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Proposition 21


By: Trinidad Ruiz, People’s City Council

Prop 21 benefits renters in 3 ways: it stabilizes rental prices by modernizing rent control, carves out homeowners with two or fewer units, and introduces vacancy control. Why is Prop 21 so crucial for renters? When COVID-19 hit, 20.8 million households were already rent burdened (or paying more than 30% of income in rent), and 10 million of those households were heavily rent burdened (paying more than 50% of income in rent). Up to 5,349,000 tenants are currently on the brink of losing their homes due the years of landlord abuse of the unmitigated power to raise many people have been pushed beyond the brink? In L.A. alone, 66,000 unhoused men, women, and children are living on the streets…during a pandemic.

Modernizes rent control: Prop 21 moves up the year that a building can become rent controlled to 15 years after construction, continuing on a rolling basis. Therefore, each year, buildings that are 15 years and older can become rent controlled. This increases the stock of rent controlled housing in cities that choose to adopt rent control. In Los Angeles, a home or apartment inhabited before 1978 is rent controlled, but any inhabited after 1978 are not. There are a limited number of units built before 1978, and, with demolition and up zoning, that number becomes smaller every year.

Carves out single family homeowners: In situations where a family owns a home plus one more (which they rent out), Prop 21 does NOT apply. If that same family owns a third home, then that third home could become a rent controlled unit under Prop 21. The language of Prop 21 excludes Limited Liability Corporations (or LLCs) entirely. LLCs are shell companies that exist only on paper and typically shield major corporations from liability. If a corporate entity, like an LLC, purchases a home - that home will fall under Prop 21 rent control with no exceptions.

Introduces vacancy control: Prop 21 introduces vacancy control and gives cities the ability to control how much a landlord charges a new tenant moving into a vacant unit. This is a disincentive for landlords to target tenants living in rent controlled units, and benefits elderly tenants who pay very little due to having lived in the same rent controlled unit for decades. Under current California law, once a tenant moves out, the landlord can raise the rent of that unit as high as they want to for a new tenant. Under Prop 21, when a tenant moves, the landlord can only raise the rent up to 15% of the current rent and is locked in at that rate for 3 years. So, if a new tenant moves out after one year of living in the unit, the landlord cannot raise the rent on the next tenant or the next tenant until after a 3 year period.