A Local Landlord’s Perspective on Measure No. 1

local landlord, Citizen's Initiative No. 1,

(As a landlord) I think it is important to also take a broader policy-based view of this proposed ordinance.  If society determines that it is in its interests to protect and provide assistance to tenants, that is a legitimate goal, well within acceptable policy considerations.  The real issue is how the cost of this policy should be allocated.  The ordinance allocates the cost of this policy entirely to landlords.  This is plainly wrong. 

The cost of this societal policy should be allocated to the entirety of the society that enacts it through local taxes.  The ordinance is, effectively, a wealth transfer from landlords to tenants.  Such a transfer, in the guise of regulation, should be beyond the power of the City or the voters.  Even the exercise of eminent domain powers requires fair compensation.

The proposed ordinance is analytically no different than an ordinance to the effect that people in need of food can shop at markets without paying for the groceries, under certain conditions e.g. specific seasons of the year.  I doubt that any politician would approve such an ordinance that allocated solely to market owners the cost of feeding the poor and hungry.  That is plainly a cost to be borne by society as a whole — as should housing costs. 

As politicians understand, there are more tenant voters than landlord voters.  This means that politicians will always pander to tenants, who see only the short range benefits of various forms of rent control, and are not concerned with the long term effects of such rent control.  Arguments about such long term effects bear little weight because people are rightly concerned with their immediate well being — not unquantifiable and unmeasurable predicted events and conditions far in the future.

Unfortunately, the compelling conclusion to be drawn from the above is that landlords are unlikely to find a remedy in the voting process.  Perhaps, the remedy lies in legal challenges to the ordinances but success before local judges on these issues is doubtful. The current Supreme Court is probably the most likely Supreme Court in many decades to see various forms of “rent control” as wealth transfers or takings, prohibited by the Constitution.  If landlords have a remedy, and they may not, it is my guess that it lies with the current Supreme Court.  

(The writer asked to remain anonymous. If you have any questions about Measure No. 1, give Spinnaker Property Management a call.)

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