Rent Control a Controversial Measure

By: 
Steve Propes

In what must qualify as the most serious attempt at making rent control stick in Long Beach, Josh Butler, one-time Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske’s chief of staff, now heading up Housing Long Beach (HLB) has decided to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide, part of which depends on passing a statewide measure.

According to Butler, HLB “was founded to advocate for increased affordable housing to be built.” Since then, they “haven’t built enough housing,” so he embarked on a campaign to introduce rent control. As there was little support for the idea on the city council, next step, a voter’s initiative.

“Long Beach has largest percentage of renters on the west coast,” said Butler, who listed rent control or similar measures in other cities. “San Diego has just cause eviction. Seven cities have some form of protection, including rent control. We don’t want Long Beach to miss the party.

“The need to build is more important than before. However, the city council does not support rent control.” In fact, in recent interviews with all candidates for council districts three and five, the only consensus issue was the lack of support for rent control. “The interests of low income renters is not a priority,” said Butler, who linked rent control to
the issue “just cause eviction,” which Butler equated to “tenant security.” It lays out specific reasons for eviction. Right now, in Long Beach, the landlord doesn’t need to give a reason, just put a notice on the door. Most renters would have a one year lease, silently morphs into a month to month, which is a huge advantage to the landlord. We’re talking about stability for Long Beach neighborhoods.

Currently, according to Butler, there are 57,500 rental units in Long Beach with a two percent vacancy rate, which according to him creates a “full blown housing crisis.” However, the parties can’t agree on that number. At an informal meeting of a half dozen members of the 25 member Small Property Owners Alliance (SPOA) put together by local consultant Mike Murchison, the impact of rent control was discussed at length. For openers, their figure was 77,000 rental units, with renters at about 60 percent of Long Beach population, more than the 75,000 units proffered in a city memo.

The SPOA contends that Long Beach, long known for less than optimal rental housing is beginning to respond to the market and build out rental units. SPOA members are worried the prospect of rent control could set back this increased activity. “Long Beach has the lowest rate of evictions and that 80 percent were for non payment.” SPOA’s Murchison stated, that under the rent control measure, “To evict, there must be a substantial problem; would require third person testimony and full fledged trial with an attorney,” with all the expected costs.

Murchison’s take on the history of rent control in Los Angeles is that in the 30 years of that city’s rent control, “available housing stock dropped from 1.2 million to 600,000 units.” SPOA asks with rent control, why build in a given area like L.A. or Long Beach? Were rent control passed, builders might take their housing to an adjacent area where no such restrictions exist.

Unlike rent control measures in other areas, “our proposal would cover a large swath,” including the rental of single family homes with few exclusions, said Butler. “All rental housing would be covered.”

As the statewide the Costa Hawkins Act excludes single family homes, condos and post-1995 buildings, Butler is counting on this act being repealed this fall before his measure can take effect. Petitions to repeal Costa Hawkins Depends requires about 800,000 signatures statewide.

Were rent control enacted, the city would be mandated to create a rent control board to monitor rental activity. The cost of that board would be borne by the landlord. Butler would not estimate the additional costs to the landlord, however in other cities the cost is about $250 a year.

According to Murchison, in in Santa Monica, the board charges $194 per unit. Then there are the relocation fees, which, according to Murchison, can range from $3,800 to $8,300 and as much as $19,300 in fees in Los Angeles. Of course, fees have yet to be determined for the purposes of Long Beach.

With a goal of 27,500 valid signatures, at least 200 HLB volunteer petition gatherers are found at CSULB, Long Beach City College and retail centers like Smart & Final, 99 Cent Stores, Trader Joe’s, Food For Less and WalMart, especially on weekends, which began about two months ago. “Sometimes we have to move when blockers show up.”
There is no love lost between the two sides. We use no hired signature gatherers,” said Butler. “We believe there is enough energy and support, but the other side has hired paid signature blockers. If other side uses blockers, we may use hired signature gatherers. A blocker may come forward, and say, ‘don’t sign that.’” Blockers, according to Murchison are on hand to educate voters. The signature gatherers ask, ‘Is your landlord going to raise your rent?’ Paid gatherers get one dollar to $7 per signature. Some are professional signature gatherers.”

Butler countered, “Some of our petition gatherers were harassed, just aggressive member of Better Housing Long Beach run by Joani Weir, a landlord activist. We’ve exchanged words. We’re in a lot of the same spaces.”  Better Housing Long Beach did not return several messages from the Beachcomber.

The rent control measure is slated for the November ballot, if sufficient signatures are gathered. If not turned in by June, a special election might be held or the measure might be on the March 2020 ballot.

On April 19, the city got in on the act. In a memo circulated by City of Long Beach Interim Director of Development Services Tom Modica to the city manager and other department heads in which he stated, “the establishment of a rental housing board and the breadth of powers granted to it, are inconsistent with (and likely violate) provisions of the City Charter. Lengthy and potentially costly legal actions would be necessary to address such inconsistencies.”

As of early May, Butler stated the newly created Rent Control Now will operate independently of HLB on the issue. “City hall is waging war on renters. Rather than looking for ways to assist the 60 percent of our residents who rent, and are experiencing some of the largest rent increases in the country, they look to place obstacles in front of the community. As for any specific litigation the city may face, that’s unfortunate, however, it is true that Better Housing for Long Beach has promised litigation when rent control passes. I hope that organization is saving up for their legal fund, because the Rent Control Now coalition expects the City Attorney to defend the will of the people.”

steve@beachcomber.news

 

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Comments

A Journalist should try to give the best arguments of both sides. The purpose should be to inform the public with facts so the public can make up their own mind. Did Josh Butler write this for you? It is weak and one sided.

In a Free Market Economy, we all make decisions based on our own Self-Interest. Who is Greedier, the Producers or the Consumers ? The obvious answer is BOTH. How do we balance the two? Competition is a necessity. The Producer has a right to get the highest possible rent for their apartment. The Consumer should try to get the lowest price for the highest quality apartment. Who should set the price? The FREE Market.

If prices go higher, landlords will build more units. Renters will move farther out of town in less expensive neighborhoods. Renters will share apartments. Renters can live at home. This will put downward pressure on rents.

What happens when we get politicians who think they can get votes by writing a law that favors one side or the other? They are buying votes. The question should be, "When socialist politicians set a rent that is too low, does it help renters?" The obvious answer is NO! These price setters use their control to give their cronies special privileges. (Look at how the Mayor puts his cronies on the Harbor Board so they can travel in luxury at Harbor expense.) This is not the Free Market.

When Price is set too low by the crony government: 1. Supply goes down. As Mr Murchison said no landlord will build new apartments where they cannot charge a fair rent. Landlords will not invest their capital to improve their units; 2. Demand goes up. Renters will not have roommates, Renters will move into these units crowding out other renters who are willing to pay more. The supply and quality of rental units will go down.

When can a landlord raise rent? When a unit becomes vacant. The unit can be fixed up and rent raised. Who moves most often? The higher income professionals or the working class? The working class. When a working class person encounters some financial difficulty, they will have to move out until they can get back on their feet. The rent went up. A higher income professional will stay in the same unit for many years. Often they do their own upgrades because they have such artificially low rent. Key Question: Rent Control is designed to help which one?? They say, the working class person. In reality, they screw the working class person and benefit the one who doesn't need their help. This is the history of socialism. This is the USSR, Venezuela, Cuba, China. The workers are the ones who get screwed... every time.

In Berkeley, CA (UC Berkeley) and in Cambridge, MASS (Harvard University/MIT), Rent Control is "supposed" to help students. Right? uh... I think... How long do students stay? Four years. Then they move and rent goes up. Who stays? Professors Do we need crony rent control to benefit the highly paid professors? Aren't Berkeley and Harvard students "SMART"?? no. many people with high SAT scores have no practical sense.

Long Beach has been run by these same socialists for decades. We have horrible taxes yet we have horrible roads, our parks are like third world nations, there are entire sections of the city that are not safe.

It is time to make our Country a FREE Country again. Reestablish Free Markets.

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