A Plea For a Sane Approach to Rent Control
Updated: Dec 13, 2018
by Datta Khalsa, Broker
By the time you read this column, the Santa Cruz City Council will have conducted the First Reading of their proposed Exorbitant Rent Increase Ordinance which they intend to have take effect in the event that Measure M does not go through in November. With a little luck they will have continued its discussion to subsequent meetings and you can join in the discussion before they unilaterally pass it.
Here are my thoughts on the topic, which I recently expressed in an open letter to them, echoing some of the sentiments that have been expressed by the local group Santa Cruz Together:
Honorable Council Members,
I have become aware of your upcoming proposal to limit rent increases to 10% in any given year and 15% in any two-year period. As a housing professional who manages over 150 rental units, I am in support of such measures as they are in compliance with accepted standards of practice of good taste recognized by CAA and other organizations who promote healthy landlord-tenant relations.
What is not in compliance with such standards are concepts such as “just cause” eviction provisions which provide a disincentive to housing providers and create a negative impact on the already sub-standard supply of rental housing stock in our community. In fact, I have had multiple clients who own rental property in Santa Cruz who have asked me to provide current opinion of market value in anticipation for selling their properties off in the event that Measure M or even a toned-down version of any ordinance containing just cause eviction measures goes into effect, which would constitute a wrongful taking of their property if it were kept as a rental.
In order to avoid this impact, each of these property owners would respond to by selling the property off, which in all likelihood under the Ellis act would displace their current tenants for a period of TEN YEARS, to be replaced by homebuyers who generally need a Silicon Valley income to be able to afford the prices around here. And while I would certainly profit from every rental property that that each of these clients sell off, I feel the overall effect would be a negative impact on our community by taking away places for tenants to live, thereby increasing long-range commuting and the probability of homelessness amongst the entry-level workers of our community.
Housing policy is complicated and tremendously important to the future of everyone in the city of Santa Cruz. Any ordinance beyond this added tenant protection requires a thorough process of community input combined with a serious and complete study of impacts. It would be reckless to make fast changes that affect the future of Santa Cruz housing and the quality of life in Santa Cruz. For example, “just cause” eviction provisions that supersede lease terms will drive people away from providing rental housing.
I applaud the work you are doing in seeking ways to effectively address the high cost of housing and sincerely hope you will not consider any last-minute changes to your housing policy without involving the community and including all interested parties.
For more information on the effort to preserve rental housing stock and explore rational ways to address the issues of affordability in our area you can learn more at www.santacruztogether.org and to express your concerns to the City Council you can write them as well at firstname.lastname@example.org