Californians could vote on a ballot initiative to expand the power of local governments to enact rent control in 2020. The campaign behind the ballot initiative filed around 1 million signatures on December 5, 2019. At least 623,212 signatures need to be valid for the measure to appear on the ballot.
Counties will first conduct a random sample of signatures to determine whether enough valid signatures were filed. If the random sample projects that more than 685,534 signatures, which is 110 percent of the required minimum, are valid, then the measure qualifies for the ballot. If the projection is between 95 percent and 110 percent of the requirement, a check of each signature will be conducted. If the projection is less than 95 percent of the requirement, the initiative fails to make the ballot.
In 2018, 59 percent of voters rejected Proposition 10, which would have allowed local governments to adopt rent control on any type of rental housing. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which is headed by Michael Weinstein, co-sponsored Proposition 10 and an AHF division called Housing Is A Human Right is sponsoring the campaign in support of the 2020 ballot initiative. Rand Martin, a lobbyist for AHF, said, “The one lesson we learned from Proposition 10 is that the voters were not interested in a wholesale repeal of Costa Hawkins. But the other message we got in polling and focus groups is that people believe there are excesses to Costa Hawkins and there needs to be reforms.” Tom Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association, opposed Proposition 10 in 2018. He said, “Voters overwhelming rejected the measure the last time it was on the ballot. Once we educate voters about Weinstein’s latest housing-freeze measure, it’s bound to fail just as miserably as Prop. 10.”
Unlike Proposition 10, the new proposal was designed to exempt some units from rent control. Exemptions would be made for (a) units first occupied within the last 15 years and (b) residential units owned by landlords who own no more than two properties. The new initiative would also require that local governments allow landlords to increase rental rates by 15 percent during the first three years following a vacancy.
The campaigns surrounding Proposition 10 raised a combined $96.66 million. Opponents of Proposition 10 raised $71.37 million, with the largest contribution ($8 million) coming from the California Association of Realtors. Supporters raised $25.30 million. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation provided 89.0 percent of the campaign’s funds. As of the most recent deadline on September 30, 2019, the campaign behind the new initiative has raised $2.26 million, which all came from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
If the ballot initiative qualifies for the 2020 ballot, it will be the fourth citizen-initiated measure to do so. The deadline for signatures to be verified for ballot initiatives is June 25, 2020. A total of 44 initiatives have been proposed for the California ballot this election cycle.
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