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A new survey conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley suggests California voters are divided over Proposition 21, a ballot measure that would allow cities to broaden statewide rent control laws on properties occupied over 15 years ago.

Of the nearly 6,000 likely voters who were polled, 37 percent said they would vote “yes,” while an additional 37 percent said they would vote “no.” The remaining 26 percent were undecided.

Proposition 21 seeks to modify the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Costa-Hawkins), a state law dating back to 1995. Costa-Hawkins exempts single-family homes, condominiums, townhouses, and apartments built after 1995 from rent control ordinances. It also bars cities from enacting vacancy control, which limits how much landlords can re-rent their units for once they have been vacated.

Cities that already had rent control laws on their books were required to list the cut-off date as the year in which their own legislation was passed. That’s why apartments in West Hollywood, for example, are only subject to rent control if they were occupied before 1979.

An effort to repeal Costa-Hawkins, known as Proposition 10, was voted down in 2018 with 61.2 percent opposed and 38.8 percent in favor.

Proposition 21 aims to reform Costa-Hawkins by extending rent control to units that are more than 15 years old, rather than pegging it to a specific year. Single-family homes, condominiums and townhouses would be included, although there are exemptions for Mom-and-Pop landlords who own up to two rental units with separate titles. Cities would also be permitted to pass vacancy control measures, capping rent hikes on vacated units at 15 percent in the three years following vacancy.

Those in favor of Proposition 21 argue that it will protect California’s nearly 17 million renters from mounting rent increases, which is especially needed amid the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is spearheaded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the same organization that sponsored Proposition 10 in 2018.

Meanwhile, those against the ballot measure say it disincentivizes developers from building new rental housing, including affordable units, furthering the state’s already dire housing shortage. Californians for Responsible Housing is behind the opposition and joined by Governor Gavin Newsom.

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