The Future of Housing (Part 2 of 3)

Reminding our legislators of stories like AB 976 is crucial to us taking back the narrative and once again becoming a driver in this policy development.”

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part article. You can read Part 1 here. Parts 3 will appear in the November issue, of the Apartment Journal.)

WHEN RENTAL OWNERS AND POLITICIANS WORK TOGETHER

With hundreds of cities and counties across America trying to deal with a dearth of housing stock, public officials at all levels are getting involved. Whether these policymakers are in the early stages of debate or actually implementing changes, rental property owners are being painted as the villains. As long as that narrative continues, the ones with the most to lose will continue to be left on the outside of the discussion; with minimal opportunity for feedback.

California Strategic Advisors has written a three part series that examines the future of housing and provides viable solutions to ensure rental property owners are substantial players in the process. Part 2 examines how rental owners have been advocates of tenants in the past. Becoming a subject matter expert in California policy making requires knowledge and experience.

As we discussed in Part 1 of our three-part series, the Legislature currently views rental owners as the villain in this grand fight to secure affordable housing for all residents. Some of that sentiment is attributed to stories of tenants being kicked out of their homes after living there for 20 years or more; a situation that cannot always be avoided.1 The other reason is due to term limits. Remembering how we have worked with local governments and the state legislature helps equip us with the narratives that counter that sentiment. In this column, we will focus on how rental owners have been advocates for tenants and also how some government policies have indirectly benefited rental owners in the long run.

Some contend government interference into property rights started with the landmark case of Pierson v. Post in 1805; determining whether a fox hunter’s prey constituted one’s property.2 Others would argue that government intrusion goes all the way back to the Roman empire when private property was subjected to government oversight.3 Regardless of when it occurred, the current overreaching oversight into rental properties is likely to continue with rental owners further losing their autonomy on how they structure their leases with tenants. The best way to combat this is reminding new legislators that rental owners have been advocates for tenants for a long time; long before they were state representatives.

Many legislators and tenants forget that one of the strongest anti-discrimination policies related to housing came about due to rental owners seeking to protect their tenants. In 2006, the City of Escondido sought to bar the renting to undocumented immigrants and demanded property owners compile information about their tenants.4 While the issue was challenged Federally, several other nearby cities began to adopt similar measures and some rental owners started screening their tenants. In fact, the City of San Bernardino overwhelmingly voted on a ballot measure banning undocumented immigrants from renting units in the county.5 Rental owners responded to this demonstrative policy by introducing and solely sponsoring AB 976, which prohibited local governments from banning undocumented immigrants from renting property and prohibited owners from screening and/or compiling this data. This law has protected millions of undocumented immigrants, and has served as a strong barrier to ICE and their often nefarious deportation tactics. The bill was strongly supported by housing advocates, the ACLU, immigration advocates, and all the groups that are currently labeling rental owners as evil landlords. Unfortunately, none of the legislators from 2007 are still in office and the new policymakers only hear the angry outcries of labor unions and the media.

Government intrusion can rarely be a positive for rental owners, but a working relationship where collaboration from the onset is standard can yield amazing results. We are not the profit driven evil scumlords the media claims, and stories like AB 976 help show our compassion and concern for our tenants. Additionally, working on legislation to ensure every unit has basic necessities like running water, smoke detectors, and sufficient security can improve the home value, decrease insurance costs, and help keep our tenants for the long term. While some regulations may prevent the owner from not being made financially whole, our collaboration can ensure the duties are shared by owners and tenants to safeguard against many of the common problems with renting to a tenant.

1 Shalby, C. (2019, May 26). 102-Year-Old Woman Faces Eviction — Here’s What People Are Saying. L.A. Times. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-102-year-old-woman-facing-eviction-support-20190526-story.html
2 Supreme Court of Judicature, “Pierson v. Post”, 1805 3 Cicero, M. T. Ancient Romans contributions to private property rights. Retrieved from http://www.libertystory.net/LSBIGSTORIESROMANPROPERTYLAW.htm
4 Baker, K. G. (2007, April 16). Assembly Bill 976 – Judiciary Committee Analysis. Retrieved from http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_0951-1000/ab_976_cfa_20070416_102543_asm_comm.html
5 Id.
6 Id.

 

Ron can be reached at ron@calstrategic.com