In 2022, Santa Monicans Voted for Lower Rent. It’s Paying Off with Lower Rent for Rent Controlled Units

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In 2022, Santa Monica residents, especially those in were shocked when the voter-approved formula for setting rent increases in those units rose to 6.4%, the highest increase in Santa Monica in over four decades. They responded by passing Measure RC which created a new formula for setting rents, and the results have been dramatic.

Last week, the Rent Control Board capped this year’s increase for rent-controlled units at 3% or $76 a month(whichever is lower). Last year’s increase was 2.8%. That’s right, combined the two years of rent increases are capped at less than what was allowed in 2022.

Santa Monica is one of a handful of “rent control cities” where rents for most units are determined by a formula that sets the amount at 75 percent of the Consumer Price index for a 12-month period. The Rent Control Board’s role in this process is mostly ceremonial. While it is mandated to hold a public hearing and a vote, the Board does not have the power to change the numbers created by the formula and is expected to quickly pass the changes.

Measure RC received over 58% of the vote and needed just a majority to pass, was seen as a victory for progressive groups in the city as it was backed by Santa Monica Forward, the Santa Monica Democratic Club and Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (the real SMRR.) The measure did face opposition from some of the city’s more conservative groups, but little organized resistance other than from landlords associations who funded mail campaigns.

Measure RC nearly didn’t make it to the ballot. The Council initially declined to put that measure on the ballot after a last minute proposal from Councilmember Lana Negrete was offered instead that would have radically changed how Rent Control was done in the city by tying it to income. Negrete’s proposal was backed by Councilmembers Phil Brock, Oscar De La Torre and Christine Parra. When that measure proved wildly unpopular, and perhaps unconstitutional, the Council placed RC on the ballot instead after Brock dropped his opposition at the last second of the last minute.

For more on how Rent Control is set, listen to this podcast with Rent Control Board Member Danny Ivanov.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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