The Los Angeles Times Endorses Prop 21

Karen Ocamb News

Influencing Los Angeles County’s 5.6 million diverse registered voters is imperative for any statewide California campaign and having the endorsement of the state’s largest newspaper is significant. On Sept. 10, the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times endorsed Proposition 21 with a concise message: “Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 21. California has a housing crisis and cities should be able to protect tenants.”

Proposition 21 is the November ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases. It protects people against corporate landlord greed and keeps them in their homes. It’s supported by trusted civil leaders and organizations, such as U.S. Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, Congress members Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, the California Democratic Party, and now the Los Angeles Times, among numerous others.

The Times, the largest newspaper in California, made a strong case for the passage of Proposition 21.

“Here’s why: Rent control can be a helpful tool for cities struggling with gentrification, displacement and homelessness in a booming real estate market. But a state law, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995, restricts cities’ ability to enact or expand rent control programs to address their local conditions,” The Times said, adding that cities “are on the front lines” of the state’s housing crisis, and “need the flexibility to adopt policies in response, such as limits on rent increases or temporary rent freezes.”

“Proposition 21 would help,” the Editorial Board said. “Proposition 21 would allow cities to impose rent control on single-family houses or condos — if an individual owns more than two homes. That’s a reasonable response to the growing number of investment companies that have bought up single-family houses and become large-scale landlords.”

The Times also tackled the issue of “vacancy decontrol” that has too often enticed landlords to harass tenants out of their rent controlled units in order to jack up rents.  

“Under existing law, the landlord can reset the rent to market rate when there is a new tenant. Proposition 21 would allow cities to enact vacancy control in rent-controlled properties, but a landlord would have to be able to increase rents by up to 15% during the first three years after a new tenant moved in,” The Times said.

“Rent control is a balancing act. Research has shown that moderate rent stabilization laws can encourage residential stability and mixed-income communities and limit gentrification and displacement without discouraging new residential construction. More than a dozen cities in California have enacted rent control laws, and there’s little indication those moderate policies have been a significant drag on housing production. Los Angeles, which has rent control, has built more housing in the last few years than in nearly three decades.”

The Editorial also noted that “California’s first statewide rent control law — Assembly Bill 1482 — which limits annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation (which worked out to about 7% in L.A. County this year) and ensures tenants can’t be evicted without cause” only guards against “the most egregious rent hikes and they expire in 2030.”

The Times endorsement offered that a solution to California’s dire housing affordability crisis “is to build more housing, especially affordable housing.” 

“This is vital work to make California more affordable, but it will take years to construct enough homes to bring down prices,” said the LA Times endorsement. “Until then, rent control can be a helpful tool to provide housing stability.”