If you’ve been reading our newsletter, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the rent control and just cause for eviction ballot initiative (Renter Protection Ballot Initiative) which has been circulating through the city. The Movement for Housing Justice has submitted 10,791 signatures to the City of Santa Cruz, well above the required number of signatures needed qualify the initiative for the November polls. The group is now awaiting the results of a 30 day signature validation process.
While this may seem like a victory for the Movement for Housing Justice, negative feedback from landlords, homeowners, and concerned citizen has led a steering committee member of the group, Robert Cavooris, to consider the benefits of a modified version of the ballot initiative. In current form, the Renter Protection Ballot Initiative is one sided and some say, extreme, making it difficult for landlords to control the rents they charge, who lives in their property and for how long. It is too late for the ballot initiative to be modified, and so some in support of the movement hope that city council will propose a modified version of the bill for the November election.
There is strong evidence that any form of rent control will have negative consequences on the Santa Cruz housing market. A large part of our community sees that writing rent control in Santa Cruz City law, even in a less extreme form, is simply not the answer to our housing crisis. This is why Santa Cruz Together is pooling resources to launch a citizen-led counter movement to the ballot-initiative. Fortunately for our local market, while it’s close to a sure thing that these measures will be on the ballot, their passage is not guaranteed.
But, if rent control is not the answer to address our housing issues, what is? According to Forbes, Santa Cruz is among the top 20 least affordable cities in the nation. It also has a larger homelessness population than any city of its size. Additionally, the housing crisis extends beyond our county borders, and intense economic growth coupled with a lack of affordable housing in the Silicon Valley is driving up housing costs locally. These extremes are leading to extreme reactions, such as the the Renter Protection Ballot Initiative. Without a viable solution, people may choose short term fixes over long-term solutions.
What is the solution? According to long-time affordable housing advocate, Sibley Simon, just 5,000 new units would make a big different and create some much needed breathing room. However, not all housing is the same, and what is most needed is smaller units for locals, not vacation homes near the beach. To make this a reality, timely laws that encourage construction of residential housing throughout the county are needed.
Rather than establish a price ceiling on rents, making it riskier than ever for investors to develop housing, it is imperative to elect forward looking officials both locally and on a statewide level who deeply understand the housing crisis and present solutions that ensure long term health of our housing market.