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For the first time in recent memory, there is significant legislation in Sacramento that reflects the reality of the state’s housing crisis. Lawmakers have recently introduced a number of bills aimed at curbing the worst excesses and abuses of the landlord and real estate industries, while expanding the rights of tenant to organize and protect themselves. Whatever the outcome of the legislative process in the state capitol this year, it is clear that the political terrain has shifted.
 
Of the many housing related bills legislators have already introduced, a handful speak to the heart of the displacement crisis that continues to tear across low-income communities and communities of color, fueling resegregation in our region and elsewhere. We are paying particular attention to the following bills:
  • AB 36 – Partial repeal of Costa Hawkins. This bill, authored by Assembly member Richard Bloom, would lift the ban on rent control for post-1995 construction and for single family homes. Instead, local jurisdictions would be empowered to cover all rental housing (with some small exceptions) older than 10 years. The bill leaves in place the ban on vacancy control.
  • AB 1481 – Just Cause for Eviction. Authored by Assembly member Rob Bonta, AB 1481 would extend just cause eviction protection to all California renters.
  • AB 1482 – Anti-rent gouging. Assembly member David Chiu’s bill would place a limit on annual rent increases to prevent landlords from continuing to take advantage of the housing crisis and handing out extortion-level rent increases. The limit has not been defined yet.
  • SB 529Right to Organize. Senator Durazo’s bill recognizes the right of renters to form a tenant union or association and extends protections for tenants who decide to organize, including creating real penalties for landlords who engage in retaliation and providing just cause eviction protections for tenants who get organized.
  •  AB 724 – Rental data registry. Assembly member Buffy Wicks introduced this bill, which would create a statewide rent registry. A registry would aggregate information collected by cities and counties, allowing for better statewide data on evictions and displacement.  
These advances are the direct result of mobilization by tenants in low-income communities and communities of color across the state. Over the past few years, we have seen tenant organizing spread from a handful of cities with long traditions of race and class based organizing to dozens of smaller cities and suburbs across the state. Regional and statewide housing justice alliances that tenant organizations have built are transforming these local movements into a powerful political force across California.
 
There is still a lot to do, and many challenges lay ahead in advancing these bills. Preventing them from being weakened will require even greater pressure. But there is no denying the very real progress we are seeing and that progress reflects real power built by the tenant movement.

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Date sent: March 26, 2019

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