The state assemblymember representing Santa Monica introduced a bill earlier this month to expand rent control to all buildings older than 10 years old, including single family homes, with an exception for small landlords.

Richard Bloom revealed Assembly Bill 36 alongside a suite of other tenant protection bills that call for policies that Santa Monica has already put into effect, such as just-cause evictions and a rental registry. The proposals follow last year’s defeat of Proposition 10, which would have repealed the Costa-Hawkins Act and paved the way for rent control across California.

The Daily Press spoke with Bloom about his bill, why he thinks it can pass and what opposition it will face.

SMDP: Why do you feel expanding rent control in the way you propose is the best way to address the housing crisis?

RB: The bill proposes some changes in rent control that are much more modest than what has been proposed in the past. Voters made a pretty clear statement on Prop. 10, which was a fairly blanket change in rent control law. This is a much more nuanced approach and part of that is going to be a serious negotiation with all sides so we can reach an accommodation that helps tenants stay in their units. The bill sets out a starting point for discussions with proponents and opponents.

There is a tremendous amount of pressure on tenants today given rising rents around the state. We see that in rising homelessness and lower quality of life for many Californians because they’re spending more of their income on rent. Right now, anything built after 1995 is not permitted to be rent-controlled. As our housing stock ages and more units are built, less and less of the housing stock is rent-controlled.

Nothing is mandated by A.B. 36. It allows local governments to take advantage of these provisions if they want to. Some cities will, some won’t, but it doesn’t mandate adoption of a rent-control ordinance.

SMDP: Why did you decide on a 10-year mark for rent control and why did you decide to include single-family housing?

RB: Both of these provisions are commonly discussed by housing advocates as being provisions that will help stem the tide of spiraling rents over time.

SMDP: What do you think of the critique that your bill would incentivize landlords to get out of the rental business or developers not to build housing?

RB: We’ve seen that generally is not the case in rent-controlled jurisdictions. Developers have the Ellis Act they can use to address that issue, and while I prefer it not be used, they do have that opportunity. We see around the state where we have rent-controlled jurisdictions where housing production continues apace. Santa Monica is a good example.

I try hard to understand the opposition’s point of view, but everyone agrees we have a crisis on our hands. All sides on the issue agree that we need to provide mechanisms for building more housing, but the 1.4 million unit shortage that needs to be made up is not going to happen overnight, so the question we’re trying to address here is: How do we help those tenants who are faced with eviction today because of increasing housing costs? There are 160,000 families in California faced with eviction on an annual basis. That’s in large part because they’re unable to make rent because they’ve faced an unaffordable increase in rent, and for many, the next stop is the street.

All sides understand that, and that’s why there’s an interest in seeing if we can find common ground. I specifically crafted this measure to open those conversations and discussions will be moving forward in short order with groups on all sides.

madeleine@smdp.com

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