As a local educator, I’m incredibly distressed by the unprecedented housing affordability crisis facing our community. Here in Kern County, homelessness went up more than 9 percent last year, rents are too high and hundreds of local families do not have a secure place to call home, including some of our students. My colleagues are forced to commute long distances just to get to work because many cannot afford to live in the community where we teach.
Yet the city of Bakersfield and Kern County officials' hands are tied when it comes to the rent gouging we've seen. They are prevented by an archaic and ill-conceived Sacramento law dating to 1995, when corporate landlords and the big-money real estate lobby pressured legislators to rig the system against local control of rental rules.
But now, we have a chance to fight back for our communities and for hard-working Californians. This November, a common-sense measure, Proposition 10, will be on the ballot.
Proposition 10’s power is in its simplicity. It repeals the current one-size-fits-all statewide rent control policy that prevents local governments from doing more to prevent rent increases. The state law has failed us terribly. We need to empower local governments to act, because what works for San Francisco probably doesn't work for Bakersfield; what works for Modesto may not work for L.A.
Each community should be given back the power to decide what — if any — rent control or rent stabilization it needs. Under Prop. 10, local governments would once again make their own choices in protecting families, veterans, the elderly and others, from rising rents and the unfortunate hikes we see.
Our young people are graduating from high school and college only to find themselves commuting several hours because they can't afford to live near their jobs or colleges, leading many of our millennials to consider fleeing California. Seniors who put in their time as workers are being priced out of their lifelong neighborhoods.
Many families pay more than half of their income on housing as rents continue to rise and Californians' incomes fail to keep up. We're seeing evictions, displacement and disruption of lives.
Studies have shown that reasonable limits on rent hikes allow property owners to see a return on their investment, while also strengthening protections for their tenants. This is a true win-win. Proposition 10 also guarantees a fair rate of return for landlords, helping area property owners who rent their homes to renters in the community.
Unsurprisingly, special interests opposing Proposition 10 have already poured millions of dollars into a campaign to mislead voters about what the measure will actually do. However, their scare tactics are not based in reality.
They’ve claimed that Prop. 10 will hurt homeowners and working families, when in actuality, it will do the opposite. Proposition 10 will not impact homeowners, but does safeguard property values and our neighborhoods.
If rents continue to rise and more and more families are driven into poverty and even homelessness, that hurts our neighborhoods as we are seeing across the state. By tackling this crisis proactively, we can make our communities stronger and more viable.
The landlords opposing Proposition 10 inaccurately claim rents will increase, there will be less housing available and it will be harder to find a place to live. Not so. Research from UC Berkeley and UCLA has shown that setting limits on rent increases do not stymie housing production or dampen supply. Rent stabilization instead keeps rents affordable for the people who are our bedrock, including nurses, teachers, veterans and seniors.
Despite big real estate’s baseless rhetoric, Prop. 10 will equip communities with a necessary tool to address their own affordability and homelessness crises. When cities and counties can create thoughtful laws that align with their own unique housing situations, we can make our communities more safe and secure. I urge you to vote Yes on Prop. 10.
Jesse Aguilar is a veteran high school visual arts teacher in Kern County, member of the Kern Education Justice Collaborative, and serves on the board of the California Teachers Association.