Santa Barbara City Council members are guilty of felonious misconduct as it pertains to their violation of the law of supply and demand, and the law of unintended consequences, in passing a just cause eviction ordinance.
A “just cause” ordinance, truth be told, makes it extremely difficult and expensive for a landlord to evict a bad tenant for just cause. Moreover, the premise behind a just cause eviction ordinance eviscerates and confounds the contractual relationship between tenants and landlords.
This ordinance will not solve the problem of high rents, nor will any good come as a result of it. What is completely lost on these decision-makers is that the cost of a rental is a function of the price of the rental unit itself. Any attempt therefore to decouple the landlord’s costs and the renter’s cost is nothing less than a socialist’s pipe dream — it won’t work in the real world.
I believe contracts, in the form of rental or lease agreements, are private affairs, and government should butt out unless somebody’s civil rights are being violated. Nevertheless, the City Council has now virtually abolished month-to-month rentals, instead requiring all agreements to consist of a yearly lease, with the penalty of forced relocation costs hanging over the landlord’s head for violations of the ordinance. Ostensibly, the purpose behind this is to give tenants some form of assurance they will be able to live for a year without a rent increase or an eviction notice.
What the City Council and the activists behind this effort will not admit is that some landlords will be motivated to sell their units, creating a rental unit shortage, rather than get caught up in a costly legal quagmire — or, worse, they will leave the units vacant.
Don’t scoff; in cities that have just cause ordinances and rent control, this option of leaving a unit vacant is so popular that politicians have started to create a punitive tax on landlords who leave their properties vacant.
In the meantime, let’s ignore the fact that the supply of housing here is limited by our extremely meager water supply, along with the artificial constraints on building height limitations and the implacable no-growth sentiment of a majority of the citizenry. Conversely, the demand for housing is relatively insatiable. This includes the desirability of the locale (living by the ocean, our weather, and the proverbial escape from Los Angeles), the pressures for housing placed on the community by the continuous growth of Santa Barbara City College and UCSB, and the fact that a lot of rich people can and will withstand whatever the market demands.
In other words, I don’t believe the community can be made truly affordable, in part because the citizenry lacks the will and the means to do so. That is, will City College and UCSB ever accept enrollment caps? Will the community pay for more water for new development? Are they willing to support high-rises? And — gasp! — are they willing to vastly expand urban growth boundaries (read that sprawl)?
Having lived on the Central Coast for 50 years, I can tell you the answer is no to all these questions, as all of these things are considered anathema. Moreover, if we did do all of these things, more people would still want to live here, thereby proving the law of supply and demand is incontrovertible.
So where does that leave us? Token and broken theories of accommodation, such as micro-housing units, just cause eviction ordinances and, finally, rent control. In other words, these social justice warriors tinkering around the edges will accomplish nothing in the long run in their attempt to burnish their street cred among the poor and assuage their own conscience for living among the privileged and the elite.