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Assembly's Housing Bill Viewed as Threat to Community Rent Control

May 26, 1988|MARK GLADSTONE and DANIEL M. WEINTRAUB | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — The Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee has approved a measure that could deny state housing subsidies to cities and counties with local rent and growth controls.

The legislation, which is opposed by the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, was approved on a bipartisan 7-0 vote May 16 and sent to the Ways and Means Committee.

Under the measure by Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim), the state could deny housing funds--estimated at $62.8 million for this year--to cities or counties that have policies that limit the housing available for low-income families.

Financial Stakes

But the financial stakes could increase dramatically if voters approve bond measures next month, in November and in 1990 for another $570 million in housing funds.

Local housing policies would be evaluated by a three-person committee whose members would be appointed by the governor. Funds earmarked for the homeless, handicapped people and mobile home owners would be exempted from the effects of the bill.

Seymour said his bill would send a simple message to cities and counties: "If you want no growth, if you want rent control, if you want five-acre estate homes only, go ahead and do that. But don't come to the state and ask us to resolve your low-income housing problem, your affordable housing problem, when in fact you were the ones who drove out of your city that affordable housing and low-income housing."

The legislation is supported by the California Housing Council and the California Assn. of Realtors. For much of the past decade, these groups have championed legislation to weaken local rent controls. In 1986, Seymour, a former real estate agent, carried a bill to weaken rent controls, but it stalled in the Senate. Even if Seymour's latest measure clears the full Assembly, it must go back to the Senate, where it is expected to face spirited opposition.

In addition to Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, the bill is opposed by the League of California Cities, the County Supervisors Assn. of California, the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the California Federation of Labor.

Tom Rankin, director of research for the state Federation of Labor, suggested that the measure "may be used to penalize cities with rent control ordinances."

Norm Boyer, a lobbyist for the Los Angeles City Council, opposed the bill, saying Seymour needs to spell out "an objective standard" for the three-member committee to base its decisions upon. He said the city is afraid that it could lose $2 million a year in state housing funds it now receives.

Candy Rupp, housing program manager for the city of Santa Monica, said in an interview that her city also fears the loss of state housing dollars. She estimated that this year Santa Monica is receiving about $500,000 in various state housing funds--ranging from home ownership assistance to rehabilitation of low-income rental units. She anticipates that if the bond measures are approved, the city could be eligible for at least $2 million a year.

Opponents also argued that it would be unfair to allow the state to deny housing funds on the basis of a single policy without taking into account everything a city or county was doing to provide housing for poor people.

Lenny Goldberg, a lobbyist for the city of West Hollywood, said: "We believe that if you looked at housing policies taken as a whole and had some objective criteria, this bill would not pose the political threat that we see." He said West Hollywood receives about $450,000 annually from the state and hopes to obtain $1.2 million from the pending bond proposals.

After the committee action, Seymour said he would probably amend the bill to consider all city or county housing policies if opponents would agree in exchange to support the measure.

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