IN MY OPINION
Books Read in 2008
|CALIFORNIA'S PROP 99
3 April 2008
Rent Control is a wonderful thing, if you are a renter. It puts a ceiling on the amount that can be charged for rents and prevents the property owner from either gouging his/her tenants with astronomical rent raises, or finding other ways of getting a law abiding, non problematic tenant out of a building so you can charge astronomical rents to someone new.
I can understand that if you have just purchased a piece of property, with the intention of making big bucks out of it, rent control can be a raspberry seed in your wisdom tooth since it ties your hands and prevents you from evicting lower rent-paying tenants in favor of higher-rent paying tenants.
I learned a bit about rent control when a friend was being pushed out of the apartment in San Francisco where she had lived for many years under rent control. The landlord was only permitted by law to raise her rent a certain percent each year, to keep it in line with the cost of living, but not the suddenly make Big Bucks.
A landlord is apparently permitted to oust a tenant if s/he plans to use the unit for either his/her own residence, or that of a family member. In this instance, the building was sold and the new landlord said he wanted to move his daughter into my friend's apartment. My friend took him to court because the unit was on the top floor of a flat in San Francisco and there was an identical unit standing empty right next to hers where the daughter could move.
However, the law is not perfect, the judge's opinions were highly suspect, and injustice prevailed. She was forced to move from her home of some 20 years.
The issue of rent control is hitting much closer to home at the moment.
My mother has a beautiful mobile home in Contempo Marin, a mobile home park in San Rafael, across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco, in affluent Marin county. She and her husband bought the unit outright when they sold their home at the Russian River, so she owns the home itself, but pays rent on the land on which it sits. Her husband made many improvements to the unit before his death and it is a real showplace that you would never believe was actually a mobile home.
The park has been sold several time since they moved into it and each time the new owners try to force the residents out. It's on a prime piece of land and developers would dearly love to put condos in there.
But Marin County is required, by law, to have a certain number of affordable housing units and at the moment they are under the required number. Contempo Marin is classified as "affordable housing" and to raze the park and put in expensive condos will further decrease the number of affordable housing units in San Rafael.
The residents of Contempo Marin own their own homes but rent the land. Judges in the past have agreed that the land is thus protected under rent control agreements.
But the new owners, Equity Lifestyle Properties, has finally found a judge to agree that rent control in this case is unconstitutional and so the rent on my 88 year old mother's tiny plot of land (as well as that of everyone else in the park) has been raised from $890 a month to $1,995.95 a month. Obviously anybody moving into affordable housing can't afford to pay that much rent.
The major shareholder of Equity Lifestyle Properties is Sam Zell, a billionaire who owns the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. The company had a PR firm send a statement, saying rent control actually "drove up the sale prices of homes" and that it "serves no public purpose and benefits only a handful of people," which is fine unless you're one of the handful of people who "benefit" and if you are facing having to move--and having no place to move to. Most of the people in this park appear to be old or infirm, or both. A man with a wife in a wheelchair and on oxygen said he cannot afford to leave Marin county because he is "wedded to doctors" in the area; another woman, about my mother's age had a vacant look on her face as she said she didn't know where to begin looking for a new home at her age.
At present, the city of San Rafael and the residents of the park are appealing this ruling and there is a measure about to be placed on the California ballot for June of this year which will protect people like my mother. Its outcome will affect most of the mobile home parks in California. It is Prop 99, the "Homeowners and Private Property Protection Act," which will, among other things, "prohibit government agencies from using eminent domain to take an owner-occupied home to transfer it to another private owner or developer"
There is a competing bill also on the ballot, Prop 98, which would eliminate rent control, among other things.
If you live in California I urge you to check the material which compares the two bills:
The results of this case could have a major impact on mobile home parks and affordable housing all over the country. I know the mobile home park here in Davis is facing the same sort of problem and has been fighting it. The only park which is not, is one in Woodland, where the residents bought the land outright from the owner and pay under $100 a month fees for upkeep and maintenance and don't have to face the annual terror of astronomical rent raises. But it was a long, painful process getting them to the point where they could buy the land outright.
Obviously I have a selfish interest in this bill because its outcome will affect where my mother can live out (most of) the rest of her days (and it will also affect Cousins Day!!! LOL. If my mother moves into any sort of senior living facility, we won't be able to continue our Cousins Day frivolity. Mygawd...pass Prop 99 immediately!!!!!)
It may be that the residents of Contempo Marin have another two months before they know the outcome of their petition. Their fate appears to rest in the ballots of California voters. So I am writing this entry to alert folks in California that this measure is on the ballet and to urge you to read up on both sides of the issue. And please save my mother's house.
Save the house...save cousins day! (And what would this journal be without the monthly cousins day reports?)
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Brianna in the nursery, right after birth, being watched by
MILES TO NOWHERE:
This is entry #2929