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Outside Money In Rent Control Election Campaign

Action Alameda News received a copy of this opinion piece from Eric Strimling of the Alameda Renters Coalition…

Here comes the outside money…

Alamedans are well acquainted with outside groups coming in to tell us how to run our city – trying to influence initiatives and bankroll our candidates for office. Have you received a phone call over the past several days from a pollster probing your opinion about the Alameda Renters’ Coalition (ARC) rent control measure? From what multiple sources have reported it seems that the poll is trying to plant anti-rent control myths. They ask some innocuous questions at first, then get to some questions designed to plant negative ideas in the minds of Alamedans. These can be summarized as follows-

Myth 1) Landlords will be subsidizing wealthy renters. Not true. Rent control is not about subsidized housing, it is about community stability. It is about a landlord setting the rent with a tenant and sticking to that profit level. We don’t want families to come to Alameda just to get priced out in few years. We want families to stay in Alameda and help build our hometown feeling.

Whether poor or middle class, all Alamedans deserve to be secure in their homes.

Myth 2) Homeowners will have to pay a special tax to administer a program that benefits wealthy renters. Non-landlords will not be paying into this program. Further, the City Staff have proposed asking Landlords to pay $131 per year fee to finance the existing ordinance, ARC is asking for only $120. The cost difference is because the City’s ordinance is a novel mediation based approach, where every rent must be negotiated. ARC’s measure offers clear guidelines that have worked well in cities across California.

Myth 3) The number of rentals in Alameda will decrease as landlords will take their properties off the market. This is pure speculation. Small landlords depend on the income from their units. Under rent control units will still earn the same income as they had previously, so why sell them? If outside investors come in to buy units and turn them into condominiums, then the Planning Board and City Council can take action. Meanwhile, tenants who are in their homes will not have to fear being evicted, as they are being now, by new owners looking for a fast return on Alameda apartments.

Who paid for this poll?

We do not know, but we have some idea. The California Apartment Association is a state wide landlord advocacy group that describes itself as, ”the nation’s largest statewide trade group representing owners, investors, developers, managers and suppliers of apartment communities.” It has fought rent control up and down the state. Some quotes from their letters to landlords-

“While the qualification of the ARC measure may be disappointing, it’s important to remain committed and unified behind the long-term goals we discussed about two months ago: growing our political strength, defeating the ARC measure in November should it qualify, passing the Private Property Rights measure, and electing good representatives to the city council. CAA’s Alameda Advisory Committee will be meeting in the coming week to discuss our next steps and we will likely have a large group meeting in the very near future as campaign season will be underway soon.” July 7, 2016

“We must continue to remain focused on our goal this November: defeating the ARC measure and electing strong candidates to the Alameda City Council. Let there be no doubt, CAA remains unequivocally opposed to the ARC measure that will appear on the November ballot. We have already begun preliminary campaign efforts to defeat this measure and working closely with the CAA Alameda Advisory Committee to execute the campaign strategy that has one goal-defeating the ARC measure.” July 28, 2016 – Joshua Howard ▪ Senior Vice President California Apartment Association

Alamedans have faced this before- a deep pocketed outside group trying to influence our politics. Are we going to stand by and be mowed over by off-island big-money interests? Now is the time to fight back and educate our neighbors about what they are up to and dispel the misinformation conveyed in the phone calls.

We are all Alamedans, rich and poor, landlords and business owners, home owners and tenants standing together to-

Keep Alamedans In Their Homes!

— Eric Strimling, Alameda

5 comments to Outside Money In Rent Control Election Campaign

  • Edward Hirshberg

    I would like to respond to these “myths”.
    The rent control experiment has been run innumerable times. The result is always the same, so the outcome in Alameda is predictable.

    1. Yes, landlords will be subsidizing wealthy renters. We already see this in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, New York and other cities with rent control.

    2. Rent control leads to enormous bureaucracy and litigation. Inevitably the cost of some of this comes from the general fund.

    3. The number of available units will decrease. You cannot expect the owner of a multi million dollar building to gradually give it to the tenants. So they will search for other uses such as airbnb, tenants in common, condos, or owner occupancy. Furthermore, you cannot turn a landlord into a slave, which is what you are trying to do by expecting him or her to work for free. Simply not happening.

    There is a saying in the industry that “nobody walks away from equity”. So you cannot expect the owner to walk away from equity. If the rent control measure passes, then tenants develop equity even though there is no deed. And they will be reluctant to walk away from it. There are only a few ways they can realize the value. Live in the unit and let their children continue to live there after them. Or they can secretly sublet the unit and hope the owner doesn’t find out, and pocket the difference. Finally, they can take a buyout from the landlord if one is offered. Under rent control tenants become like the monkey with his hand in the bottle grasping a gold nugget. The monkey cannot get his hand out of the bottle without letting go of the nugget, but is unwilling to do so. This is why many well off tenants stay in rent controlled units long after they should have bought there own house or condo. They miss out on building an estate and security for old age.

    When it comes to production of housing, there is no market like the free market. Command and control was a horrendous flop as we saw in the 20th century. Lets not repeat the mistake. Vote no on rent control.

    If there is outside money trying to stop this measure from becoming law, be thankful. This measure would be a travesty for Alameda.

  • If I invest my hard-earned money in a gadget factory, and then the demand for gadgets and the price of gadgets goes up, will the City of Alameda pass a Charter Amendment / Ordinance to control the price I can ask for gadgets?

    How about if I begin raising and selling chickens, and then the market price of chickens goes up? Will the City of Alameda control how I sell my chickens?

    M Anderson, Alameda resident

  • Mickey Neill

    The number of units has already decreased. I owned a home in Alameda for 44 years. When my children left I converted my home into two units. I rented the two bedroom unit for $1500 a month. I have taken my rental unit off the market because of the current regulations. Sure it’s only one unit but I not the only one person that has done this be careful what you ask for.

  • Eric Strimling

    Mickey, I am glad you can live comfortably without the income, most small landlords cannot. And the 1500/month was an adequate income to make it worth your while before, and rent control wont decrease that income, so why take it off of the market?

  • Edward Hirshberg

    The problem with continuing to take the $1500 is that after a few years it will only have the purchasing power of $500. Inflation is not running at 2% per year. Anyone involved in purchasing knows this. For example a commercial heater we bought in 2011 cost us $11,000 and this year one bought another identical that cost almost $20,000. Mickey is probably smart to exit the business now before someone passes a law saying he must rent the units at a controlled price and the value of his investment withers away.

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