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California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis


According to the online real-estate marketplace Zillow, only about 7 percent of the California properties listed last year saw rent increases larger than allowed under the bill. But there could be a big effect in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, where typical rents on apartments not covered by the city’s rent regulations have jumped more than 40 percent since 2016.

By limiting the steepest and most abrupt rent increases, the bill is also likely to reduce the incentive for hedge funds and other investors to buy buildings where they see a prospective payoff in replacing working-class occupants with tenants paying higher rents.

Sandra Zamora, a 27-year-old preschool teacher, lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Menlo Park, Calif., a short drive from Facebook’s expanding headquarters. A year ago, Ms. Zamora’s building got a new owner, and the rent jumped to $1,900 from $1,100, a rise of over 70 percent. Most of her neighbors left. Ms. Zamora stayed, adding a roommate to the 600-square-foot space and taking a weekend job as a barista.

“Having an $800 increase at once was really shocking,” she said. “It just keeps me thinking every month: ‘O.K., when is it going to happen? How much am I going to get increased the next month?’ It’s just a constant worry.”

Even as more states begin to experiment with rent control, it has long existed in places like New York City, which intervened to address a housing shortage post-World War II, and San Francisco, where it was adopted in 1979.

Today it is common in many towns across New Jersey and in several cities in California, including Berkeley and Oakland, although the form differs by jurisdiction. Regulated apartments in New York City are mostly subject to rent caps even after a change in tenants, for example, while rent control in the Bay Area has no such provision.

In New York City, where almost half of the rental stock is regulated, a board determines the maximum rent increases each year; this year it approved a 1.5 percent cap on one-year leases, considerably lower than the limits passed in Oregon and California.


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