While socialism recognizes that the right to housing is universal and guaranteed regardless of economic conditions, under capitalism shelter is a commodity used to maximize profit at the expense of human need.
The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act prioritizes the profits of landlords, developers, and the financial institutions that lend to them above California residents and their basic right to shelter. As one part of the larger struggle for housing justice, Democratic Socialists of America – Los Angeles (DSA-LA) supports efforts to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, by Assembly Bill 1506 (Bloom), a statewide popular ballot measure, or otherwise.
WHAT IS COSTA-HAWKINS?
The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act is a 1995 state law that prevents local municipalities from enacting strict rent control statutes, and severely restricts the effectiveness of existing measures throughout California. Under Costa-Hawkins, buildings built after 1995, single-family houses, and condos cannot be covered by any rent control law. Additionally, Costa-Hawkins mandates that landlords be allowed to raise the rental price of rent-controlled units to the market rate once the “last original occupant” vacates the unit.
California is in the midst of a housing crisis. Across the state, landlords, developers, and investors are making exorbitant profits as rents have become detached from wages. Since 2000, rents in Los Angeles have risen 32% while median incomes have dropped 3%, resulting in massive displacement and economic hardship. The dire lack of affordable or public housing fuels grotesque inequality, homelessness and the highest poverty rate in the nation. In L.A. alone there are 1.2 million rent-burdened tenants and nearly 58,000 homeless people, an increase of 23% over a single year.
Rising rents result in widespread displacement, destroying low-income neighborhoods, especially black, brown, recently-immigrated, and trans/queer communities. Across Los Angeles, from Hollywood to Highland Park and beyond, Latinx communities are being priced out of their neighborhoods by upscale “redevelopment,” an urban cleansing that forces thousands to move elsewhere. Since the 1980s, significant rental cost increases and a lack of access to quality jobs have lead to the shrinking of L.A.’s Black population by over 100,000 residents. Concurrently, the number of rent-stabilized units in Los Angeles is rapidly shrinking as landlords exploit legal loopholes to evict tenants and convert units into AirBnBs or luxury condos.
Market-driven development alongside current laws and policies have failed to protect our neighborhoods. With Los Angeels expected to host the 2028 Olympics and having recently been voted the number one location in North America to buy property in a survey of global real estate investors, these trends show no sign of slowing down as profit-driven development continues to boom.
WHY COSTA-HAWKINS SHOULD BE REPEALED
The Costa-Hawkins Act prevents Los Angeles and other cities from addressing the housing and homelessness crisis by significantly limiting local municipalities’ ability to enact strong rent control. As a first step to combatting market-driven displacement, we must repeal Costa-Hawkins.
We must then proceed, with as much grassroots community involvement as possible, to craft strong Rent Stabilization Laws all across California that protect tenants and put the needs of the people above profit. We support current local efforts to enact rent control in Glendale, Inglewood, Pasadena and Long Beach, and advocate for the creation of rent control in areas such as Burbank, Downey, Torrance and the unincorporated areas of L.A. County.
We also recognize that the current housing crisis has many causes, and that bold, comprehensive solutions are desperately needed to achieve housing justice. Until market control of housing under capitalism can be eradicated Rent control is but one strategy to ensure that the right to shelter is guaranteed for all residents in Los Angeles.
BEYOND RENT CONTROL: PROTECTING TENANTS
We further demand:
- A fundamental redistribution of resources and power in regards to housing.
- “Just cause” eviction protections for all renters and guaranteed legal representation for any tenant facing eviction.
- Robust protections against tenant harassment and slum conditions, including increased state and city funding for enforcement of regulations.
- Law prohibiting landlords from passing on cost of capital improvements to tenants, whether improvements are mandatory (e.g. retrofits) or not.
- An assessment of Ellis Act evictions and its impact on tenant displacement.
- A full repeal of the Ellis Act.
- A temporary rent freeze with future rent increases tied to a regional-based Consumer Price Index (CPI).
- Stronger enforcement of current regulations and expanded restrictions on the use and conversion of housing units into short-term rental businesses such as AirBnB.
- A vacancy rate analysis, a vacancy tax on property owners of commercial and residential units for the purpose of funding affordable housing, public housing, and homelessness prevention, and funding for the enforcement of a vacancy tax.
- An increase in the business license tax on residential rental units, that cannot be passed on to tenants, for the purpose of funding affordable housing, public housing, and homelessness prevention.
- The creation and prioritization of non-commodified housing – public housing, communal housing, and community land trusts – funded through increased taxation on residential developers, investors, and property owners.
- Low-income and fully subsidized ADA-accessible housing for all people with physical disabilities or chronic physical illness.
- Permanent supportive housing for all who need it.
- Housing for all and an end to homelessness.