The Santa Ana City Council will be voting on the issue of passing local rent control legislation. With a statewide rent cap and 18 cities and counties across the state with local rent control, it is a common and time-tested policy but continues to face an onslaught of misinformation. Let’s take a look at the facts.
Rent control does NOT inhibit new development, and cities with rent control in California are some of the most active real estate markets in the state. In 2011, a study of Winnipeg rent controls found that more housing was built after rent control was enacted. Accordingly, the boom and bust cycles of local housing construction are driven by the overall health of the economy, not rent control.
Rent control does not permanently freeze rents. Rent stabilization establishes reasonable annual increases. Rent control means that landlords cannot raise rents more than a small, reasonable percentage each year, based on a percentage of the Consumer Price Index/inflation that cities can determine based on their local housing market. For Santa Ana’s majority renter, low-income, mixed-status, multi-generational households, a three percent max is responsive to the demographics of the city
Rent control is cost-effective. This policy prevents homelessness, which costs the city of Santa Ana close to $400,000 per year. The programs are funded through a negligible (often $10-40) per unit annual fee on landlords.
Just cause for eviction protections are an essential companion policy to rent control. Just cause for eviction means landlords would have to give a reason for evicting tenants, and would have to pay relocation costs for reasons where the tenant is not at fault. Every rent control law allows eviction for nonpayment of rent or tenant misconduct.
Rent control doesn’t make rents rise, that’s like blaming a fire on the presence of a firefighter. Rents rise for many reasons—rent control is not one of them. Eric Fischer’s recent analysis of San Francisco rents from 1950 to present day found that rent control did not increase rent overall, and did not distort the rental market. In Massachusetts, a study showed that when rent control was eliminated in Cambridge, costs of all housing — formerly rent controlled and uncontrolled units — rose dramatically.
Rent control does not affect quality & quantity of housing. A study by urban planner John Gilderbloom showed that modern rent control laws in a hundred U.S. cities have not negatively impacted the quality and quantity of rental units and actually motivated landlords to increase maintenance of rental housing. By law, landlords must comply with code requirements for rental housing and effective enforcement is the primary determinant of the quality of the housing stock.
Rent control is good for local economies. Rent control helps renters keep more disposable cash in their pockets to support local economies. Rent control is not about putting landlords out of business. It’s about fairness, and allowing landlords a reasonable return while giving tenants the peace of mind that they won’t face a sudden spike in rent or be evicted without cause.
Housing is not just any consumer good; it is a necessity of life, and rents should be regulated for the public good. It should be treated like any other public good like food, water, and air. We need rent control to help us protect the greatest cultural and economic asset Santa Ana has: its people.
Aimee Inglis is a resident of Anaheim where she was born and raised and spent a decade working in housing policy as a researcher, organizer, and legislative advocate with Tenants Together, the California statewide renters’ rights organization.
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