must, and there are very few tools available to us.

"This is the most important and the most obvious one," the former Santa Monica mayor said.

But the committee on Thursday expressed doubts that the bill, which was so soundly opposed it failed to get a hearing last year, would alleviate a statewide housing crisis.

Supporters of the bill vowed to continue fighting, even if it meant taking the issue directly to the voters in the form of a ballot measure, according to reports.

They are encouraged by a poll released in September showing that six in ten voters across California -- and even more in metro L.A. -- would embrace a rent control law in their cities ("Santa Monica Provides Lesson as Interest in Rent Control on the Rise," September 21, 2017).

Supports of Bloom's bill argue that repealing Costa-Hawkins would help rein in skyrocketing rents.

Last March, the city's Rent Control Board voted unanimously to endorse Bloom’s bill ("Santa Monica Rent Board Endorses State Bills to Turn Back Clock on Housing Lease Laws," March 24, 2017).

In doing so, it cited statistics that show a household income of more than $100,000 is needed to afford a home with two or more bedrooms and that the average rent in Santa Monica has nearly doubled since Costa-Hawkins was enacted.

Supporters of Costa-Hawkins argue the 1995 law gives landlords incentive to upgrade their properties by allowing them to charge market rents when a unit is vacated.

Repealing the law would restrict construction of new housing and remove existing rentals from the market.


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