Reining in Rent Control

By Gillespie, Nick | Reason, June 1994 | Go to article overview
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Reining in Rent Control


Gillespie, Nick, Reason


The plain facts may undermine a divisive practice.

IMAGINE NOT BEING ABLE TO LEGALLY move your family into a house you own. That's what happened to a rental-property owner in Santa Monica, California. And it's one of the reasons why the Pacific Legal Foundation, a free-enterprise public-interest law firm, and the California Apartment Association, a landlord group, are taking rent control to court.

The PLF's legal strategy is to show that rent control simultaneously diminishes an owner's rights while failing to advance a governmental interest. In the late 1970s, Santa Monica and Berkeley passed rent-control legislation with the specific intent of securing and maintaining affordable housing for residents such as the elderly, college students, the physically handicapped, and low-income families.

After conducting an extensive survey of census data in comparable California cities, however, the CAA and the PLF found that during the time rent control has been in force, Santa Monica and Berkeley have experienced significant declines in precisely the populations the legislation was intended to protect. By virtually every standard, including median income, demographic breakdowns, availability of rental units, and average education level, the two communities have become more exclusive after a decade of rent control.

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