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Opinion: Newsom Should Continue Working With The Legislature On The Housing Crisis. Prop. 21 Isn’t The Answer

Opinion: Newsom Should Continue Working With The Legislature On The Housing Crisis. Prop. 21 Isn’t The Answer

Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton outlines why Prop. 21 isn’t the right answer to California’s housing affordability crisis.

Proposition 21 “will discourage housing construction at a time when we desperately need it,” Carlton says. “No builder is going to build in a city with the rent control this allows. They’ll just build next door. And tenants will have long drives.

“It’s going to make a bad situation worse.”

California’s rent control is already confusing, varying from place to place. Each city is allowed to adopt its own controls, within state restrictions.

Basically, there can’t be controls on housing built in 1995 or after. Nor can there be on other apartments constructed before 1995 if a city already had rent control then.

In Los Angeles, rent regulations can’t be imposed on any apartment built after 1978.

Landlords also can’t be told what they can charge new renters the first time.

Under Proposition 21, cities and counties could substantially expand their rent control to most housing more than 15 years old.

Rents for single-family homes would be controlled unless the owner had only two such dwellings — counting a personal residence. And even then, the home would need to be in a person’s name, not a trust or a partnership.

Landlords would be limited to how much they could raise the rent on new tenants — 15% all at once or over three years.

Opponents say this wouldn’t provide landlords enough rent to fix up a unit badly in need of repairs.

“I would no longer continue to invest in California,” says Al Wong of San Francisco, who owns several fourplexes and small apartment buildings. “I’d say, ‘Sorry. I can’t do this. This is not a business anymore. I’m going to go to Washington or Idaho or Nevada.’”

Rene Moya, the Proposition 21 campaign director, points out that 30% of California’s renters pay at least half of their earnings in rent — far too much to also afford utilities and food.

But voters apparently aren’t convinced. A recent poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that likely voters are split — 37% yes, 37% no and 26% undecided.

I’m a no.

If California wants to control rents, government should build public housing.

Also, provide generous rent subsidies.

Newsom and the Legislature should compromise on a bill to impose new zoning requirements that allow for more multifamily housing. And streamline building regulations while reducing fees.

Don’t put all the burden on private enterprise.

Read more here.

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