On Thursday, May 25, Housing Is A Human Right and its parent organization, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, delivered more than 800,000 signatures to California officials to repeal statewide rent control restrictions through a 2024 ballot measure. The signature-gathering effort far exceeded the 546,651 that were needed. Activists, elected officials, and labor leaders announced the milestone at a press conference at Los Angeles City Hall.
“The root cause of the problem,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein, referring to the housing affordability and homelessness crises, “is that the rent is too damn high.”
Known as the Justice for Renters Act, the initiative will simply repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a state law pushed by the real estate industry that placed restrictions on rent control. Costa-Hawkins, for example, stops local governments from passing updated rent control policies. But when voters approve the Justice for Renters Act, localities can quickly address the ongoing housing affordability and homelessness crises and establish up-to-date rent regulations.
Housing justice activists have been seeking to repeal or reform Costa-Hawkins for decades. In 2018, AHF and HHR attempted to do that through a statewide ballot measure known as Proposition 10 – but the real estate industry spent more than $77 million to kill the initiative. In 2020, AHF and HHR sought to reform Costa-Hawkins through another ballot measure, Proposition 21. Corporate landlords and Big Real Estate shelled out nearly $100 million to stop that effort.
“Year after year after year,” said Weinstein, “the California Apartment Association and the California Association of Realtors kill any meaningful reform [of Costa-Hawkins] and any rent-stabilization and rent regulation. We just can’t take it anymore… Everyone knows that housing affordability and homelessness is the number one issue.”
Labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta said at the press conference: “Rents get higher and higher and higher, and people often cannot afford to pay those rents. We have farmworkers, low-income families, mothers with children, and unless we do this, unless we have justice for renters, our homeless population will increase.”
Yesenia Miranda Meza of Pomona United for Stable Housing added: “I’m here to urge everyone in the state of California to vote for the Justice for Renters Act. It is imperative that we vote on the measure. We are facing a crisis.”
The facts bear that out: homeless deaths have increased for the seventh year in a row in Los Angeles; seniors make up the fastest-growing homeless population in California; sky-high rents are fueling homelessness; and corporate landlords seek obscene profits by continually charging unfair, excessive rents.
But Californians can fight back by passing the Justice for Renters Act in November 2024. Top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley found that rent control will quickly stabilize the housing affordability crisis and prevent people from falling into homelessness. Despite the lies of the real estate industry, rent control works.