Measure M

Measure MSanta Cruz City Rent Control
-I’m voting  YES (so far)

I’ve written a more detailed summary hereFull Text Here

The basics of what it would do are:
(1) Create an elected rent board that would be funded by fees charged to landlords. This board would regulate rental prices, etc, and settle disputes.
(2) Limit the amount a landlord can increase the rent for existing tenants.  The limit will be set by the Rent Board, but will be between 0 and 5%. The board can allow bigger increases in cases where landlords show they aren’t making a “fair return”.  This would not apply to stand-alone, or “Single Family” housing units (condos, houses) unless Prop 10 also passes. Currently, state law prohibits cities from limiting rent increases between tenants, but if Prop 10 passes and Measure M passes, the City would be able to restrict rent increases between tenants as well.
(3) Require a ‘just cause’ to evict a tenant, which would include:
(per Section 5 of Measure M)
1. Violating the terms of the rental agreement.
2.
Failure to pay rent.
3.Damage to unit or Nuisance – interfering with comfort, safety or enjoyment of other residents of property.
4.Ilegal activity.
5.Won’t allow the landlord on the property.
6.Moving out and leaving the unit in charge of a subletter.
7.Not renewing the rental agreement.
8. The unit isn’t permitted.
9. The owner or a near relative wants to move in.
10.Repairs that require the vacating of the unit.
11. Withdrawal of unit from rental market.
For reasons 8-11, landlord must compensate tenant by paying them an amount equal to 6 months rent.
An exception is that you can rent out your house for 1 year or less as a “Temporary Rental”  and not be subject to the eviction provisions.

 My thoughts:

There has been a lot of discussion about the effects Measure M may have on the rental market. There are also a lot of myths floating around. I’ll address a few of the myths first, then give my thoughts on the discussion.

Myths about Measure M:
Myth 1 – If Measure M passes, it will be near impossible for landlords to evict horrible tenants.  My response would be: see the list of ’causes for eviction’ above.
Myth 2 – If M passes, subletters will be able to rent out a house, and their subletter can rent out the house, ad infinitum. Reason 6 above is pretty clear that a subletter can’t become an absentee landlord. The measure does state that renters shall be able to rent out rooms as long as they still live there and don’t exceed the space limitations of the property.
Myth 3 – Renters will be allowed to have millions of people living at a property. I don’t know where this myth came from, but there’s nothing about that in the measure. Current safety guidelines regulate that stuff, and they wouldn’t change.

 Concerns about the effects of Measure M:
1.Measure M would reduce the number of available rental units in the city.
This argument is that people will be deterred from renting out houses and will sell their properties to others who no longer rent them out. This could reduce the total number of rental units and drive up the cost of rent.  I think this could happen, but it could also happen that the cost of housing drops some, making it more affordable for former renters to buy houses.
Also, if Measure M causes someone to sell a house they are currently renting out, they will have to pay the 6 month compensation per number 11 above, so selling the house won’t save them from this cost. This effect might also be a one-time change, causing a spike in rent, but that spike could be compensated for by the subsequent restriction on rent increases. If Prop 10 passes, then the City will also be able to restrict the increasing of rent between tenants.  Data from other cities with similar measures would be useful. If you know of such data, please provide links in the comments.

2.Measure M would incentivize landlords to rent to students and short term renters instead of families and long term renters.
This argument is that in order to avoid the future possibility of paying compensation (6 mo rent) in case of eviction for reasons 8 – 11 above, such as the landlord moving in,  it would be ‘safer’ for landlords to rent to students or others who will naturally be leaving in a year.
My thoughts are that there would be many reasons that stable, long-term renters would be preferable to landlords, which could balance out the fear of the rare case of having to evict so the landlord could take their place.

3.Measure M would create an entity (the Rent Board) that would cost too much money and not be accountable to the people. 
I share this concern to some extent, but not fully. The board would be elected, just like the city council, so there would be plenty to keep them from ‘going rogue’. The board would be funded by fees payed by landlords, and not from the City budget.

4. The compensation cost (6 months rent) for landlord moving in, drastic repairs, etc. is an unfair burden on landlords.- UPDATED
The main reason the 6 months compensation is in this measure is that without it, landlords would have a big incentive to evict tenants so that they could raise rent. This would be pretty bad for long term renters. State Law (the Costa-Hawkins Act ) prohibits cites from restricting rent increases between tenants, so unless Prop 10 passes, which repeals the Costa-Hawkins Act, the only way to prevent the ‘evict to raise rent’ incentive is the just cause eviction provision.
I agree that this is a lot of money.  If it weren’t for Costa-Hawkins,  I might have made it maybe 4 months in order to get more landlord buy-in. Or perhaps it could have been that the landlord had to give 6 months notice or else pay compensation in lieu. The surprise eviction would be the devastating part and a lot of notice would help with that without putting such a burden on landlords. But I think some eviction protection is very important, because it’s a huge deal to have to find a new place to live in Santa Cruz. For example, I’ve been renting my current house for 18 years. If the landlord decided he wanted to move in and evict me, it would be a catastrophic event for me. If he lost 6 months rent in dong so, that would be significant for him, yes.  But I think of it this way: If you invest your money in stocks, etc., you can buy or sell whenever you like without effecting anyone else. But when you invest your money in a rental property, that property is also a person’s home.  In our current system,  the power balance is completely on the side of the property owner, leaving people who can’t afford to buy a house at the whim of the owner. I’ve lived in SC for 34 years knowing that I could receive a phone call at any time telling me I need to be gone in 30 days.  I’m OK with the idea of limiting what people can do with ‘their investment’ in order to give more security to the people who live in that investment.

5. A Measure like M can only be amended by another measure in the future. Therefore, it would be better to have rental rules created by the City Council, so that they could be tweaked as improvements are needed.
This makes sense to me, and is the strongest argument against Measure M in my opinion. Though I will note that a fair amount of the details will arbitrated by the Rent Board, which will be an elected body. Also, the measure could be completely repealed by another initiative if it proves to be bad for the community.

My final thoughts:
Measure M has unfortunately been very divisive. I might wish there had been more input from all sectors in its creation so that the community didn’t feel so split into ‘us’ vs ‘them’. This split and the lack of a co-creation process is a big deterrent for me in voting yes. Even though I’m leaning toward yes, I reject the rhetoric that “all landlords are rich or greedy people.” But I do think that in our system, the balance of power is on the side of the owner and puts long term renters in a very tenuous situation. It’s hard to imagine a proposal that limits the rights of property owners not causing a strong reaction, but we should do our best to do it with care, compassion, and listening.  A lot of people on both sides are talking with fear and exclamation points about Measure M rather than sharing data and listening. To me, the most relevant information needed is data from other cities that have done this in the past, and the sincere stories of people, both owners and renters, who would be effected.  If you have such data, or any helpful thoughts or questions about Measure M, please share for the benefit of all. Rude comments, exclamation points, etc. may be removed by me. 

Join in the discussion below.  (respectfully)

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “Measure M”

  1. Rent control creates winners and losers. Here is one example of a summary of a recent study of the subject: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/rent-controls-winners-losers Generally, tenants who are renting at the time rent control is passed, and who don’t need to move for any reason, benefit and newer residents are hurt. Measure M will reduce rents in parts of Santa Cruz (how much depends on whether Prop 10 passes), but will raise rents in nearby areas and units not affected, as competition for those units becomes even more intense than it is now.

    A key concern that you did not list in your analysis is that Measure M makes evicting seniors, parents, and the disabled more expensive than younger, able-bodied people without dependents. As a result, some (many?) landlords will undoubtedly discriminate against those groups of people, making it even more difficult for our most vulnerable community members to find housing.

    I think the claim that measure M will reduce the overall supply of rental housing available is well supported by the data from other cities and anecdotal data from within Santa Cruz already (I already know of a landlord planning to sell just because of the threat of measure M passing). In addition, as you correctly note, when you invest in the stock market you get returns on your investment without the hassle of dealing with paying 6 months of rent back to someone you need to evict just to conduct some repairs. In order to worthwhile, owning rental property has to be more lucrative than alternative forms of investment, both in terms of time and money. Measure M will push some (although obviously not all) landlords away from renting. I’m very concerned it will also push them away from repairing their property, so properties will be more likely to become very rundown.

    There are many kinds of landlords in Santa Cruz. Some own many properties and it is their primary business. Others rent some part of their own house, and it is a major way they are able to afford to own property and live in Santa Cruz at all. As a landlord in the second category, I find the threat of having to pay 6 months back rent to remove a tenant financially terrifying. I cannot afford that risk, nor can I afford the risk of living with someone on my property that I or my teenage daughters are not comfortable with, even if they have not broken the terms of the lease. If this happens, I would definitely feel forced to choose to rent only to people for less than a year rather than take that risk. I know of others in my same position. This is not what I would wish, I would much rather rent to longer-term community members, as we have been doing up until now.

    Finally, rent control is very hard to end. Because it creates winners and losers, if a city finds that rent control is not working well, not meeting the needs of the city as a whole, creating more losers than winners, the problem is that the winners it did create are now extremely motivated to make sure that it doesn’t ever end. This is a decision from which it is very hard to go back. Once Santa Cruz takes this step, it will probably be on this path for a very long time, for better or for worse.

    To be clear, I agree that housing in Santa Cruz is a serious concern, and needs serious, thoughtful solutions. I do not think Measure M represents the solutions we need, however. I think it will create a new set of problems, problems that we cannot easily solve.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I agree that having to pay someone 6 months rent just because they need to be out for a month for some needed repairs seems a bit extreme. I’d say not charging rent and perhaps paying for their accommodations elsewhere might be more appropriate in that case. I do think Measure M could have been written with much more collaboration and input from all sides and could have come out better.
      As far as the needing to feel comfortable with people on your property, I get it. They do have the exclusion for people sharing kitchen or bathroom, but having someone you’re not comfortable with even on your property is no good. I would hope the ‘nuisance’ thing would be interpreted liberally enough to deal with that, but that would depend on the Rent Board.
      Anyway, I appreciate hearing how different people will be effected. I’m still formulating my decision on M.

      1. FYI it’s six months of the HUD values which seems to work out to four months actual rent – not six like the No campaign has been claiming.

  2. John, measure M was created following other rent control measures such as SF and Berkeley. Those are the comparable measures to look at, is my understanding

  3. Two points: In practice, the relocation assistance amount is likely to be closer to 4 months’ rent instead of 6, because it is not based on the actual rent amount of the unit, but on HUD averages for that type of unit in the region, and these averages run lower than actual rents.

    Also, the Stanford study cited by a commenter above is the most-cited study to attack rent control. Yet it has some serious flaws, the biggest of which might be that the authors blame the limitations of rent control measures on the measures themselves, rather than on the loopholes around the measures, which have been created or preserved by big real estate interests in California. A good article about that is here: https://medium.com/@tenantstogether/rent-control-works-a-response-to-business-school-professors-misguided-attacks-1305d9770ff7

    1. Thanks for your input Michael. What are your thoughts on the concern that Elizabeth brought up “that Measure M makes evicting seniors, parents, and the disabled more expensive than younger, able-bodied people without dependents. As a result, some (many?) landlords will undoubtedly discriminate against those groups of people, making it even more difficult for our most vulnerable community members to find housing.” It’s already really difficult for those groups to find housing. Do you think the eviction rules in M would make it harder?

  4. I think most people will agree some form of rent control or relief is needed. Measure M is a very simplistic, punitive attempt at fixing the housing crisis which is caused by so many more factors than the homeowners and renters who will end up footing the bill. Shall I list a few? Population growth, tech sector booming, relatively large student body at UCSC in a small community, finite water supplies limiting new housing development, etc. There is nothing in measure M which addresses these issues which will always keep area rents high. Restricting what property owners can do with their rentals is the wrong approach to this problem. A measure to limit annual increases and beef up eviction rules is really all that is reasonable if we are not going to address the underlying systemic causes for the runaway housing market.

    1. Hi Martijn. I’m curious what you mean when you say, “A measure to limit annual increases and beef up eviction rules is really all that is reasonable if we are not going to address the underlying systemic causes for the runaway housing market.” Is that not what Measure M is – a measure to limit annual increases and beef up eviction rules? What about it do you see as “punitive”? I’m still really undecided about the measure, so my questions are purely curiosity and info gathering.

  5. Hi Linda, yes, measure M does have provisions for rent increase caps and eviction protections but it goes far beyond those two items. There are provisions which would require a property owner to compensate a tenant 6 months rent if they want to move back in to their own property for instance. Tenants will also be able to sublet to additional renters. I see these two items as over reaching and does nothing to address the real problem of high rent or unjust evictions.
    One of my biggest concerns is there is no provision to grandfather in property owners under the current rental laws who would not have taken the financial risk or rented out their property if they had known measure M or something like it would pass. It would seem reasonable and fair to allow current homeowners a one time opt out if they don’t want to rent under these new rules without having to pay a 6 month rent exit fee. I’m not against reasonable legislation to help out the renting community but would like to see a little more balanced rule making.

    1. I understand your concern about the 6 months’ rent payment for those few eviction reasons. I definitely recognize that could be a serious hardship for a lot of small landlords (although as Michael points out, it would be based on HUD averages, so it would most likely be less than 6 months of the actual rent of the unit). I can also understand the position of a renter losing their home and the serious hardship of needing to find a new one. A solution that took both of those into account somehow would be wonderful.

      What are your concerns about subletting? If I’m understanding the measure correctly, the original renter would need to live at the property and not exceed the space limitations of the property. Is it about wanting to have a say in who lives on your property?

  6. Full disclosures: I have not read the text of the measure and I will not be affected by this as my property is outside the city limits.

    My greatest concerns are around the just cause component of this measure. I am a landlord. I am renting out my single family home to a family while I am temporarily living out of state to take care of my mother. It sounds to me like, should I be unfortunate enough to live in Santa Cruz city, this measure would retroactively impose an incredible cost to me at the time that I move back in, regardless of the fact that my tenants knew at the time that they signed the lease in that I intend to return.

    Elizabeth Andrews made what I feel is a critical point. Not all landlords are created equal. Some are purely running a business, others are just covering costs in situations like mine. Some are renting out dozens of units. Others are home owners who are temporarily out of town. Treating them all the same does not seem like the right thing to do.

    It really appears to me that this will result in an increase in rents in the future. Actually, I’m surprised that slumlords aren’t evicting everyone today before this measure passes and raising the rents by 50% for the next hapless tenants to ensure that costs don’t exceed rental income in a few years time. Seems to me that this will surely happen for future rentals. Many of the rentals in this town are taken by students who will leave in 1-4 year’s time. More turnover means more opportunity for this ugly scenario to play out.

    1. It looks like Proposition 10, which repeals the Real Estate industry-designed Costa-Hawkins law we now have, has a good chance of passing. If it does, turnover will no longer lead to rent increases and the incentive to rent to short-term tenants will disappear. This is a good example of how many of the misfortunes blamed on rent control are really better seen as resulting from loopholes that prevent rent control measures from doing their job completely. If we pass both Measure M and Proposition 10, we will be significantly closer to a fair and sustainable housing situation in Santa Cruz.

  7. Linda asked a good question, “Do you think the eviction rules in M would make it harder (for seniors, disabled people, etc. to find housing)?” That is possible, I suppose, but only to the extent that landlords illegally discriminate against those groups of people. As I see it, we need to move in the direction of being a caring society, which means offering additional protection to these groups. To say that we should not offer additional protection because there might be a backlash is giving in to the worst of our natures and our profit-driven system.

  8. Existing rental contracts should be honored, period. This is only fair as both parties knowingly signed onto the terms. Homeowners need the option to get out of the rental market if they can’t afford or want to abide by the terms of measure M without having to pay 6 months rent.

    Subletting? Really? Why should a tenant gain the right to make money, when the owner’s ability to charge rent is capped? Does anyone see the hypocrisy there?

  9. The fact is that for 2018, rental prices in Santa Cruz have increased exactly 0%: https://www.rentcafe.com/average-rent-market-trends/us/ca/santa-cruz-county/santa-cruz/

    This follows the national trend of housing prices being completely flat:
    https://www.npr.org/2018/09/28/652474930/a-turning-point-in-the-housing-market

    This is another example of our government doing the right thing at exactly the wrong time. The housing market is deflating the second bubble. The real problem is lack of housing supply, not increasing rents.

    What would actually solve the problem is to increase the supply of rentals. This measure is counterproductive in that it reduces the supply of rentals by making it difficult for landlords. How is it going to help renters if 5% of the rental supply is taken off the market? We need our city planners to approve construction and get rid of the “no growth” and “not in my backyard” attitude. Most renters don’t realize that the building process is incredibly expensive, time consuming and frustrating.

    We visited two cities this summer with huge sprawling increases in housing: Park City UT and Cour De Lane ID. Yes it’s sad to see open space, farms and wildlife pushed out, but what you get is real city planning: awesome roads with protected bike lanes, free public transportation, new community centers, schools and parks.

    Keeping Santa Cruz small and weird is just not sustainable.

    1. Agreed, adding supply to the market is probably the best solution to bring down housing prices. Problem is, we have a huge water shortage here that makes growth a very unsustainable solution. Combine that with an infrastructure that can barely support the current population, making growth a difficult prospect.

    2. @Neal Yes, we need all those things provided by real city planning, but what we really need is to end pervasive economic models that rely on endless growth and to curb constant population growth. I know.. talk about a tangent.. sorry! I just had to say it. These are the roots of so many ills, but nobody discusses it. Everyone seems to assume growth is inevitable.

  10. John asked me to share the following reflections that I posted on my fb page about my experience as a renter for 28 years in the same property. I am where is struck when people say that measure M is “punitive“. Landlords, whether big or small, or making a choice to rent out the property as a source of income, And they benefit doubly by doing so in that they are covering part or all of their mortgage and at the same time acquiring equity as the market goes up. Renters, on the other hand, are trying to meet their basic needs for housing and stability, And never require any equity or return on their investment. Regarding an initiative that provides protections for one group as punitive towards another ignoresthe fact of who holds the power in the rental market.

    Anyway, speaking of punitive, here is what I live with at the hands of my property manager, who has by the way spent $10,000 to a post measure M.:
    I just learned the tenants in the front house on the property where I rent got a three day demand to pay or quit the premises because one of them withheld a small portion of the rent to pay for paint for her bathroom.

    We’ve been told we can subtract the cost of paint from rent, but the tenant did not get prior approval. So they returned the check with the three-day notice to pay or quit and a post-it that said, “Don’t try this stunt again!”

    Their house is in horrendous condition; the property managers will only repair things that are clearly hazardous. They have not replaced the carpets or painted the interior or exterior in the 28 years I’ve lived on the property. There is extensive termite damage. Gates fall off their hinges and boards rot through on the deck before they will make a repair.

    This week I also wrote a formal letter to the property manager explaining that the dead bolt on my front door is broken and asking for a referral to a locksmith. I cited California rental code that stipulates broken locks must be responded to immediately, not the usual 30 days. I’ve heard no response after 9 days.

    So, to answer the people who say that rental inspections mean rental properties are now uniformly well-maintained, it’s not true. Our property manager does not respond to reasonable requests and if we take action on our own, we get a notice to quit the premises.

    This happened to me two years ago, also, when I withheld a portion of the rent after my bedroom flooded and I had to sleep on the living room floor for 10 days: I got a notice to pay the difference or quit the premises after faithfully paying my rent on time for 28 years. No phone call, no conversation. Needless to say, I paid.

    The owner of the property management company told the city council when arguing against a temporary rent freeze that she is proud of her company, that they always maintain their properties and never raise rents gratuitously. It is not true. Our rents have been going up 9% each year and I am sure we’ll get another increase within a week of the election if Measure M doesn’t pass.

    While I know all landlords are not this bad, some are. As tenants, we have no protection. Please support Measure M. We are not trying to punish landlords. We are trying to stay in our homes.

  11. A lot of people say that they’d be ok with the rent control part of Measure M but they don’t like the ‘just cause eviction’ part. The thing is that with Costa Hawkins in place, you can’t really have the one without the other. Costa-Hawkins says a city can’t regulate rent increases between tenants. If you have rent control during a tenancy, but have no restrictions once a tenant is gone, then there is a huge incentive to rent to people short-term so you can raise the rent after they leave. If Prop 10 passes, then Measure M will also regulate between-tenant increases, and the need for the 6 month compensation thing will be greatly reduced. I’d personally be willing to vote for a new Measure M 2.0 next year in that event. But if Prop 10 fails, Measure M would be useless without the just cause eviction provisions.

  12. I have now read the text of Measure M and I think that it’s very good in many contexts. Many people will benefit, at least in the short term.

    But it’s really awful in other contexts. It’s easy to focus on the many slumlord scenarios, but there are other people, people like me (see my first post in this thread), that would get absolutely screwed by this to no benefit to anyone. This is deeply unfair.

    M should be sent back to the drawing board to fix the obvious problems, clarify the language and narrow the target. Passing badly written and unfair laws increases divisiveness and, in the long run, has a way of screwing the very people such laws are supposed to help.

    1. In my mind, the main obvious problem is Costa Hawkins, which severely impedes the ability to implement functional rent control. ‘Going back to the drawing board’ involves passing Prop 10 first and foremost.
      Also, while I do agree that Measure M would be a big hardship for people in your situation, I think the cost-benefit analysis has to be looked at for the community as a whole: Renters in SC are suffering a lot -> let’s make some rent control -> to do that we have to dis-incentivize frivolous evictions -> that’s gonna hurt some landlords. I would certainly prefer something that didn’t cause so much hardship for people in your situation if possible. Like perhaps it could have said you can leave and rent temporarily for 2-3 years instead of the 1 it says now. But I think any measure that’s going to alter the playing field is going to cause hardship to some. The best crafted bill would minimize that, but couldn’t eliminate it. I’m not arguing that M is the ‘best crafted bill’ (I don’t think it is), but I think the reforms it would bring are severely needed, so much that I think it’d be better to start with something and then amend it (for example after Prop 10 hopefully passes.)

      1. @John – I hear you about altering the playing field, but this is like saying that it’s okay to lock up everyone in a neighborhood because there are some criminals living there. It’s blatantly ethically wrong.

        What is really frustrating is that this was completely avoidable if the drafters of M had given any thought to the diversity of landlords in the city. It’s really a shame that M is so poorly constructed. This is what happens when people let their personal passions get in the way and don’t think things all the way through. :-\

        1. To Ben.. I’m curious to hear how you would rewrite M if you had the chance, or what other ideas you would have about how to enact some kind of rent control in SC.

  13. Hi Ben,

    I am also a landlord and did give some input about how Measure M was written. It does have things in it I don’t like but most of them are, as John as pointed out, in there to contradict the loopholes created by Costa Hawkins. Specifically, Coasta Hawkins states that a landlord can infinitely raise the rent when a renter moves, or is kicked out. So, without just cause eviction (which I have mixed feelings about in the abstract), rent control is meaningless. I hope that you are others who would rather have more collaborative, common sense rent control, are voting to repeal Costa Hawkins.

    In the meantime, Measure M is almost identical to rent control in Richmond and Alameda. In other words, it is the somewhat close to the best we can do given the hairy legal climate.

    One myth about a myth I see above- the idea that a renter can indefinitely sublet as long as they live in the house. That is not true if subletting is controlled by the lease and the standard lease that one downloads online DOES control subletting. My lease with my tenant certainly does. My tenant may not sublet without my permission so I do maintain control about who lives in the unit, even under Measure M.

    I was in the room when 120 renters of all ages, lenguas and colors got fed up with the cowardly City Council and decided to put Measure M on the ballot. Almost all the renters I know support it. So I support it too. Renters are an oppressed class in Santa Cruz, not because landlords are greedy or bad but because the system is slanted against them. So, if Measure M messes up us landlords a bit, oh well, I think we will be fine. We will still have most of the power.
    I also find it interesting that, when studies and arguments are put out about whether it will help or hurt renters, it seems to be landlords that think it will hurt renters and renters who think it will help them. Again, if the renters think it will help them, I am going to vote for it. It it messes up the rental market, it is the renters who will suffer, not the landlords. So if renters (having heard the arguments to the tune of $500,000.00) still want rent control, I think we should give it to them. And I think that renters do want rent control. Clearly.

  14. Thank you for the discussion. In this context perhaps we should also discuss Measure H, which would add yet more fees to property taxes in order to build affordable local housing.

    You can guess from this phrasing that I am a property owner, though not a landlord. Even if I were to rent out a room in my home, I would be exempt from Measure M because my unit is a Measure O, affordable housing, and it must be owner-occupied under the terms of Measure O. By purchasing a Measure O unit, I willingly entered into an agreement to only rent or sell to people in a certain income range and for the rent or sales price to be dictated by a formula, not by market rates.

    Measure H will levy $16.77 per $100,000 assessed value to property taxes to fund bonds, sale of which would fund the housing. Measure G, on the other hand, proposes to increase the sales tax in unincorporated areas of the county to fund emergency services. I prefer an approach such as this that spreads the responsibility throughout the community.

    As a (small) homeowner I feel that property owners are expected to carry an ever-increasing growing amount of fiscal and social responsibility over others, and I don’t think that’s fair. I will vote no on both Measures H and M.

    The dealbreakers for me in Measure M include creation of a new city agency empowered to set fees on landlords as high as they please; the list of just cause for evictions does not take into account people who may be threatening or unpleasant or have a weird vibe–these things happen!; and the (in my view completely inappropriate) 6-month relocation assistance lump sum payment.

    I also find the language about initial rents for new tenancies to be confusing, and it seems to indicate that if one were to make improvements to the property between tenants, one could not raise the rent to cover the cost of those improvements.

    I do support the cap on rent increases.

    I pay way more than 30% of my income on my housing, it’s sad but that’s the way things are these days. As a society we need to do better to take care of the poor, the homeless, etc. Placing the burden primarily on landowners is not the right approach, IMHO.

  15. My friend is in a similar position to Ben, owning a small town house in Santa Cruz which she could barely afford. She works for the Dept. of Fish and Game on a modest salary, and got a transfer to Sacramento for work. So she rented out her town house in Santa Cruz and rented a place in Sacto. Now she’s being transferred back to a local position…..should she be penalized by having to pay her tenants 6 mos. rent when they move out so she can move back into her home? What if she doesn’t have it? Does she put it on her credit card at 20% interest? That’s crazy!

    1. Patty – I agree that the story of your friend sounds like a real unfortunate situation. If I had been part of writing Measure M, I would have advocated modifying it to avoid that kind of hardship/situation. For example, maybe making an exception for people who only one property. I’d still want to include some protection for people so they didn’t get dumped on the street unexpectedly. There currently is a 1-year exception, but it stipulates that the 1 year had to be agreed upon before hand. I’m not sure how the rent board would rule on situations like this where the law passed in the middle of an existing absence like it would for your friend and Ben.

      On the other hand, when discussing these situations, it feels to me that we hardly ever talk about the other side of the coin. For example, what if the people who rented the house were also doing so because of a new job they moved here for? What if they just had a child or got a pet? What if they also couldn’t afford the cost of relocating, or couldn’t find a new place with their child or pet and had to max out their credit cards to deal with an unexpected eviction? I think in general we tend to shrug that off, thinking “Well, they are renters, so they shouldn’t expect stability.” I’m not speaking about you or your friends situation in particular, since I don’t know the details. I just don’t like how our society in general doesn’t think of renters as having a “home”, but tends to talk about them as if they are placeholders to pay for houses while the owners are away. I think the general attitude is that renters are like college students who find themselves in a temporary phase of homelessness but they will some day grow up to be stable homeowners. Santa Cruz is full of long term community members who will never be able to afford to buy a house. I want to do something the provides them more stability.

      My intention isn’t to compare ‘which side is getting the most unfair situation’. I’m just saying I’d like people to be more aware of the situations renters face. I do think there are a lot of imperfect parts of Measure M that will cause hardship to some. My question is, do I want to wait for something better at this point… do I think it will ever be possible to put limits on property rights without causing hardship to some? I think if Prop 10 passes that could help take away for the need for some of the most unfortunate parts of Measure M and I would be in favor of modifying M in that case, either through an other ballot initiative, or via the Rent Board.

      1. @John You answered your question to me about what I would do differently in your third sentence above. I recognize that it’s not easy authoring a measure like this. But if it is obviously flawed and it is really easy to point out collateral damage like Patty, I and other have done, then don’t vote for it.

        What I’m really frustrated by is the myopia that there are two sides. There are not two sides. This is not a war. This is not about the oppressed versus the oppressors. That type of binary thinking reflects everything that is wrong with American politics today. The rental world is complex. There are many different types of contexts and participants. This measure is written from the perspective of one group of people in one type of context and ignores the others.

        1. Ben, I totally share your frustration about how people form themselves into “two sides” warring against each other. That’s one reason I created this blog, to provide a place for the sharing of ideas in a respectful and hopefully non-black-and-white manner.

  16. After consideration I decided to strike a balance and voted yes on Measure H to increase property taxes for the purpose of issuing bonds to fund construction of affordable housing, and no on M, which goes way too far, in my view.

    I also voted in favor of Prop 10, the state measure that would remove state limitations on local rent control measures. It’s important for communities to develop rules that work for them.

    Thanks for the forum, John.

    Get out there and vote, everybody!

  17. FWIW, I asked my property manager about this. She manages over 300 properties in SC county. Yes, she represents the landlord side of things, but I think it’s worth reading what she has to say. For those that think you are at war with bad people, as they say – “know thy enemy”

    ===============
    It is a poorly crafted tool. They also can look at the costs involved. There will be a rent board in place that gets to set their own salaries and enforcement procedures. San Francisco and Berkeley regret having rent control in place. Also, even worse: it will change the City’s Charter, which means, if this goes horribly wrong, it needs a 2/3 vote of all voters to be reversed…. Lastly: if [a landlord is] ever stuck next to a tenant who has all their “partners” move in, take up all the parking and create a bunch of noise, that landlord will have a paralyzing little amount of tools available to them to make that tenant move out. Landlords are mortified evicting people, even if they don’t pay rent (which is the easiest) but lease violations are very tough to proof and evict over.

    Here is also something another management company wrote on their facebook page:

    “We usually try to keep politics out of our company message. We appreciate and respect the fact that our clients and friends will often have different viewpoints and we are proud to be in a country where we are allowed to have and share these differing opinions. That said, we believe we have to share our opinion on Measure M, Santa Cruz’s rent control ballot measure, which will have a largely negative impact on the city of Santa Cruz and will reduce the supply of available rentals thereby pushing rental prices up even higher. We are already seeing homes taken out of the rental market and sold to owner occupants or 2nd home buyers. We care deeply about tenants, they are our family, our friends, and our colleagues.

    Measure M is a rent control initiative intended to make Santa Cruz more affordable for renters by restricting rent increases and prohibiting landlords from unjustly “evicting” tenants from their properties. On the surface we see why this seems like a great solution to address the lack of affordable housing. In fact, it will hurt most tenants and put draconian limits on landlords who provide the housing we so desperately need. We feel this message has to get out. Please DO THE RESEARCH and PLEASE VOTE!

    • Although we believe housing affordability has to be addressed, this is not a good stop gap, nor a measure that should be put into effect because “we don’t know what else to do”. This is permanent and will create a Rent Board which is an entirely new bureaucracy that is expected to cost hundreds of dollars annually per rental unit and will not answer to the city council or the city manager.
    • Reducing housing supply will drive prices up. Landlords are able to raise rent between leases and will be forced to maximize this increase in order to avoid an indefinite under-market tenancy. This will lead to the available rentals becoming more expensive at each turnover.
    • Measure M will negate the end-date of a rental agreement and prohibit the landlord from taking over possession of the property at the end of the lease unless they can document that the tenant violates the lease. This will protect problem tenants and hurt neighborhoods and communities by taking away the landlords’ ability to effectively remove them.
    • If Measure M passes the only true beneficiaries in the long run will be tenants who are renting apartments built prior to 1995 who will be able to stay in the same home for the rest of their lives. This is a VERY small percentage of the population.
    • Measure M specifically allows tenants to sublease and to add multiple tenants, up to the legal occupancy limits, thereby potentially significantly increasing the impact on homes, neighbors, and other tenants, especially in higher density locations.”

    ——

  18. John – thanks for your reply to my comment. I understand both the renter and landlord situations here, since I rented for 18 years, mostly in Santa Cruz. I’ve lived in overpriced, ancient, moldy, unsanitary shacks and been evicted with less than 30 days to find another place. I’ve seen friends I love move out of SC because housing was too expensive.

    I think lots of what Measure M is about is great and I totally believe in rent control. But I am willing to wait for a better written measure that doesn’t make it so hard/expensive for a landlord to ask a tenant to leave a property. I think the extreme parts of this measure will indeed result in fewer rentals available, driving up the cost of rentals. I think it will backfire because of the potential high costs to landlords. It’s unfortunate, because we really need rent control, and it should be empowering to both landlords and tenants.

    I think Measure M is not.

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