September 4, 2018

Why I Support Rent Control: A Landlord’s Perspective     

Rent Control: Safe Homes for All

I am a landlord who supports the Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act, Measure M.  It can help with our housing crisis by stabilizing rents immediately and providing protections from arbitrary evictions, with the goal of helping to keep our diverse community intact. Voting yes on Measure is the right thing to do.

There is strong and organized opposition to this measure, led and funded by real estate professionals. They euphemistically call landlords “housing providers”-a neutral term used to blur the reality that landlords have most of the power in landlord/tenant relations because they have the ability to raise rents without restraint and can evict tenants without just cause.

Stephen Barton, in his April 2018  Sentinel Commentary on rent control, points out that escalating rental housing  costs have created a “massive transfer of wealth from tenants to real estate investors”. This phenomenon is a local example of rising income inequality. Measure M is simply a way to help correct this imbalance.

I have owned rental property, a duplex, in the city of Santa Cruz since 1993.  It would be subject to the rent control caps and just cause eviction regulations if the measure passes in November.  I am well versed in the issues of rental property ownership. Like many “mom and pop” landlords in Santa Cruz, I take pride in providing a nice place to live at an affordable price for the tenants I know and care about.

I am also well aware of the benefits the tenants provide to me through the payment of rent: they are paying my mortgage, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and maintenance costs.  I also receive substantial tax deductions on business expenses and depreciation. When my mortgage is paid off, I will have a very valuable asset. All of these benefits accrue to me, not to the tenants.

And, like any prudent business owner, I anticipate scheduled and potential expenses like increases in property taxes, insurance and utilities; appliance replacement; new roofs, etc.  These are business expenses that are passed on to the tenant in the form of rent.

Because of the additional regulations that this measure imposes, the opposition would like homeowners to believe that the measure is an encroachment of property rights. This is an argument we have heard frequently from conservative lawmakers and lobbyists who view regulations not as protections for vulnerable people, but a restriction of their ability to make maximum profits. Because of fixed mortgages and the 2% annual cap on property taxes mandated by proposition 13, most homeowners have been untouched by the 52% average increase in rental prices over the last four years in Santa Cruz.  Imagine how your pocketbook would be affected if your mortgage increased by that much. What would you have to cut from your budget to afford living here? Could you even afford to stay, or pay for your children’s college or for your retirement? This is what renters in Santa Cruz have experienced, and will continue to experience if Measure M does not pass.

You may think the measure is not perfect. No measure or candidate is. But you have a choice-are you going to vote on the side of the renters, or on the side of heavily funded real estate investors? Let’s not be a community where only the super-rich can afford to live and rent. Do the right thing. Vote for a measure that will help stabilize rents immediately, protect against arbitrary evictions that are not the fault of the tenant, and keep our community intact.  Vote yes on Measure M!

—Paula Mack, retired RN and Santa Cruz rental property owner