It’s no secret that our state has a serious housing problem. Between 2000 and 2016, average rents in California rose 85%, while median household income increased by just 43%. One in three families in our state spends more than half of their income on housing. These families often have to go without other necessities such as health care, child care and food, just to keep a roof over their heads.
Contra Costa residents have been especially hard hit by the housing crisis. Between 2000 and 2015, Contra Costa County experienced a 55% increase in the number of low-income households of color – higher than the Bay Area average. Residents countywide must earn, on average, almost four times the minimum wage – more than $40 per hour – just to afford the median cost of rent.
Gentrification is hastening the displacement of thousands of long-time residents. In recent months we have seen widespread evictions resulting in severe disruption in the lives of local residents, including the mass eviction of 24 families in an apartment complex in Concord. The local and statewide housing crisis is harming our friends, neighbors and coworkers.
Take a moment to think about your friends, colleagues and family members. We all have loved ones who have built their lives around their jobs and friends in Contra Costa, and who have built their community here. Now imagine these loved ones being forced to move far away to find cheaper housing, or working two or three jobs just to pay the rent. This is no way to build a healthy family or a thriving community.
The impact of the housing crisis can affect families for generations. Research shows that being evicted can have many negative consequences for families, including depression and poorer health. Housing instability can have enduring effects on individuals’ and families’ ability to obtain and hold onto basic necessities such as food, clothing, health care and public benefits. Residential instability is also linked to lower academic achievement in children.
The good news is that there are steps you can take, right now, to begin addressing the housing crisis. In the upcoming election, California voters have the opportunity to increase our communities’ options to protect local residents from being forced out.
Proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, is a statewide initiative that restores the right of local communities to implement rent control laws that fit their residents’ needs, by repealing the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act. (Watch this two-minute video to learn how Costa Hawkins limits the application of rent control ordinances.)
Contrary to recent misleading claims, Proposition 10 does not mandate rent control. It does not force any community to adopt any rent control measures that would not be a good fit for their own housing situation. It does not force any one-size-fits-all solutions on any city. It simple returns these policy decisions to the local level where they belong, to be made by local residents rather than by the state.
The benefit of rent control is that it protects tenants from excessive rent increases by mandating a reasonable amount and frequency of increases, while at the same time allowing landlords a reasonable return on their investment. Research has confirmed that rent control policies promote housing stability, which is critical to achieving our shared mission to end poverty.
We recognize that rent control alone cannot solve the worsening housing affordability crisis in Contra Costa. We also need to build a lot more housing that families can afford – in fact, 31,000 additional units are needed in Contra Costa to meet current need. But it’s important to understand that rent control ordinances are the proven – and often only – tool that can protect our lower-income neighbors from immediate displacement and long-lasting harm.
Rent control ordinances buy time while policymakers develop more comprehensive strategies to expand the regional supply of affordable homes. This is why we also recommend a “yes” vote on Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act, and Proposition 2, No Place Like Home. See our post about why we support Props 1 and 2.
We urge you to vote Yes on Propositions 1, 2, and 10 in November. All residents in Contra Costa – our friends, neighbors, colleagues and fellow congregation members – deserve a home that is safe, stable and affordable. Together, we can do this.