As Rent Control Debate Heats Up, Steinberg Proposes Alternative Solutions

SACRAMENTO -- The battle over rent control in the state and in Sacramento is heating up.

A local housing coalition is pushing for rent control and just cause in the city, while five industry groups have announced opposition to the measure. There's also a campaign across the state to repeal a decades-old law that limits where local governments can enact rent control.

Volunteers are already collecting signatures to get a rent control related initiative on the California ballot in November.

"We've already collected thousands of signatures for the statewide repeal Costa Hawkins Affordable Housing Act," said Jovana Fajardo, the director of Sacramento's Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

That law on the books for the past 20 years says there can't be rent control on buildings built after 1995 nor on stand-alone, single-family homes.

"We're more than halfway done in making sure that that qualifies for the state," Fajardo said.

ACCE is the main organizer of a housing coalition, which is also trying to bring a rent control measure to the City of Sacramento.

"Which will limit the rent increases that tenants will have a year and the amount. So that way there's more stability in the community and just cause to make sure these tenants aren't being evicted for asking for repairs or for bad issues," Fajardo said.

"Rent control sounds great until you see how it actually plays out," said Jim Lofgren, senior vice president of the California Apartment Association.

CAA is one of five industry groups that are against both the state and local measures.

"For those of us that have been trying to increase the supply of housing, which is the real solution, rent control and spreading it to single-family homes is just going to scare people out of the market," Lofgren said.

He says building in California is already challenging enough, and these measures will make landlords' jobs even tougher.

"I'm already having owners of single-family rentals call me up and say, 'I'm just going to sell my property and take it off the rental market,'" Lofgren said. "And so there will be fewer properties out there for people to rent."

But Fajardo says that has not happened elsewhere.

"There's other cities that have rent control throughout the state that have no issue with building," Fajardo said. "I think it's the bigger issue of making sure that we have affordable housing and making sure that the city is supporting more building."

Rent Stabilization Fund

Sacramento's Mayor Darrell Steinberg has told FOX40 in the past he does not support rent control. Instead, he's brought up ideas that would encourage building and others that would help low-income renters.

Steinberg has been looking into creating a rent stabilization fund, which would provide up to $1,000 to people who are facing eviction because of an unexpected expense. Some examples would be an emergency car repair payment or a medical injury, costs that would prevent someone from paying rent.

He says a similar program exists in Chicago, with a recent Notre Dame study showing recipients of the money as being 76 percent less likely to be homeless six months later than those who didn't call to get the money.

"And so they go from stability but living on the edge, to couch surfing, to a homeless shelter, to the streets," Steinberg said. "And we want to prevent that. And so the idea of having a pot of money, it would have to be verified of course, where you could give somebody that one shot that would help what they need."

The money would come from the city's Whole Person Care program and federal grant money, as well as funds Steinberg raises from the private sector.