SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — There has been no bigger issue in the San Francisco Bay Area and across the state since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic than rent control.

Cities and counties across the Bay Area have passed moratoriums on paying rent and on evictions, but on Tuesday voters soundly rejected a state ballot measure that have would let local officials expand those protections.

Proposition 21 would have let cities limit rent hikes on properties that are more than 15 years old. People who own one or two single-family homes would have been exempt.

“No” votes led early and the lead expanded to 59% after more than 10 million ballots were counted.

Tom Bannon of the group Californians for Responsible Housing cheered the decision, saying voters understood the negative impacts the measure would have had on the availability of affordable housing.

’“The broad coalition opposing Prop. 21 – from Governor Gavin Newsom to the California Republican Party, as well as labor, social justice, senior, veterans and housing groups – made an effective case that this initiative would have worsened the state’s housing crisis,” Bannon said in a statement.

“It is now time to move from ballot box battles and enact policies through the Legislature that allow the state to build more affordable housing that will once again make California an affordable place to live for our families.”

Bannon and other opponents argued that the measure would have discouraged new home construction at a time when it is sorely needed for California’s 40 million people.

Proponents contended Prop. 21 was an urgent attempt to slow spiraling rent increases that lead to crowding and homelessness.

Rene Christian Moya, campaign director of Yes on 21, said late Tuesday that the group was “disappointed, although not completely surprised, that Prop. 21 fell short at the ballot box tonight.”

Moya said they would “continue the fight for housing justice for California’s seventeen-million renters.”

The state has been grappling with rising housing costs for years, and Newsom last year approved a decade-long limit on rent increases to 5% a year plus inflation. That law — which came after a more expansive rent control proposition was rejected by voters in 2018 — also barred landlords from evicting tenants without a reason.

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