May 24, 2019

Vote ‘Yes’ to Fair Housing for All

Photo by WikiCommons

In just a few weeks, the Golden State has the opportunity to follow the Golden Rule with the passage of Proposition 10 on the Nov. 6 ballot. This past summer, during the Poor People’s 40 Days of Moral Action campaign, we heard numerous stories of grandmothers and mothers, grandfathers and fathers working tirelessly in this great state in order to earn enough money to pay rent. Even after working days that left them bone-tired, some still were forced to live in their cars, casualties of California’s unaffordable rental prices.

An Urban Institute survey released in August revealed a sobering figure: Nearly 40 percent of Americans struggle to pay for at least one of their basic needs, including food, health care, housing and utilities. This is the reality of our nation — and our state — right now. Challenges once widely believed to affect only the poorest of communities now confront even middle-class households.

This should serve as a wake-up call, especially for Californians. Our state is in the midst of a decades-long affordable housing crisis that is rapidly reaching its boiling point. California renters typically pay 50 percent more for housing than renters in other states. While the state’s median rent continues to climb, wages struggle to keep pace. To add to the issue of skyrocketing rents, we simply do not have enough housing for everyone who wants to live here.

We’ve been led down this tragic road by the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, an unfortunate law from 1995 that prevents cities and counties from applying rent control to apartments built after 1995 or to single-family rental units and condos.

The bill also allows landlords to raise rents as much as they want when a unit becomes vacant. When Californians show up to their polling places on Nov. 6, they have the opportunity to vote for a ballot measure to right this tremendous wrong.
Passage of Prop. 10 would be a major victory for California and a significant step forward in the effort to bring equity back to our housing practices. Prop. 10 would effectively repeal Costa-Hawkins, thereby giving local communities the power to adopt rent control necessary to address the state’s housing affordability crisis. In other words, passing this ballot measure would give the power to adopt rent control back to the individual communities themselves.

“Both of our faiths stress the moral imperative to work for an economic system that is fair and ethical.”

Both of our faiths stress the moral imperative to work for an economic system that is fair and ethical. In the book of Proverbs, we are commanded to “speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” Jewish law calls on us to perform acts of tzedakah (charity), relieving someone of homelessness being one such sacred gesture. Ensuring housing for all individuals is our religious duty, and now it is time we go to the ballot box and become God’s partners in creating laws to ensure shelter for all people, regardless of class.
While opponents of Prop. 10 say that it would discourage development because landlords won’t be motivated to buy property, we know this to be untrue. Given our current housing crisis, even with rent control laws in place, there is an immense amount of demand to build more housing.

Plus, under Prop. 10 landlords would receive a “fair rate of return,” meaning they would be allowed to increase rents enough to earn some profit each year. This not only assures property owners will profit, but also that we are looking out for our state’s vulnerable and poor population.

At the Poor People’s Campaign and the Jewish Center for Justice, we’ve been working in earnest with diverse communities to increase voter turnout and educate voters about the issues facing our state. Prop. 10 is by no means an exception. Whether you step into the voting booth on Nov. 6 or send in your absentee ballot, consider voting “Yes” on Prop. 10 to return rent control power to our cities and counties.

Rev. Eddie Anderson is the California co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and pastor at McCarty Memorial Church in Los Angeles. Rabbi Joel Simonds is the executive director of the Jewish Center for Justice in Los Angeles.