I’ll be voting yes on Measure C, the rent control measure here in Santa Rosa, CA. I’m not a fan of rent control. Generally speaking, I think rent control treats a symptom and not the underlying problem. But at some point, if one doesn’t stop the bleeding, there will be no patient to save, you know?
The one aspect everyone can agree upon around here is there’s a housing shortage. The most popular reason given is lack of building and certainly that plays a part. The other thing I point to is REITs – Real Estate Investment Trusts. These are investment vehicles in which people with a little money to invest pool their resources with other people with money to invest and buy up available inventory. Since REITs use pooled money, they can offer whatever they need to offer to acquire the property and then charge whatever they need to charge to make the investment profitable.
I don’t know who’s going to stop such a process. A seller receives an offer OVER the asking price, as is, all cash, with a 14 day escrow. Who’s going to say no? Is the seller going to “pass” on that offer and take the one below asking in which the buyer still needs to secure funding? Will the Real Estate agent, who stands to make a killing on the artificially inflated price say no? How about the bank that gets to charge interest on the loan, will they say no? Eventually, inevitably, the market, itself, will say no. If I try to rent my storage unit to a family of four for $5000/mo and I get no takers, I’ll have to change my position.
But in the meantime, how much damage has been done to society?
To be clear, I see the REITs buying single family homes as the driver of the problem but Measure C doesn’t even speak to that issue. It only applies to apartments and only certain apartments at that. But as single family homes become unavailable, people are forced into apartments. The increased demand for apartments created by artificially skyrocketing rents on single family units allows landlords to charge increasingly high rents.
Consider: the average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in Santa Rosa as of April, 2017 is $2,083 a month. Management companies look to make sure the prospective renter makes three times the rent as a qualifier. That means a prospective renter needs to show $6,249 a month in income just to qualify. Let’s carry this out, shall we? That monthly income amount works out to $74,988 per year. A full time employee works 2,080 hours a year so in order to rent that 2 bedroom unit, the prospective renter needs to earn $36 dollars an hour. ($36.05, to be exact…)
Is that the guy who washes the cars at the dealerships before going on display? Is that the server who just handed you a bag of food through a window? Is it the person stocking the shelves in your local Wal-Mart? Fun fact: California will push it’s minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour – by 2022! If they started that today, people would only be $21 dollars an hour short of what they need to rent a 2 bedroom apartment. How far behind will they be in 2022? So you see, I could support Measure C just on the math, alone.
But the truth is, that’s not why I’ll be voting for it. My reason is more…visceral…
See, the Santa Rosa city council saw the problem and tried to implement a solution. No, it’s not a “solution” so much as a stopgap but they tried to do something. Then, big moneyed interests got involved and used the proposition process to force the issue to a ballot – but they lied to people in order to gather signatures. They’ve been lying pretty much every day since, as well. I get a new, glossy, full-page flyer in my mailbox nearly every day telling me all the things Measure C won’t do. The thing is, the pretty mailers are addressing issues nobody else is talking about.
Hey, Measure C won’t make the airlines run on time so vote no!
What? Who said anything about airlines?
Well, measure C won’t make your kid prom queen so vote no!
Prom queen, what?!?
OMG, Measure C won’t stop fourth graders from smoking, vote no!
Nobody said Measure C would stop fourth graders from smoking – that’s not even the point!
Hey, if you think fourth graders should smoke, go ahead and vote yes on C!
If you hate your grandma, vote yes on C…
All right, I may have made up some (all) of those anti-C arguments but the urgings of the anti-C flyers are no more relevant. There has been a non-stop flood of falsehoods flowing into my mailbox. Frankly, it makes me a little suspicious. I have a rule of thumb that, in my humble opinion, always applies. It says that when a person (or group, in this case) resorts to lying, they’re admitting they know their own position is false.
Of course, none of that matters with today’s electorate. Huge swaths of Americans have become dumber than bricks and I’m pretty sure all the slick mailers and outright false advertising – that is, all the money poured into this effort – will have the desired effect.
But I’ll tell you this: the truth is, I’m not really voting for or against Measure C. I’m voting against the lies…