Although the right to adequate housing is recognized internationally, the gap between this broadly accepted human rights principle and the view of housing rights within the U.S. reflects an incoherent reality to our stated values of compassion for all, regardless of station in life. This divide is all the more disturbing when you consider the enormous economic power and wealth of our country.
Having adequate housing free from the fear of losing one’s home directly affects other human rights. Without it, getting and keeping a job, healthcare and education are difficult, social relationships break down and the exposure to possible violence increases greatly. Having to choose between housing or food, health care, clothing, and many other necessities of life is especially stressful on the working poor and elderly.
California remains a place of haves, have-littles and have-nots, with the quality of services, schools and infrastructure depending on ZIP code. Many housing markets across the state have not recovered from the crash of 2008. Yet, in our urban centers, a six-figure income is required for a basic apartment. The Ellis Act and other anti-renter laws at the local and state level make living where you work a non-starter for working families.
The voice and will of neighborhood residents must be taken in greater consideration when it comes to rent control. Without it, traditional neighborhoods cease being diverse and livable. The Ellis Act must be reformed to prevent its use as a tool to raise rents. And tougher enforcement mechanisms to go after landlords and owners who violate rent freezes must be put in place. Tenants ought to be able to count on the stability that comes with a 10-year freeze and one-year advance notice in any changes of their contracts. Though it failed in committee in 2017, I supported AB 982, which would have extended the Ellis Act eviction notice from 90 days to 12 months.
In addition, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act constrains local communities from enacting their own rent control by preventing any buildings from 1995 on to be subject to rent control. Its presence allows the break-up of rent-controlled neighborhoods and is also used to raise rents. After supporting the failed bid of AB 1506 in 2017, I supported Prop 10 last year, which called for the repeal of Costa-Hawkins and which would have allowed local governments to determine which rent controls are appropriate for them. Though the measure failed, we must not relent on the fight for more affordable rent!
I support inclusionary housing policies in greater suburban areas as a way to address the cycle of poverty and struggle that low- and extremely low-income households must contend with in neighborhoods that suffer from a lack of infrastructure, quality schools and services. And just like rental freezes, housing built with government subsidies should remain affordable much longer than what is typically required with such programs. The key here is community stability in all aspects. We must put people before profits.