California voters will soon get a third chance to expand rent control rules statewide after the Secretary of State announced that supporters of a measure that would let cities put new restrictions on how much landlords can hike the rent have gathered enough signatures to put it on the November 2024 ballot.

A state law known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995 currently puts limitations on local rent control regulations. The current rules prevent cities from limiting rents between tenants (allowing the units to hit market rate when a new tenant moves in), from establishing rent control on any unit first occupied after Feb. 1 1995, in single family homes or condominiums.

The newly qualified measure, known as the Justice for Renters Act, would repeal Costa-Hawkins

“This measure would repeal that state law and would prohibit the state from limiting the right of cities and counties to maintain, enact, or expand residential rent-control ordinances,” said the announcement.

Similar propositions have been put to the public twice in recent years. Prop. 10 failed by 19 points in 2018 and Prop. 21 also failed by a similar margin in 2020.

A more recent state law put a California-wide cap on rent hikes of no more than 5% plus inflation with an absolute maximum of 10% (in Santa Monica, rent control increases are capped at 3% after voters reduced it from 6% in the last election).

Backers of the act submitted more than 810,000 signatures and officials verified over 617,000 signatures—substantially more than the 546,651 valid California voter signatures required by its random sample count method to qualify the measure to go before voters in November 2024.

At a virtual press conference, Michael Weinstein, the controversial head of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the chief financial backer of all three campaigns to date, said the third time may be the charm — if only because the rent continues to be too damn high for so many Californians.

“The situation has gotten so extreme and dire and catastrophic…. We can never give up, that’s the bottom line,” he said.

Several prominent Santa Monicans including former elected officials, SMRR leadership and community advocates (Tony Vasquez, Sue Himmelrich, Denny Zane and Ernie Powell) have been backing the measure.

Rent Control Commissioner Anastasia Foster said changes are necessary.

“Costa-Hawkins has been in place in Santa Monica for 24 years. This law has single-handedly eroded the affordability of our controlled stock and stymied the mobility of renters up and down the state. Any common sense changes to it are welcome,” she said. “While we need new affordable housing, our rent-controlled stock has been the cornerstone of the ability to stay in our community for renters of every income level. Costa-Hawkins should be amended to keep California’s great cities diverse and accessible to all.”

The California Apartment Association (CAA) opposes the measure saying it would drastically slow the construction of affordable housing and contribute to the state’s homelessness crisis.

An estimate of the measures fiscal impact by the Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance said the measure had the potential to reduce state and local revenues in the high tens of millions of dollars per year over time but depending on actions by local communities, revenue losses could be less or more.

CalMatters contributed to this report.

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...