Friday, April 15, 2016

Opinion: Rent control isn’t solving California’s housing problems

Published 12:13 pm, Thursday, March 31, 2016

Rent control won’t solve California’s enormous housing problems. But that’s not stopping Californians from pursuing rent-control policies in their hometowns.

2016 threatens to become the Year of Rent Control, with the topic white-hot in the Bay Area, home to California’s most-expensive housing. Rent control refers to laws that put limits on how much landlords may raise rents.

Last summer, Richmond became the first city in California in 30 years to pass a new control law (though the law was later suspended, and the issue likely will be decided on the ballot). And in recent months, rent control has become a top issue in the state’s biggest cities.

In San Jose, multiple proposals to tighten rent controls, perhaps by tying them to inflation, are being debated in the City Council, and some could go to the ballot. A ballot initiative to cap rent increases was just filed in Oakland. Los Angeles is considering a new registry of all apartment rents. And in San Diego, a tenants’ movement wants to establish new controls.

Such attention to rent control is understandable but unhelpful. Rent control is a policy that, as libraries full of research and California’s own experience demonstrate, doesn’t do much to accomplish its avowed purpose: to make more affordable housing available.

As the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office made clear in a 2015 report, the heart of California’s housing problem is that we Californians have long failed to build anywhere close to enough housing to accommodate the number of people who live here. The office said we’d need an additional 100,000 units a year to mitigate the problem. The reasons for the lack of building are many and related: community resistance, environmental policies, a lack of fiscal incentives for local governments to approve housing, and the high costs of land and construction.

Given all those barriers, today’s debate over rent control seems beside the point.

If rent control really lowers prices and produces stability for tenants, as its supporters claim, why are cities with rent control — among them Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Santa Monica, San Jose, Thousand Oaks and West Hollywood — so expensive? On the other side of the question, opponents of rent control sound ridiculous when they warn that it discourages construction, especially because state law exempts new construction from rent-control laws. The vast majority of California cities have no rent control — and they have housing shortages, too.


Posted by Steve Sinai


Anonymous said...

Remember the markets are out of everyone's control. Peter Lynch the stock and Wall Street guru says, the biggest fools are the people who try to guess the top and bottom of every market.

I get a bit tired of people saying, I can't afford the rent. Move, no one owes you anything.

Move to a cheaper area to live, end of discussion.

Maybe you people are waiting for Bernie Saunders, to become President so rent, cars, housing, college education, groceries, medical care, dental, and everything else is free.

Get out of Fantasy land. The Billionaires in California have priced out Millionaires.

Anonymous said...

BTW Sinai, half of Richmond is hard core ghetto.

Steve Sinai said...

"BTW Sinai, half of Richmond is hard core ghetto."

...and that matters because?

Anonymous said...

Because you don't understand market rents, market conditions and supply and demand.

Steve Sinai said...

"Because you don't understand market rents, market conditions and supply and demand."

...and you say that because?

Anonymous said...

Q. Why do cities with rent control typically have high rent?

A. The high rents are the reason for rent control, not the other way around.

Steve Sinai said...

Q. Why do cities have high rents?

A. NIMBYS won't allow new housing to be built.

Anonymous said...

San Francisco is on a major building boom and rents are still sky high.

Anonymous said...

The nimbys In San Francisco would eat the Pacifica ninbys for lunch. This motley crue should have never been able to gain momentum.

The reason why this blog was created was to defeat a sitting councilman and remove the nimby backed council members one by one.

Steve Sinai said...

Fix Pacifica got going because at the time, Riptide was the only blog in town, and it wasn't publishing comments from those in favor of keeping the golf course open. Most of us wanted the Gang of No on the council replaced too, but that wasn't the initial reason for starting the blog.

Steve Sinai said...

"San Francisco is on a major building boom and rents are still sky high."

SF and the Bay Area have gone decades without building enough housing. It's going to take more than a short term spurt to fix the problem.

Plus, SF housing development still lags population growth.

Anonymous said...

When the tech boom crashes all these young hipsters will pack up and leave SF, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Silicon Valley. It's happened before And it will happen again.

Anonymous said...

Rent control gives a breather to renters and should be temporary.

Steve Sinai said...

"When the tech boom crashes all these young hipsters will pack up and leave SF, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Silicon Valley. It's happened before And it will happen again."

And then the economy will recover and the young hipsters, or whatever they're called then, will come back.

Anonymous said...

Steve, doesn't the City of San Francisco own the Sharp Park Golf Course?
How could Riptide comments affect it?

Anonymous said...


San Francisco and San Mateo county are working on San Mateo County taking over Sharp Park Golf Course. It's in the works.

No one with real influence reads any of the Pacifica Blogs. Or they read them but no one actually takes the comments seriously.

It's cheap entertainment.

Kathy Meeh said...

Clue, the intended message from this blog is in the title "Fix Pacifica" (for the few who seem to be confused). That is the underlying broad mission that we subscribe to, and devote energy.
This blog offers a moderate voice for those who are intent on keeping and improving this City. The other blog, not so much.

"Cheap entertainment" comment Anonymous 8:23 AM. Using your example, Sharp Park Golf Course (located in our City) could have become more "empty space" had Brent Plater, and regional and local NIMBIES prevailed.
Fortunately San Francisco golf advocates including Pacificans, and San Francisco and San Mateo Counties prevailed. And that was a long, expensive legal struggle.
This blog (and others) supported the golfers; whereas, Riptide blog (and others) supported Brent Plater and the NIMBIES.

Productive information and opinion are appreciated, both in comments and articles sent to this blog.
For the record, I was involved with this blog prior to knowledge of the important Golf Course issue, (Steve was likely closer to that issue).

Anonymous said...

Go Warriors!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The more accurate name for this blog should be, "Fix Pacifica and Promote Kathy's Far Left Political Agenda." The funny thing is that her extremely liberal bias, with respect to fiscal issues, only seems to apply at the national level. In terms of local economic and property rights issues, she has a much more conservative/right-wing bent. I'm not quite sure how she reconciles this fact.

It will be interesting to see if she has the integrity to not censor this post since it is critical of her but not even close to the level of "grade-school playground brawling."

Kathy Meeh (politically middle/left) said...

1257, perhaps you're oblivious to the fact this article was posted by Steve, rather than Kathy.
Having problems today figuring out what side's up? Okay you get a pass for that one, it's Sunday and your ability to reason may be impaired.

About the need for affordable and low cost housing, and a better City economy-- yes, I support that.

The question is why the "far left" in this City (from your comments that clearly includes you), would champion (or elicit sympathy for) the plight of people who have lost their rented homes-- yet, YOU and your NIMBY contingent REFUSE to support and campaign for building adequate affordable and low cost housing.

What would be the motive for such conflicting values? "Rent control", which is a mixed response-- or is it really City political manipulation?
I think the failure of NIMBY efforts to fully consider the solution is an incomplete, twisted political manipulation leading to the 2016 election for City Council, in an effort to give this City the usual negative impact: "nothing for Pacifica". (In all your "anonymous integrity" you forgot to disclose that.)

Anonymous said...

Kathy is about as Democrat as they come.

But that's OK Kathy, I still like you regardless =)

Anonymous said...

The party of Lancelle, Digre, Vreeland, deJarnutt, Keener = TOTAL FAIL.

Anonymous said...

Julie Lancelle wants back on city council.