Two Sides of the California Rent Control Debate, in Silicon Valley and Beyond
Liam Dillon traces the fight for rent control in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View. After Mountain View voters passed a 2016 ballot initiative to control rent hikes, landlords launched an unsuccessful legal attempt to have it overturned. Then they tried to put another measure on the November ballot:
Their proposed initiative would limit rent control to households making less than the city’s median income, and suspend the system if the city had too many vacant rentals. Under the standard, rent control would only be in effect if fewer than 3% of rental units in the city were vacant — a level that hasn’t been reached since 2012, per U.S. Census data.
They were not able to get it on the ballot this year, so they are looking to 2020. In the meantime, California voters in November will decide on a state initiative, Proposition 10, which seeks to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. The law stymied most types of rent control by limiting it to buildings constructed before 1995, excluding single-family homes, and freezing rent control in some cities.
As the Proposition 10 battle rages on, rent control remains in place in Mountain View. “The city limits annual rent hikes in those apartments to an inflation figure set by the rent board the initiative established, and landlords are able to petition the board for larger increases to finance improvements,” reports Dillon.
For some renters, rent control allowed them to stay in Mountain View when otherwise they would have been priced out. Opponents say that landlords are more inclined to sell their properties to developers. But, says Dillon, the data do not fully support this argument or the claims that rent control will cause new housing construction to decrease.