“One of the more persuasive arguments supporting Proposition 10 on the November ballot is that it’s more about “local control” than rent control. The measure would not impose rent control anywhere but would give cities and counties some flexibility in addressing the affordable housing crisis, the reasoning goes.
It’s a nice thought, and we certainly appreciate the symbolism of giving folks more local control over their own communities, especially when it comes to skyrocketing rents.
Local control, however, has its pluses and minuses, especially in affluent, no-growth, NIMBY-prone areas like parts of Ventura County. In those areas, rent control could easily become local government’s pain-free method of choice to shut down new apartment construction.
The main reason for California’s affordable housing shortage is simple: too much demand and not enough supply. Prop. 10 does nothing to address that disparity and indeed could make it worse.
For that reason and others, we urge you to vote no on Proposition 10.
In California, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995 prohibits local rent control laws from applying to single-family homes, any housing unit built after Feb. 1, 1995, and most importantly, to any new renter moving in, regardless of when the apartment was built.
More than a dozen cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have some sort of rent control, under those constraints. In Ventura County, a few cities have mobile home rent control.
Prop. 10 would repeal the Costa-Hawkins law, giving local governments the opportunity to impose rent control where and how they see fit, provided they still allow landlords to earn “a fair rate of return.”
That latter rule seems plain enough, but rental arbitration hearings are usually not so simple. Disputes over fair profit, renovation costs and other expenses are common.
Supporters and opponents of Prop. 10 differ on its potential effect on housing supply. But it seems obvious to us that tighter regulation and limits on profit are not the way to encourage building.
Last year, two Stanford economists analyzed decades of housing data in San Francisco and found rent control has led to higher rents there. Landlords buy out leases or use evictions to promote tenant turnover, or convert apartments to condominiums or other uses not covered by rent control, they found. We also worry that rent control could worsen the trend of landlords converting permanent housing into short-term rentals.
We do not dispute that rents are too high in California — more than double the national average in some parts of the state. The average apartment rent in Ventura County is hovering around $1,900. The average renter here may end up spending more than half their income on housing this year, making us the 13th least affordable county in the nation for renters, according to a January report by a real estate data company.
The reason for that, however, is not a lack of rent control. The reason is a minuscule vacancy rate of 3 percent, due to limited supply and strong demand. It is an adversity to growth in a county where even apartment projects proposed for urban, “in-fill” areas have a tough time winning over NIMBY neighbors and weak-willed city leaders.
Adding rent control to their arsenal of no-growth tools runs counter to everything the state is trying to do right now to provide more affordable housing. Just last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a series of pro-density and housing-friendly bills into law, including one that aims to force wealthy cities to zone and plan for additional affordable housing.”