The potential Costa Hawkins repeal coming to the California ballot in November is causing a wave of concern throughout the industry, with many concerned that it will pass and impede investment and development in Los Angeles. The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles took a public stand against the measure, which is officially called the Affordable Housing Act, and says that support is from a particular group led by Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Foundation, that has been active in fighting for more affordable housing options in Los Angeles.
The discussion is becoming heated over the issue, and Daniel M. Yukelson, executive director at AAGLA, demonstrated the intensity when asked about the support for the Affordable Housing Act. “The support for Costa-Hawkins is coming from one main backer, Michael Weinstein, who is the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation,” Yukelson tells GlobeSt.com. “He had been the primary backer of Measure S [on the Los Angeles ballot in March 2017], which would have placed a moratorium on building affordable housing units in the City of Los Angeles. Even more ironically, Weinstein campaigned against renters in 1993 as a candidate for City Council as he once referred to tenants as “transients.” It should be clarified that, if passed, Measure S would have placed a moratorium on housing projects seeking an exemption to the general plan, not on affordable housing units specifically.
Weinstein, however, isn’t alone. Mayor Garcetti announced his support of the initiative at City Hall last month. Yukelson, however, characterizes the cabinet of Weinstein’s supporters as “radicalized groups,” that are looking to circumvent working and paying rent. “Weinstein’s initiative is supported, of course, by tenants and various radicalized tenant groups that have been holding rallies and disrupting public meetings,” he says. “I would love to get a break on my mortgage on the apartment building I own, but I am not inclined to rally in public yelling through a blow horn advocating to reduce my mortgage simply because I want more disposable income for vacations. But, I cannot blame someone for wanting cheap rent so that they don’t have to work as much and as hard as I do. I like to save money on things too.”
The tenant advocacy groups and unions that support the initiative say that the repeal would close a loophole in the rent control law. Opponents, like AAGLA, say that the repeal will do just the opposite of its intent by limiting new supply and investment in the market while driving prices up. Additionally, they say that it will hurt union jobs. “This ballot initiative won’t create affordable housing, and it will severely hurt property owners that largely hire various union trades for construction, plumbing, electrical and other work,” says Yukelson.
The crux of the debate is really whether the affordability crisis needs a public or private solution. Yukelson, and many in his camp, believe that the only solution is one that increases the supply through private investment and development. “We need solutions that provide affordable housing to those that need it and immediately,” he says. “Those benefitting from rent control should be means tested. If government policy is to provide lower rent, then stop looking to private property owners for that when it is the responsibility of local government to fix antiquated housing policies, provide relief from overbearing regulations, and give developers incentives to invest in and build affordable housing. I’m just a little guy; the government needs to keep their hands out of my pockets.”
The Affordable Housing Act is not yet officially on the November ballot, although support groups say that they have met the requirements.