In historic vote, Democratic Party supports rent control

Although landlord lobbyists control the state Capitol, the party members overwhelmingly sent a pro-tenant message last weekend

Here’s some big news from last weekend’s California Democratic Party Convention that won’t make the papers: Delegates voted to pass a resolution expressing “the Support of the California Democratic Party in Protecting Renters from No-Fault Evictions and Illegal or Excessive Rent Increases and Support Rent Stabilization.”

You read that right: The California Democratic Party supports rent control and just cause for eviction.

This is a big deal. Many California Democratic lawmakers are in the pocket of the real estate industry, just like Republicans. They regularly vote against tenants to make sure they continue getting landlord and realtor money. Just recently, only 24 of 80 legislators voted for Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s bill to stop Ellis Act evictions of SRO hotel units in Oakland. If you are scratching your head as to how a narrow bill to stop evictions of some of the most vulnerable tenants in Oakland could lose by a landslide in the California Assembly where Democrats have a two-thirds majority, you obviously haven’t been in the halls of the Capitol recently, where landlord and realtor lobbyists are ever-present and legislators shamelessly parrot industry talking points.

What is increasingly clear is that the Real Estate Democrats are out of step with voters and grassroots party delegates who overwhelmingly support rent control and eviction protections. In this time of high rents and unfair evictions, calls for basic renter protections are getting louder. For the first time in over 30 years, new California cities (Richmond and Mountain View) passed rent control last year at the ballot. Already this year, three more California cities have passed local just cause for eviction laws. Breaking new ground at the state level, there is a bill, AB 1506 (Bloom, Chiu, Bonta), to repeal the dreadful state Costa-Hawkins law that prohibits cities from passing stronger rent control laws.

“We talked with delegates from across the state about this issue at the convention, and their excitement was palpable,” noted Deepa Varma, a delegate from AD 17 and one of the resolution’s authors. “Rents are going sky high in their districts and they want tools to keep people housed.” Varma also authored a successful resolution calling on the state to invest more in affordable housing. Both resolutions were heard on an urgency basis. Of more than 100 resolutions, only about 18 were prioritized to be heard on the convention floor, including the two housing resolutions.

On the convention floor, activists were energized. Delegates from across the state chanted “housing is a human right.” Tenant and labor leaders like Varma (SF Tenants Union), Larry Gross (Coalition for Economic Survival, Amy Erb (CNA), Alysabeth Alexander (SEIU 1021), and many more chanted at the top of their lungs. Nobody rose to defend rent increases and evictions. The hall exploded with “ayes” in favor of the resolution, and cheers filled the room.

This followed a packed meeting just hours before, convened by party activists Guillermo Elenes, Rick Hauptman, and Mari Perez-Ruiz, among others, to kick off the formation of a CDP Renters’ Caucus, a sorely needed voice within the party.

Here’s the full resolution approved on the floor Saturday. Congratulations to resolution Authors Deepa Varma, AD17; Dotty LeMieux, AD10; Jane Demian, AD51; and Susie Shannon, AD50. The measure also had more than 100 sponsors. And a special shout out to Santa Cruz City Councilmember Richelle Noroyan who introduced the amendment taken on the floor to strengthen the resolution to explicitly reference support for “rent stabilization.”

RESOLUTION 17–05.81

Expressing the Support of the California Democratic Party in Protecting Renters from No-Fault Evictions and Illegal or Excessive Rent Increases and Support Rent Stabilization

WHEREAS rent control has provided seniors, the disabled and low income tenants with stabilized housing and maintained the integrity of neighborhoods and communities throughout California; and

WHEREAS evictions due to rent de-control and the sale of buildings subject to rent control have led to hundreds of thousands of tenants being displaced under Ellis Act and Costa Hawkins evictions, with over 22,000 units lost due to Ellis Act evictions in Los Angeles alone since 2001, 5,300 units lost due to Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco since 2001, and increasing the number of homeless in California neighborhoods; and

WHEREAS the California Democratic Party recognizes in its platform that shelter (including affordable housing) are among the basic human rights of all individuals;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Democratic Party affirm its commitment to prevent homelessness and protect renters by opposing no-fault evictions and illegal or excessive rent increases and support rent stabilization; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to each member of the Democratic delegation in the CA State Legislature.

The challenge now is to make sure Democratic lawmakers and candidates listen to their constituents and grassroots party leaders. Real estate money still dominates Sacramento and change will not come overnight. But for those helping to bend the arc of the moral universe toward housing justice, this represents an important step forward.

  • Heart

    Momentum continues to grow….in San Francisco…throughout the Golden State and across the nation. Also: across the globe! Housing IS a human right. Thank you Deepa Varma and delegates. Onward!

    • Don Sebastopol

      The government will give you the right to a studio apartment in Fresno. If this will be a national right then maybe a little larger unit in Fargo.

  • Milo Schneider

    Economists say that rent control just makes housing more expensive. But who believes what economists have to say about economics, anyway?

    • chris12bb

      Seems to be the way of the world these days to dismiss experts

  • Heart

    “Economists say that rent control just makes housing more stable. But who believes what economists have to say about economics, anyway.”
    There. I fixed it.

    • Don Sebastopol

      That may very well be. Is there less turnover in rent controlled apartments? The most stable neighborhoods are owner occupied. That should be one of the positive aspects of the Ellis Act. Unfortunately, there are so few Ellis conversions it hardly makes a difference.

      • curiousKulak

        Ellis = <2% of units over the last 15 yrs. Sounds like a safety-valve to me.

        • No to Socialism

          “Democrats say that rent control just makes housing more stable. But who believes what economists have to say about economics, anyway.”
          There. I corrected your fix.

        • Don Sebastopol

          But that will be over 10% in 100 years, a very large number making it a crisis. The cumulative mortality number over 100 years is also a disturbingly large number.

          The promise of Ellis is that it would help young people get into the housing market as the units would be more affordable.

    • curiousKulak

      More stable, perhaps, but also more precipitous.

      Thus, your rent may not rise 20-50%. And you may reside there for months/years/decades. But at some point its likely that the owner will not want you there any more, and for a variety of legitimate reasons you find yourself again looking for housing. Unfortunately, most of the other housing is taken by people like you who are ensconced in their cheap units and won’t or can’t move. That leaves you – or any other newcomer – SOL.

      I luv this idea of “housing is a right”. Where does that come from?

      • Sanchez Resident

        Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You can google that and get the details and history.

        • Cynthia

          There is a vast difference between a need and a right.

  • Howard Epstein

    This shows that the Democrat Party has been taken over by neo-socialists/communists who hide behind the “progressive” title to obfuscate their true political ideology. They want to turn California into another Venezuela.

  • MNJAM

    Economics is a theoretical science. That’s why economists pontificate all the time There is very little in economics that can be proven as fact. Sometimes rent control can be a deterrent to landlords. On the other hand, there are countries where almost everyone rents and rent control is nearly universal. These countries have lower populations of homeless people.

    • No to Socialism

      We are the USA and should never compare ourselves to anyone, we are free and we should never give that up for anything, and in particular, government handouts.
      Any government control of free enterprise is bad, it eliminates competition, it leads to dependence on government, stifles growth, concentrates wealth to just a handfull number of multinational corporations. Wait, sounds to me like Nazi Germany just before the second world war!!! The hazard is huge and potential consequences are enormous.
      Landlords invest in real estate projects risking their own, hard earned money. If I can’t afford to live in more expensive neighborhood, I move to where my personal economic status allows me to, rather than demanding that landlords subsidize my housing. I use that as a motivation to advance and improve my financial wellbeing Soon, people will be demanding Bristol Farms to subsidize their grocery bill. By the way, I really like to drive a Bentley, maybe we should all vote to have Bentley subsidize, let’s say, 50% of the cost…
      At this rate, soon, all rentals will be government subsidized projects and we all know the consequences of that.
      By the way, I think we should have a ballot where people who live in landlord-subsidised (rent controlled) units, should have there incomes, reviewed by the government, to make sure they actually don’t make slot of money, spend it responsibly, have their income capped and regulated.
      I just can’t believe how we all love our crooked (for the most part) elected officials, as long as they pretend to be passing out hand outs. By giving up freedom, is the biggest and most expensive way to pay.
      Viva Socialism!!!

      • MKR

        The old socialism leads to Nazis taking over…The same old mantra repeated by Fox news over and over again and it gets kind of boring…time to change the channel and find something new to repeat

        • No to Socialism

          You are correct, people should stop watching Fox news, change the channel and start reading history books, talk to people who know, so they can learn about this and the meaning of it. And only then make an educated opinion, which is based on facts rather than idealogy. Blaming it on the news outlet, is an old mantra as well.

          I was born and raised in the USSR and was able to escape in the early 80’s. After the collapse, visited and traveled all over Europe, lived in Germany and Denmark. The USA I came to is no longer the same and it starts to feel like it used to when I lived in USSR. My opinion is based not on theory or some utopian idea but rather on personal knowledge and experience.
          I guess for some, it is hard to comprehend this because in order to really appreciate what one has, he first must lose it. However, this is a very dangerous slope that has a potential of costing dearly.
          So if I understand you correctly, you would be ok to live on a government handout and relinquish your freedom in exchange, you’re ok if you invest your hard earned money and have the government force you to take a portion and just give it to the ones in need, etc.
          Ignorance is a bliss!!!

          • MKR

            If you are smart you should get out and move to canada the U.S. Is not a great place to be right now

          • No to Socialism

            You must’ve misinterpreted something – I said US is a great country and I want to keep it this way, I don’t want to lose it. Regretfully, the trend is not good and unfortunately, it is being pushed by both political parties.

            In terms of the history, don’t take my word for it but rather form your own opinion based on true historical facts and not Fox/CNN conspiracy theories. You should read and educate yourself on History and stop watching Fox/CNN news. Please, for your own sake, don’t form your opinions on the nonsense media is peddling. Knowledge is power and ignorance is a bliss!

            Regarding Canada, you’re correct, it has everything you want, not me. Instead of trying to change the USA, why don’t you just move there, it would be a win-win for everyone. If you like Canada, you will love Norway.

          • MKR

            The real problem with the California housing market is overpopulation . Too many people want to live there which drives the price of housing to unrealistic levels. In areas of the country with lower population density there is no talk of rent control.
            If you want to have a civil conversation with someone it is best to not accuse the person of being ignorant

          • No to Socialism

            Just to clarify, I don’t think you’re ignorant, quite contrary. What is the point of having a conversation with someone who is ignorant. Some of your comments I may view as ignorant but it has nothing to do with your intelligence level or personality, but rather, it has to do with you not knowing, not understanding, not caring, whatever it may be. So please, do not take it personally.

          • MKR

            You don’t necessarily have to lose what you have to appreciate it. And no country is the same as it was 40 years ago, governments always evolve as the old leaders die out and are replaced. On the other hand, rent control isn’t creeping socialism. If you want to be free from government regulation in your house then buy a house and live in it, don’t rent it out. Once you rent your home to others in a tight housing market you are going to be faced with some regulations.
            The question of how much the US government should regulate business has been debated for centuries, it will probably always be debated. Some businesses just need more regulation that’s all. Even the old free market capitalist Adam Smith agreed with that. When it comes to banking and finance, rules are different. Banks inherently require more regulation. When it comes to medicine rules are different. Doctors have to be regulated so they don’t write unlimited morphine prescriptions for profit. And when it comes to housing most people think there should be some rules to avoid exploitation and abuse.
            But if you have a problem with these rules there is a simple solution. Don’t go into the rental business.

          • No to Socialism

            You said it perfectly – “But if you have a problem with these rules there is a simple solution. Don’t go into the rental business.” And I say – If you can’t afford where you wish to live, go to where you can afford. Simply said, put your money where your mouth is, I do.

      • MKR

        You should watch what you say because saying “any government control of free enterprise is bad” and that is not really accurate. The reason the United States has been so successful is there has been a workable harmony between the government and free enterprise such that the government’s actions encourage and nurture free innovation and entrepreneurship while regulating to protect the public.
        Without regulation of the food and pharmaceutical industry no one would want to go to the supermarket without fear of being poisoned, no one would take medications, and doctors could be selling oxycodone to the highest bidder. Without patent protection companies like Apple and Intel would not want to develop any new products for fear of intellectual property theft. That is government regulation. Without regulation no one would buy an insurance policy because the insurance companies would just keep all the money and not pay when you needed them.
        The issue of what regulatory action should be taken and when has been going on for a very long time, long before Standard Oil was accused of being a monopoly. It is always being debated by lawmakers, that’s what they get paid for
        Most people in the liberal states like New York and California think that there should be laws protecting individuals from property developers and landlords lest they be victimized by slumlords. So if you own a rental property you must provide basic maintenance so people don’t freeze to death or die of smoke inhalation. And rent control can be part of that. If people live and work and have families there are frequently laws that allow rent increases to keep pace with the rate of inflation to prevent disruption of people’s livelihoods.

        • No to Socialism

          In theory, it all sounds good and noble. In real life, however, it is a different story. I just got it, your comments are based on ideology rather than reality. This makes me come to a conclusion, that you must be very young, ambitious, want to be righteous, with a very limitted actual life experience when it comes to rent control and many other issues, for that matter, you trie brought in to this discussion.

          Remember, knowledge without experience, is just that and nothing more.

          The best of luck to you.

          • MKR

            I am well into my fifties, so I am not that young. Take a look at your previous post. It says that in the second paragraph ” Any government control of free enterprise is bad, it eliminates competition, it leads to dependence on government, stifles growth, concentrates wealth to just a handfull number of multinational corporations. Wait, sounds to me like Nazi Germany just before the second world war!!! The hazard is huge and potential consequences are enormous.”
            You’re right I shouldn’t say “You should watch what you say” I should have said “when you speak in absolutes, like ANY government control it will come back to haunt you even if you don’t remember it.

        • No to Socialism

          “You should watch what you say” – just think about your statement. It is a threat and no, I don’t have to watch what I’m saying. It is my right to say what I want, it is called freedom of speech. If you don’t like it, don’t pay attention to it. So I was right all along – socialist mentality.

    • curiousKulak

      What countries are those?

    • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

      The problem I have with rent control is that is usually contributes to shortages. Look at Stockholm, there is a 20 year waitlist for housing in the city due to their rent control policies. Rent control leads to too many perverse incentives in the housing market.

  • SnapsMcKenzie

    Uh oh, Democrats passed a “resolution.” Something is going to happen now FOR SURE.

  • SnapsMcKenzie

    Soon this issue is all going to be moot anyway. Neil Gorusch and Samuel Alito would like nothing more than the chance to strike down rent control across the country as an improper “taking” under the Constitution. Repealing Costa-Hawkins (which is really about the desire of certain cities to impose vacancy control (forcing an owner to rent a property out at a below-market rent in order to encourage “economic diversity”) is going to be the moment that this issue is going to land in federal court. And the moment it makes it to SCOTUS will be the death knell of any form of rent control anywhere in the United States.