Proponents of rent control, which is threatening to make a comeback in the California Legislature, often portray the opposition as consisting entirely of landlords and developers. The implication is that the unbridled greed of real estate interests is all that stands in their way.
What they omit is the consensus against the policy that persists among experts and the public. Last fall, despite the depredations of the housing shortage and its proverbial too-damn-high rents, Californians roundly rejected Proposition 10, a ballot measure that would have cleared the way for more rent control. Yes, those dastardly real estate interests outspent supporters of the initiative 3-to-1. But similarly, lopsided campaign spending wasn’t enough to pass measures to expand property tax breaks, for example, or fund a grab bag of water projects.
Perhaps the voters understood that despite its populist appeal, rent control is the wrong answer to the state’s housing crisis. The policy benefits only those tenants who occupy controlled units, who are not necessarily the most vulnerable, at the expense not only of landlords but also of other renters.