What is the Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act?
Who created the Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act?
What does “rent control” mean today in California?
Does rent control work?
How will rent increases work?
Why does Santa Cruz need rent control now?
What has led to the current housing crisis?
Will the Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act lower rents?
How many renters will be helped by these renter protections?
What is Costa-Hawkins and how does it affect rent control?
Would all renters be covered by rent control if the Costa-Hawkins repeal passes?
Which other cities in California have rent control?
How is a rent freeze different from rent control?
How will renter protections affect our community?
What effect will this have on commuter traffic and the environment?
Why do tenants need relocation assistance?
What triggers relocation assistance?
How is relocation assistance determined?
Will this law prevent me from making a profit?
Will I be able to recoup my costs, if construction work or other substantial repairs are needed?
I depend on my rental units for all or part of my income.  Will I still be able to make ends meet?
How will this law affect my property rights if my tenant is over 62, or disabled or terminally ill?
Will I be able to manage my property?
Does the law apply to housemates living in the same shared space with a landlord?
Can I evict difficult tenants?
Will this law allow tenants to sublease to anyone they want?
Will I, or my family, be able to move into a rental property that I currently own?
Will the Rent Board only help renters, or will it also help landlords with reasonable grievances with the law or tenants?
Will rent control make the housing crisis “worse”?
Will rent control create more affordable housing?
Will landlords take their rentals off the market because of Rent Control or Just Cause Eviction?
Will I be able to sell my property?
Why should we choose rent control instead of building more housing to create more vacancy?
Will renter protections slow investment in housing?
What about the basic “supply and demand” principles of free-market economics?
Why are only certain rentals subject to the rent control provisions?  How is this fair to these landlords, when other rental properties are not subject to rent control?
What effect will this have on homelessness?
How will rent control affect public safety?
Will this lead to more party houses in Santa Cruz?
Does this disproportionately help students and harm long term residents?
How will renter protections impact the local economy?
Are there homeowners who support rent control?



The Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act (SCRCA), also known as “Measure M” on the November 2018 ballot, is a three-part rent stabilization and protection plan for Santa Cruz, modeled after similar laws passed by voters in other California cities in recent years. These three sections are:

  1. Rent Control. This section limits yearly rent increases in protected rental units, which will be tied to inflation, based on the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index for the SF Bay Area.
  2. Just Cause for Eviction. This section strengthens tenants’ right to remain in their rental units. Current state law allows landlords unrestrained use of eviction as a tool to increase their profits, by resetting controlled rents to market rates when a new tenant moves in, or to retaliate against a tenant who asks for repairs or is involved in a dispute. Therefore, for rent control to be effective, it must be paired with protections that allow evictions only for specific, valid reasons. Just Causes for Eviction due to action by the tenant include failure to pay rent, violating the terms of the lease, engaging in illegal activity, creating a nuisance, denying access, or refusing to sign a new lease. If tenants are forced to move due to no fault of their own, such as in the event of owner move-in or removal of the property from the rental market, landlords are required to pay relocation assistance to the tenants, to help defray the costs they incur by their displacement.
  3. Elected Rent Board. This Board administers the Rent Control law and is tasked with these duties:
    • Setting the allowable limit for annual residential rent increases, proportional to the increase in the cost of living
    • Ensuring that landlords receive a fair return on their investment
    • Handling petitions by tenants and landlords
    • Scheduling and conducting rental arbitration hearings and mediation sessions
    • Investigating reports of illegal rent increases and wrongful eviction
    • Creating rules and regulations to run the program
    • Hiring staff and hearing officers
    • Conducting studies and surveys
    • Issuing reports to the City Council
    • Establishing penalties for violations of the Rent Control law
    • Educating tenants and landlords about their rights

The initial members of the Rent Board will be appointed by the City Council. Thereafter, like the City Council and other rent boards across the Bay Area, its members will be elected by, and fully accountable to, the voters of Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act was crafted by a group of local tenants, homeowners, and their allies, working together with an experienced team of lawyers with expertise in rent control laws, in order to address the unique circumstances involved in the Santa Cruz rental crisis.

Measure M is based on a form of rent control that has been carefully designed, developed and tested for decades to counteract market failures and provide real relief for thousands of renters in our city[1]. Modern rent control is not the type of “price ceiling” policy that was used in “First Generation” rent control in the 1950s after World War II[2]. Those crude policies did not work well, and the arguments against them were written into many Economics 101 textbooks. In the 1970s and 1980s, “Second Generation” rent regulation policies were developed, which allowed cities to draw from a menu of options and tools. They allow landlords a fair return on investments, and create channels using due process for mediation as part of local government. These policies have been used successfully along with other measures to help stabilize local economies[3]. Studies show cities with modern rent control have lower rents than surrounding cities and show multiple indicators of healthier communities.[4] [5]

Yes!  Rent control gives tenants relief from runaway housing cost inflation.  In the fifteen California cities that have adopted rent control since the 1970s and 1980s, tenants have been paying rents that are significantly lower than in neighboring communities.  When renters are able to stay put like homeowners, these policies result in a community with: 1) lower rent levels; 2) longer rent tenure; 3) a shift from renting to ownership of real estate; 4) greater diversity, especially with respect to Latinx community members; and 5) a larger number of families with children.[6]


Regular rent increases will be permitted, but they will be limited to the change in the Consumer Price Index for the San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose region), which measures inflation by the changes in the cost of goods and services for households in the region.  This rate of inflation for our region has fluctuated between 1.2% and 3.6% annually over the last decade. The basic idea is that landlords can still raise rents, but increases should be proportional to the general increase in the cost of living.

While there is no simple fix to the housing crisis in Santa Cruz, rent control is the only policy solution available that offers immediate and lasting relief to renters who have the greatest need for protection.  Santa Cruz is now the least affordable housing market in the United States [7], due to the growing gap between median incomes and housing costs.  Average Santa Cruz rents went up 41% between 2013 and 2016, while wages only went up by 4.1% during the same period of time.  Today, 68% of renters in Santa Cruz spend over 30% of their income on housing[8], meaning they suffer from “rent burden” by Federal definitions.  According to a recent poll, 60% of California voters support rent control.[9]

Skyrocketing rents displace friends and family members from our neighborhoods, forcing them to either commute long distances, or to leave the area entirely.  Many people end up being driven out, who are needed to provide basic and essential services to our community – like teachers, health care workers, city service providers, food and hotel service workers, childcare workers, and many more, while new workers are discouraged from even applying for jobs in our area.  This gentrification of our city reduces its diversity, destabilizes neighborhoods, increases poverty and crime, and adds to the homeless population. It creates a community where people are increasingly disconnected from one another, as the gap widens between the rich and the poor, which is a major predictor of social instability.  Low-income renters are an especially vulnerable population, whose lives are at the mercy of market forces beyond their control, making it impossible to gain any housing equity for themselves, while they contribute to the equity of their landlords every month. Failure to adopt rent control would guarantee higher rent increases and more displacement, and ensure that any increases in wages that Santa Cruz residents receive would be immediately consumed by continually escalating housing costs.  The resulting volatility would produce even more demand for housing in a rental market that is already unable to provide an adequate supply, further worsening the crisis.

Rent control provides an essential foundation for a balanced solution, by stabilizing the rate of rent increases and allowing current residents to remain in their homes, rather than be forced out by unaffordable rents.  Local government still must step up to the plate and take responsibility for increasing the supply of housing for low- and middle-income families, but for the immediate future, only rent control can stop the hemorrhaging of economic and human resources in Santa Cruz.


The origins of this crisis can be traced to policy failures on federal, state and local levels that have consistently eliminated housing programs and subsidies since the 1980s.  Cities and counties like Santa Cruz have failed to respond to these changes and are now facing the cumulative effects of this failure. The City of Santa Cruz abdicated its role as the guardian of an economically healthy community by allowing private companies and wealthy investors to purchase virtually all available real estate, and then rent it to an increasingly impoverished population.  The housing crisis is especially acute here, as a result of increasing demand for housing from the University, combined with an influx of outside investors from Silicon Valley and beyond. The situation has been exacerbated in recent years by the increasing popularity of short-term rentals, room sharing apps, and vacation rentals, which has further restricted the supply of rental units available to long-term renters.  

Yes, in some cases.  When Measure M takes effect, it will lower rents on units that are eligible for rent control, where the rent had been raised during the past year.  The law will recalculate rents on existing leases, using a base rate of rent that was charged on October 19, 2017, providing that the current tenants have lived continuously in the unit since that time.

A rough estimate is that 34,000 people will benefit from some or all of these protections, a huge effect on a city of more than 60,000.  Current state law, the Costa-Hawkins Act of 1995, a California state law supported by developers and landlords, limits rent control to multi-unit properties built before 1995.  If both Measure M and California Proposition 10 are passed by voters this November, rent control will apply to nearly all rental units in the City. However, even under Costa-Hawkins, about 6,000 Santa Cruz units will be covered by rent control; nearly all rentals will be covered by Just Cause protections in either case.  The people most likely to benefit the most from rent control will be the ones who are hardest hit by the rental housing crisis, especially low income renters, single parent families, and people of color.

The 1995 Costa-Hawkins Law, which was authored, funded, and continues to be defended by the real estate industry, has greatly limited the scope, fairness and success of local rent control efforts in California, weakening the positive economic effects of rent control.  This top-down state law has distorted the housing supply in our state for over 20 years, by preventing rent control from applying to any rental units initially occupied after February 1995, or to any single family homes or condominiums. It effectively prohibits communities from developing policies that protect any units, other than older apartments.  

The Costa-Hawkins Law makes the housing market less free to be competitive: by legally restricting the supply of affordable rentals, it artificially promotes the supply of high-end housing for wealthier renters, which drives up prices for everyone.  This law creates a wedge in each city that has sought relief through rent control, by isolating rent-controlled properties and creating a strong incentive for developers and investors to invest in high-profit condos, new construction, and “hot market” single-family homes that can be flipped quickly.  As a result, although some older units remain more affordable, their numbers are dwindling. Costa-Hawkins also imposes vacancy decontrol, meaning that the price of rent controlled units can be reset to market rates following after a tenant moves out.

Where landlords are primarily interested in profit over stability, Costa-Hawkins has created a “boomerang effect” of reduced rental units. [10] If Costa-Hawkins is repealed, investors can no longer exploit “deep pockets” of uncontrolled markets, and rent control will be much more effective, allowing wages to catch up to housing costs.  New affordable housing projects will likely increase available housing stock in impacted cities like Santa Cruz.

Nearly all renters would be covered, unless they share a bathroom or kitchen with the landlord.


Currently, nineteen cities have some form of rent control or Just Cause eviction protection: Berkeley, Beverly Hills, East Palo Alto, Emeryville, Glendale, Hayward, Los Angeles, Maywood, Mountain View, Oakland, Palm Springs, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, San Jose, Thousand Oaks, Union City and West Hollywood.  In Santa Monica, 78% of rentals are under rent control. Our own county already has rent control for mobile home parks in unincorporated areas. [11]

Santa Cruz passed two temporary emergency ordinances in February 2018 limiting rent increases to some renters and providing Just Cause protections more generally, which expire with the outcome of the vote on this ballot measure.  The protections under these ordinances are similar to, but not as robust as, the protections under Measure M. Without these, while rent control is being considered, landlords could have raised rents and evicted tenants to get out of lower-priced leases ahead of the changes to the law.

Renter protections will make it easier for the 57% of people living in Santa Cruz who are renters [12] to grow roots here.  Stabilizing renters is key for creating a healthy community.  People with a stable housing situation experience significantly less stress and are more willing and able to contribute time and money to community programs and businesses.  Increased stability for long-term renters will mean safer neighborhoods, and a stronger support base for our schools and locally-owned businesses. When you know your neighbors, everyone is safer and the community is strengthened.  

Protecting renters includes protecting our senior and disabled neighbors, and families with children.  Stabilizing neighborhoods with rent control will help school children maintain their peer groups, help recruit and retain the best teachers, and allow seniors to age in place.  We have seen huge numbers of these groups forced to leave their homes in recent years, depriving us of diversity in our daily and civic lives, and weakening our families and our public institutions.  Two Santa Cruz elementary schools, Branciforte and Natural Bridges, closed in 2004 due to our housing crisis, and a steady outflow of families has continued since. Now the crisis is pushing out teachers and other low-paid, hardworking public workers.

Right now, working people are fleeing the high rents in our city, but their jobs remain here.  Rent control is, in fact, an an environmentally and ecologically friendly policy that will help reverse this trend, because when people can afford to live closer to where they work, it will cut down on car traffic and pollution.  Since rent control will reduce overall demand by decreasing volatility in rental market, workers will more easily be able to keep an affordable apartment that’s close to where they work. Stabilizing whole communities of workers will encourage smarter strategic planning by city and county agencies, to reduce carbon emissions and invest in a sustainable region from the ground up. [13]

Landlords are required to pay relocation assistance when an eviction happens through no fault of the renter, yet is considered a ‘just cause’ for eviction.  When tenants are evicted from their homes in the current rental market, the relocation costs are substantial. Tenants are often required to pay 3 months’ worth of rent to move in, including first and last month’s rent plus a substantial security deposit.

For a $5000/month house, a $15,000 deposit must be paid up front.  For a $3,000 apartment, a tenant must have saved $9,000, and then must be able to do without access to that $9,000 for personal emergencies, savings, etc.  Displaced tenants must also pay for moving expenses, such as packing, moving services, storage costs, lost wages when taking time off from work, housing application costs, address change expenses, temporary housing expenses, etc.  These total costs create a substantial burden on evicted tenants, who may have only thirty days to move out. Without the relocation assistance provided in this measure, the average Santa Cruz wage-earner is in danger of being excluded from the rental market when faced with such move-in costs, especially when they have been evicted due to no fault of their own.

Landlords are required to pay tenants six months’ worth of the Fair Market Rent as calculated by US HUD for the unit, upon eviction under the following circumstances:

  • When being evicted because a landlord chooses to vacate an unpermitted unit
  • When being evicted because a landlord intends to move themselves or a family member into the tenants’ unit after determining there is no other vacant unit available on the property
  • When being displaced to allow necessary and substantial repairs requiring temporary vacancy
  • When being evicted because a landlord intends to remove the unit from the rental market
  • When being displaced due to inability to pay rent increases over 10% within a one-year period

An additional month’s worth of relocation assistance may be required for Qualified Tenants, who are: age 62 or older, have a handicap or disability, or live with legally dependent minor children.


The base amount of relocation assistance is calculated as six times the current Fair Market Rent for a similar rental unit in Santa Cruz County, as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and in the case of Qualified Tenants, seven times the current Fair Market Rent.  Fair Market Rent is in the range of 60%-80% of the actual market rental prices that a displaced tenant will face, depending on the source of market prices (RentCafe, CraigsList, Zillow). The Rent Board issues and enforces rules regarding relocation assistance, including determining whether a tenant qualifies for relocation assistance, ensuring that payments are made in a timely manner, hearing appeals and increasing relocation assistance amounts as necessary.

Property Owners

No.  It is in fact illegal for the government to make your financial investment unprofitable to operate.  Measure M employs the legally-recognized Maintenance of Net Operating Income (MNOI) standard to guarantee property owners a fair rate of return.  This formula ties profits of landlords of controlled units to documented inflation. Measure M restricts rent increases to the annual change in the CPI for the San Francisco Bay Area, but if a landlord can show the Rent Board that the cost of operation is more than what the current return affords, a petition can be filed for an additional increase to ensure profitability, which will be decided on a case-by-case basis.  

Yes.  The measure establishes a Rent Board that has the power to grant a landlord’s petition to raise rent greater than the standard annual adjustment, if they can show that the cost of repairs needed for health and safety purposes would otherwise prevent the owner from maintaining a net operating income.  Likewise, if a tenant lives in an apartment that is already in need of extensive repairs, they may also petition the Rent Board for a rent rebate and/or a denial of rent raise, for example, if they were paying market-rate-or-higher rent in a substandard unit that had been neglected by the owner. Since tenants are protected from eviction simply for filing a complaint under Just Cause, they are more likely to ask for repairs on a unit that is deteriorating and has already been neglected.

Yes.  The State of California protects the right of landlords to receive a fair return on their investment.  Courts have long upheld the constitutionality of a landlord’s right to continue to raise rents in order to both maintain the income received in the past (Maintenance of Net Operating Income, MNOI), and in order to keep up with inflation (see Sections 11 and 12 of Measure M).  All cities with rent control in California are required by law to meet these standards.

A landlord always has the right to evict a bad renter when the renter is at fault.  This is as true for the elderly, disabled or terminally ill, as it is for any other renter.  All Measure M does is deny a landlord the right to claim the ‘owner move in’ as the reason to evict these three especially vulnerable groups of people, referred to in Measure M as “Qualified Tenants”, in situations where the tenant has lived in the unit for at least five years.  Even then, a landlord still has the power to evict a Qualified Tenant, in order to move in a family member who is 62 or older, disabled, or terminally ill. As a last resort, landlords still have the right to remove a rental property from the market entirely, if they so choose. Landlords also have the ability to file a petition with the Rent Board, if there are unusual extenuating circumstances.

Yes.  The Just Cause provisions of this measure were crafted to ensure a process that protects both parties.  Landlords are expected to create a proper lease, issue three-day notices to cure lease violations, maintain proper documentation, escalate to unlawful detainers to end tenancy, and give substantial notice for family move in.  Just Cause provisions ensure that landlords will follow a process that lowers their risk of civil liabilities for acts such as retaliation, discrimination, or violations of state and federal fair housing rights. Landlords will be required to use fair and transparent processes in their relationships with tenants, which makes it easier for everyone when resolving disputes.

No.  If a tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen with a landlord in the landlord’s permanent residence, the tenant is not covered by either rent control or Just Cause eviction.  Also, Just Cause protections would not apply to a sublessee in a similar situation, permitting a master tenant to evict them.

Yes, as long as you can provide just cause for the eviction.  Landlords will retain the right to evict a problem tenant for valid and reasonable causes, including failure to pay rent, breach of lease, creating a nuisance, use of rental unit for illegal purposes, failure to give access, refusal to execute a new lease, or an unapproved subtenant in sole possession or the rental unit at the end of a lease.  These violations are all considered to be the fault of the tenant and therefore the landlord may evict the tenant or sublessee at any time without penalty to the landlord, or any responsibility to pay relocation costs. Having documentation to support an eviction with just cause is a fair and reasonable approach that protects both tenants and landlords by raising the standard of eviction to require a valid reason, rather than none at all.

No.  Subletting is only permitted to the extent that a property lease permits or restricts it, and tenants must obtain the landlord’s approval of an applicant, before subleasing to people other than family.  A sublessee will be granted the same protections as the leased tenants once the landlord gives approval to move in. If a tenant permits a sublessee to move in without landlord approval, they may be in violation of the lease and subject to eviction by the landlord.  The exception would be to allow a family member to move in, which would be permitted by law, in order to give renters the flexibility to support their loved ones in times of need. This includes the following family members of the tenant: spouse/partner, child, foster child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or the spouse/partner of such relatives.

A lease that permits subletting may set a maximum number of occupants, but this limit would not apply to a tenant’s family members, as long as the maximum number of occupants complies with the limits in CA Health & Safety Code Section 17922 and Section 503(b) of the Uniform Housing Code, interpreted as two people per bedroom plus one additional occupant per unit.  State occupancy limits remain in effect and are not changed by the Rent Control law. If the allowable upper limit for a unit is six people, a renter may not sublet to more than five others, whether or not they are family members. The Just Cause for Eviction protections provided by Measure M only apply to tenants and sublessees who are named on, or allowed by the lease, not unapproved sublessees.  If a lease expires and an unapproved sublessee remains in sole possession of the unit, the sublessee can be evicted without penalty to the landlord.

Yes.  As a property owner, you have the right to take your property off the market, in order to move yourself and/or your family in.  In order to do so, you will be responsible for paying relocation assistance to the current tenants who will be displaced. However, there is a ‘Temporary Tenancy’ clause in Measure M, which gives the landlord the right to rent a unit for up to a year with a clear written agreement ahead of time that the renter’s possession of the unit is temporary and that the landlord has the right to repossess the unit after the time agreed upon without penalty to the landlord.


Many people mistakenly think that the mission of the Rent Board is only to protect renters, but it also offers protection for landlords, and provides a venue for landlords to address disputes with tenants without the need to file lengthy and costly court proceedings.  In these cases, the Rent Board functions as a mediation agency and will seek redress for the landlord.

Average rents in Santa Cruz have already climbed 52% in the past four years, and currently there are almost no lasting protections against further price increases or displacement.  Rent control will help alleviate the housing crisis by permitting current residents to remain in their rental properties, rather than be forced out by higher prices, which would only create additional demand in a rental market that is unable to provide an adequate supply of rental units.  Longer-term measures must be taken to increase the supply of housing, especially for low- and middle-income families. However, only rent control can help those people with the greatest need for protection in the short term.

No, the purpose of rent control is to limit price increases on existing rentals, in order to keep people in their homes right now.  The lack of affordable housing supply in Santa Cruz is an ongoing issue that can only be remedied using other long-term measures, such as new construction (especially low-income and other affordable housing), conversion of existing uninhabited real estate to rental units, changes to planning and zoning laws, stricter regulation of short-term rentals, etc.  Conversely, will the absence of rent control create more affordable housing? Apparently not.

Statistically, the total number of rental units available has not changed significantly in cities that have passed modern rent control laws.  In Berkeley and Santa Monica, for example, studies have shown that the loss of rental housing under rent control followed the same trends occurring in adjacent areas without rent control.[14]  Some landlords in our city claim that they will leave the market if rent control passes – but they have the opportunity to choose whether or not to continue renting their properties in one of the most profitable housing markets in the country.

Yes, absolutely – rent control in no way prevents owners from selling properties they own.   However, the new owners would be bound to honor an existing lease on the property. In the current real estate market in Santa Cruz, where prices are at an all-time high, many homeowners are tempted to sell, in order to cash in, which would be the case whether or not we have Rent Control.

This is not an either-or decision.  Building more housing, especially low-income and affordable housing, is definitely part of the solution, and we should continue to hold our cities and our county accountable for doing so.  However, additional construction alone will not solve the housing crisis, and it will not stop renters from being pushed out of their homes. To the extent that additional supply could help drive down rents, it will be many years before we would even begin to see the results.  

For instance, in San Francisco, local rent control has been protecting some households, while others were unprotected, due to the Costa-Hawkins and the Ellis Acts.  During the last 15 years, the City of San Francisco chose to address their crisis by greatly expanding market-rate housing. Instead of improving the situation, this has actually made the crisis worse.  A real estate consulting firm found in 2007 that for every 100 market-rate (unaffordable) units built, San Francisco needed another 20-43 affordable units to mitigate the problems caused by market-rate construction.  This means that when the city houses additional high-income renters and homeowners, it needs additional workers in construction, food service, teaching, healthcare, police and first responders, etc. [15] [16] Therefore, even if 40% of new construction is devoted to affordable housing units, this would still do nothing to improve the original housing deficit problem.  Now, San Francisco is even more densely built, with virtually no change in vacancy, and is facing a generational development deficit along with sky-high rents.

In a city as attractive as Santa Cruz, this is very unlikely.  Several studies show that rent control and just cause eviction policies do not impact development in any substantive way.  Cities such as Los Angeles, Berkeley, and Mountain View have not seen slowed growth since rent control was implemented.   [17] [18] [19]In fact, many cities actually reported an increase in new building projects after rent control was passed.  The Mayor of Mountain View, Lenny Siegel, recently explained that, “Once Mountain View signaled that we were open to housing construction, we were deluged with proposals.  That interest has continued, perhaps increased since the enactment of Measure V, the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act in November 2016. One of the largest funders of the anti-V campaign is hoping to build thousands of new apartments in Mountain View.” Communities across the nation with rent control policies continue to experience accelerated development, as the relentless demand for housing drives the market.

Free-market economic models require an idealized market of perfect competition, where everyone is free to buy or sell at the price they choose, or go somewhere else.  The housing market is in no way a free market, especially in Santa Cruz – it is a captive market, where land and homes are limited and their prices are artificially driven up by investment and speculation – which creates a severe hardship for tenants who are forced out of their homes when prices go up.  Just as economics shows the need for antitrust laws and labor unions, it also shows that in this extremely uneven situation, we cannot rely exclusively on market forces to provide balance, and that we need legal remedies to keep families and workers in their homes.

This disparity is the result of the Costa-Hawkins Act, which was passed by the California legislature in February 1995.  As a result, only a portion of rental units in Santa Cruz are eligible for rent control – limited to those built before 1995, which are not single family homes or condos.  We agree that this disparity is inherently unfair, but it would be remedied if California voters decide to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act by voting Yes on Proposition 10 in November.  This would significantly level the playing field not only between renters and landlords, but also among all landlords in the rental market.

High rents, low wages, and the lack of a stable living situation are primary factors that lead to homelessness.  It’s no coincidence that the city of Santa Cruz is the least affordable housing market in the United States[7], and it also has over 1,200 people without homes[8], the majority of whom lived here before they lost their homes.  This law will be a key factor in reducing the number of renters who end up on the streets, by preventing more people from losing their homes due to unaffordability.

There is a false and prejudiced perception that rent control causes poverty and crime, because under “First Generation” post-war policies, rent control was often applied selectively in low-income urban neighborhoods where crime rates were higher than in surrounding communities, which has also been the effect of the Costa-Hawkins law in recent decades.  If anything, the lack of rent control produces higher crime rates, because poverty is the primary driver of crime, and the exorbitant rise in rents within a community is a major factor that contributes directly to increased poverty rates within a community.

In fact, modern rent stabilization and vacancy control policies lead to the gradual increase of home ownership rates, with greater ethnic diversity of owner demographics, and the expansion of a vested middle class.  When renters feel safe and settled enough to get to know their neighbors, their neighborhood is made safer. In terms of crimes committed by tenants, under this measure, landlords have every right to evict tenants who engage in illegal activity on their property.

No.  Renters who create a nuisance to their community, because of loud parties or any other behavior, will still be subject to eviction based on Section 5(a)3.  Because such behavior is the fault of the renter and not the landlord, relocation assistance would not be owed to tenants evicted in this situation.

There is a possibility that, in the short term, some landlords will favor renters who are transient and will therefore ensure frequent vacancies, allowing rents to be regularly raised to their full market value.  This is an issue that can only be addressed through stricter regulation of short-term rentals by local government, as well as negotiations with UCSC to construct additional housing for their ever-expanding student population.  However, this problem could be resolved if CA Proposition 10 passes this November, repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act. This would legalize vacancy control, in which case vacated rentals would continue to be subject to the price controls that were set during the previous lease, which would do even more to stabilize rents across the entire rental market.

Renter protections help to give renters greater economic security, which strengthens economic stability within the community as a whole by leaving tenants with more disposable income.  Because low-to-medium-income people tend to spend locally, rather than invest far away, local businesses are able to reap greater profits from the increased commerce. Renter protections are also beneficial for employers in Santa Cruz, who are more hard-pressed than ever today to recruit and retain good employees, given the unaffordability index, and rent control will make it easier for more good workers to afford to live in the city where they work.

Predictable rents under rent control will help stabilize the living situations of the bedrock workers who make our city’s student- and tourism-based economy run, by allowing tenants to budget better for their futures.  This allows them to reap the benefits of promotions or salary increases they earn, by investing into savings that they can use to build a better future, including becoming homeowners themselves, instead of those hard-won benefits going directly to cover the cost of relentless rent hikes.

Yes!  You too can join us in stabilizing our community by supporting the Yes on M campaign for Rent Control.  Many landlords, including many of our supporters, already charge their tenants below “market rate” and only issue small increases per year, if any, which is commendable.  However, this clearly is not going to stop other unscrupulous homeowners from raising rents far higher, displacing more and more of our neighbors as they are forced to move away.  Our community is made up of a diverse group of people and we believe that it is far more important to preserve the richness that this diversity brings to our lives, than it is to maximize the wealth in the hands of a small number of landowners.  Rent control will help renters from all backgrounds, at all income levels, to ensure that Santa Cruz remains a vibrant, dynamic, prosperous and enjoyable city, where everyone can live and thrive.


[1] Diamond, R., McQuade, T., & Qian, F.  (2017).  The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landlords, and Inequality: Evidence from San Francisco

[2] Arnott, Richard, “Time for Revisionism on Rent Control?” The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol.  9, No.  1 (Winter, 1995), pp.  99-120

[3] Heskin, Allan D., Ned Levin, Mark Garrett, “The Effects of Vacancy Control: A Spatial Analysis of Four California Cities.” American Planning Association Journal,  Spring 2000, Vol.  66, No.  2 (162-176)

[4] Keating, Dennis and Mitch Kahn, “Rent Control in the New Millenium,” Race, Poverty & the Environment, Vol.  9, No.  1, Fixin’ to Stay: Anti-Displacement Policy Options & Community Response (Summer 2002), pp.  30-33

[5] Gordon, Leslie, “Strengthening Communities Through Rent Control and Just-Cause Evictions: Case Studies from Berkeley, Santa Monica, and Richmond,” Urban Habitat, January 2018

[6] Heskin, Allan D., Ned Levin, Mark Garrett, “The Effects of Vacancy Control: A Spatial Analysis of Four California Cities.” American Planning Association Journal,  Spring 2000, Vol.  66, No.  2 (162-176).

[7] Demographia International, 14th Annual Housing Affordability Survey 2018

[8] UC Santa Cruz, No Place Like Home Report 2017

[9] UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.Survey: “Half say housing affordability an ‘extremely serious’ problem in their area…”, Table 5 (9/19/2017)

[10] Diamond, R., McQuade, T., & Qian, F.  (2017).  The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landlords, and Inequality: Evidence from San Francisco

[11] “Cities with Rent Control.”  CalTenant Law

[12] Gumz, Jondi.  “Santa Cruz County median rent: $2,914 a month and rising.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (10/12/2016)

[13] Keating, Dennis and Mitch Kahn, “Rent Control in the New Millenium,” Race, Poverty & the Environment, Vol.  9, No.  1, Fixin’ to Stay: Anti-Displacement Policy Options & Community Response (Summer 2002), pp.  30-33

[14] http://urbanhabitat.org/sites/default/files/UH%202018%20Strengthening%20Communities%20Through%20Rent%20Control.pdf pp. 7-8

[15] Residential Nexus Analysis City and County of San Francisco Prepared for: City and County of San Francisco Prepared by: Keyser Marston Associates, Inc.  April 2007

[16] Redmond, Tim, “Why market-rate housing makes the crisis worse,” 48 Hills (6/14/2014)

[17] Chiland, Elijah.  “Report: LA Apartment Construction is up 61 Percent.” Curbed Los Angeles (8/30/2017)

[18] Cohen, Peter and Fernando Martí, “Don’t Believe the Hype: Affordable Housing does NOT depend on Market Rate Development,” San Francisco Examiner (6/14/2015)

[19] Bromwich, Jonah E.  “California Today: The Housing Crisis Hits Berkeley.” New York Times (6/15/2017)

[20] Demographia International, 14th Annual Housing Affordability Survey 2018

[21] Applied Survey Research, Santa Cruz County Homeless Census & Survey 2017