Response to Caroline Torosis and Anastasia Foster on Rent Control
Regarding their comments in the local press
July 4, 2022
As Caroline and Anastasia say, rent control is for all tenants, but it is the rent challenged who they, understandably, use to justify emergency rent freezes, thus lumping all renters into one group. But using a subset of the group to set policy for all is the opposite of how progressive taxation and the redistribution of wealth is performed in any well-meaning democracy, such as ours.
All taxation and economic policies need to account for individual wealth, to ease the negative side effects of capitalism, but still allow capitalism, and our country to thrive.
For example, currently in Santa Monica, rent increases are capped at $140 for higher rent units. Thus rents below $2300 pay the full 6% raise, but those above pay less than 6% - perhaps a lot less.
This means that smaller units with longer time (poorer) residents will pay much higher percentage raises than larger units with more recent (richer) tenants. Thus the poor pay far more in percentage terms than the rich. Rewarding the rich more than the poor goes against all that is fair and democratic, and is completely upside-down.
The council should ask the rent board to provide a chart of the average percentage raises for each percentile of rents (from lowest 1 percentile of rents to highest 99 percentile).
Rather than jumping on this populist fix to the current crisis, the council should take time to consider other potential solutions first, that are more progressive and equitable.
A better way is to remove the $140 cap entirely, so richer tenants pay their full share, and lower the maximum rent increase percentage to, say, 5%. After all, isn't asking the rich to pay the basis of the councils approach to everything else they do?
I am not saying this is the best solution - though it seems far better- but that, at the very least, the council should spend the time to think about it. They should send the all the ballots back to the rent board with the above comments, and tell them to come up with something better.
The current system where the poor pay more than the rich is utterly wrong and unfair. And the rent control board's proposed 'fix' will just prolong that unfairness without end.
Simplistic, across the board rent freezes, with a rent control board looking for any excuses to claim an emergency, and that freezes the rent for the rich as well as the poor will simply accelerate the loss of precious rent control buildings, which are the backbone of housing in the city.
On a related note, If more rent control buildings are lost, and the rent-board receives ever less revenue from rent control fees, will they then ask for ever higher fees, which will then accelerate the loss of housing even more? At what point should the city take control of funding for the rent board to stop this vicious circle of fee increases and apartment loss? This request for higher fees is part of the same simplistic response to events that the rent board has been painting themselves into corners with for too long.
The council needs to insist the rent board thinks again on all the measures they have submitted for ballot this year, with special attention to fairness and progressive protections, rather than protections heavily biased towards the rich, as is the case now.