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Rent control gets teeth

The California State Assembly approved a bill on May 4 that will restore the power of local governments to bring affordable rental units to their jurisdictions.

The bill by Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, a Democrat whose district includes Agoura Hills, David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) needed 41 votes to pass the Assembly. The final vote on AB 1505 was 47-23.

“Housing costs across the state have increased exponentially and absent corrective action there is no end in sight,” Bloom said. “Given our state’s severe housing crisis, it is critical that we give local governments every tool to address affordable housing needs. This bill returns one of our most important and effective tools.”

Approximately 170 cities and counties in the state use so-called inclusionary housing policies to complement other local, state and federal programs in addressing California’s affordable dwelling shortage.

A 2009 appellate court decision, however, blocked the ability of local governments to set policies regarding affordable rents. The ruling was said to have conflated rent control, which is regulated by the state, and deed-restricted affordable housing, which is not—leaving local governments and housing advocates in a quandary over how to proceed with their future inclusionary policies.

AB 1505 allows local governments to resume their role in requiring developers and landlords to set aside a certain number of affordable rental units, effectively restoring the power that the cities and counties had prior to 2009.

“The City of Agoura Hills is fully aware of the state’s housing crises, especially in regard to the lack of affordable housing opportunities,” City Manager Greg Ramirez said. “AB 1505 appears to be another tool that jurisdictions can consider applying to address their local affordable housing needs.”

AB 1505 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The city will consider the issue of lower rents once the bill becomes law, Ramirez said.

The bill does not give local governments any new authority that they did not have prior to 2009, nor does it dictate what local housing policies should look like, officials said.

Under AB 1505, the question of affordable rent and affordable housing remains a local decision—with input from local stakeholders—in determining what mix of policies make sense for each community.

The bill is backed by the Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Housing Consortium, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Housing California, and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California.

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