With a tight housing market, despite the pandemic, and steady increases in rental rates in many California cities in recent years, backers of Proposition 21 on the November ballot say the initiative is the answer.
Rene Moya, the Campaign Director for "Yes on 21", says it's aimed at helping low income Californians and the homeless.
"Right now there are more than 5 million people in California who are at risk of losing their homes because of the Covid-19 pandemic," said Moya.
If approved by voters, Proposition 21 would allow cities to enact rent control measures for properties more than 15 years old. The properties include apartments and single family homes. That includes any home in a trust or an estate.
People who own one or two homes would be exempt from the measure.
Moya points to a growing number of younger Californians, many without work or underemployed, who in many instances can't afford to rent a place and are living with their parents.
"Prop 21 simply put will help families stay in their homes," said Moya.
"The opponents of the rent control measure include California Governor Newsom, the California Chamber of Commerce and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Governor Newsom last year signed a rent control law, which for ten years caps annual rent increases state-wide at 5% plus the rate of inflation.
Prop 21 would override that.
"Next to carpet bombing rent control is about the best way to destroy a community, we have seen that over and over again," said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Coupal and others opposed to Prop 21 say if passed it would dis-incentivize builders of affordable housing to build more homes, because it will be harder for them to realize a sufficient return on investment if rents controls are adopted.
"Nothing puts a chill on investors and building new housing than the possibility that rent control could expand," said Coupal.
In 2018, California voters by a wide margin defeated a similar measure, Proposition 10.
Coupal further argues rent controls actually put upward pressure on rents.
He cites cities with stringent rent controls, including Santa Monica and San Francisco.