Can’t Afford the Rent? Then Do Something! Just Don’t Make it Worse


Can’t Afford the Rent? Then Do Something! Just Don’t Make it Worse

2018-09-28T08:49:03+00:00September 28th, 2018|Advocacy, Local Updates|

Picture a young adult, mid-20s, hoping to move out (finally) of her parents’ home. She looks around Modesto for a nice, safe, affordable apartment. Here’s what she finds: Making her parents’ mortgage payment would be cheaper than paying rent. What young person can afford $1,150 or $1,200 a month for a one bedroom?

This is an outrage! Somebody should pass a law! Just not Proposition 10.

Passing Prop 10 would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act of 1995, allowing individual cities to impose rent control. Economists agree that rent control does exactly the opposite of what is intended – raising rents and making rentals harder to find.

After rent control in San Francisco, a UC Berkeley study found the number of units fell 15 percent and rents rose 5.1 percent. After some LA suburbs invoked rent control, the number of units fell 5.9 percent as nearby cities without controls saw an increase.

This is economics 101: Short supply, high demand, higher prices. More units, low demand, lower prices.

Tell a landlord she can’t raise the rent, and repairs will be delayed. With rents locked in place, upgrades never pencil out. Keep rents stagnant as taxes, insurance premiums and utilities rise and landlords will convert apartments into condos, sell them and invest the cash elsewhere – like Nevada.

Those living in rent-controlled apartments, meanwhile, find it difficult to move – they’ll never find rent that low again. So they stay.

Voting yes on Proposition 10 might soothe the outrage felt by writing a $1,200 rent check, but it won’t solve the problem.

“If Prop 10 is passed … it will kill multi-family housing in this state,” said Greg Terzakis, executive director of the California Apartment Association.

“This reeks of the Sacramento-bubble culture arguing over solutions that aren’t going to help anybody,” said Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced. “Modesto, Merced, Fresno – they’ve all become unaffordable … because the urban centers keep pushing their responsibilities for building housing onto us.”

As Bay Area rents soar out of reach (a parking space goes for $400), rents in our Valley drift ever higher.

And there are better solutions. Cities that haven’t kept up with demand should to accept their failures and offer building incentives – property tax rebates, discounted loans, streamlined permitting.

Fixing the California Environmental Quality Act “is a great place to start,” said Terzakis. “CEQA has been used as a club by the NIMBYs.” The legislature carves out exemptions for sports stadiums, so why not housing?

Terzakis cited an abandoned mobile home park in Fresno that took four years to permit for new, low-cost apartments. “The builders were ready, the city wanted it. Why should (CEQA delays) ever happen?”

Prop 10’s opponents are pushing Proposition 1, a bond to help pay for water and sewer lines, transportation, infill and building near transportation centers. Workable solutions.

That’s last one is important after the failure of SB 827, which would have incentivized building around BART stations. Hundreds of San Franciscans made it clear that lower-rent neighbors weren’t welcome and it died.

That gets back to Gray’s anger over Prop 10 – a cure that makes the symptoms worse.

“Why are we not punishing communities that don’t keep up with their housing needs?” he asked. “People in San Francisco want to talk about helping people but they never get around to doing it. Why not? This is an easy thing for me to oppose.” You should, too.

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