End California’s Housing Data Problem with AB 1188 the Rental Registry

It’s no secret that California is experiencing the worst housing crisis in the nation, but the truth is this: no one knows the true magnitude or extent of the epidemic.

For too long California lawmakers have been building policies and interventions with imprecise and unreliable data, with the hope that it will reach those most in need. It’s time to shed light on our biggest secret— right now we can’t answer the question “just how big is the housing crisis we’re facing in California?”

The state of California currently does not have a rental registry in place. This means that we are not tracking crucial data like the number of evictions, illegal rent hikes, and violation of tenants rights. This data has the potential to help Califonia better protect and support tenants and give a concrete scope of what issues renters are facing. We don’t think we can hack our way out of the housing crisis, but we can use technology more effectively to bring light to the issues.

As tech workers, we understand the importance of having reliable data to inform decision-making.  That is why at TechEquity Collaborative, we have introduced a bill to fix our data problem. Authored by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, AB 1188 would collect this vital data in jurisdictions across the state, allowing transparency for tenants, accountability for landlords, and help bring forth better policies that are backed by concrete data.

Learn More About the Rental Registry

  • Current enforcement of tenant law places the burden on vulnerable tenants to know and defend their rights. We only know when landlords are raising rents illegally if their tenants report them. Tenant protections should be accompanied by effective and proactive enforcement. A Rental Registry would provide the data necessary to identify landlords who chronically flout the law across multiple units, buildings, and jurisdictions, preventing the worst abuses
  • Establishing a Rental Registry can help governments better identify areas of the community and individual households who are rent burdened or at risk of eviction to intervene and proactively provide resources and support to tenants who need it most. 
  • In order to make smart housing policy, we need granular, transparent, comprehensive data about rental prices, vacancies, and tenancies that can only be gathered by asking the landlords to submit them directly. AB 1188 will improve policy makers’ understanding of the rental market, allowing them to design better policy responses to the housing crisis
  • What is the effect of new market-rate or affordable housing on rents of existing nearby units? What is the effect of vacant units on rents? To what extent do rent increases lead to evictions? These are all important questions that—in the absence of comprehensive data—don’t have clear answers. No one really knows how much rents are increasing across the state. The data that does exist, from places like the American Community Survey and Zillow, are insufficient in many ways. They are proprietary, expensive, aren’t comprehensive, and tend to report top line data such as averages. In order to make smart policy decisions and support the tenants who need it most researchers need access to open, comprehensive data.
  • After passing the Assembly Committee on Housing & Community Development, AB 1188 was held on suspense in Assembly Appropriations and never received a hearing.