SFDebate : Listen, Speak, Discuss, Understand


This House would end Rent Control in San Francisco

Passed : 10:6

The San Francisco Board of Supervisiors implemented a rent control ordinance in 1979 designed to prevent landowners from applying excessive rent increases to tennants. At first rent increases were allowed to increase by 7%, but for most of the 90's and 2000's the allowable rent increase has been between 0.5 and 3% - Between 2007 and 2008 it will be just 1.5%. The goal is to protect low income workers and create diversity in our community.

But, does rent control really help make San Francisco a better place? - Who does it benefit? The poor, or those who have lived here longest? What is the case for letting landlords charge tenants whatever they like, and what would be the consequences?

James presented the argument against rent control on primarily economic lines, arguing that rent control dosen't provide more affordable housing; rather it provides less. Overall San Franciscans are worse off with rent control. Jeremy did a fantastic job rebutting, volunteering to take the role on with just a couple hours' notice, he quoted Karl Marx before recalling his own needs for affordable rent as a poor student.

Here are some poignant moments from the debate.

  • Do people who already live in San Francisco have a 'right' to stay. Should we have laws that protect the rights of people already here?
  • In response to a comment about protecting the elderly, Jonathan responded... "Why do we equate elderly with poor?" - He has a point. Most people are wealthiest in old age.
  • Peter : The government should subsidize public and social initiatives instead of putting the burden of landowners.
  • Is it wrong to restrict landlords' rent?
  • In response to the comment, "do we want San Francico to be full of rich people?", James responded : "Yes, we want San Francisco to be full of rich people. I want teachers, firemen, car-mechanics to be rich. We should all be rich in this city.
  • Simon in response to the comment, "rent control is a socialist, communist policy that is against the principle of free markets. "Free market does need regulation; we rely on Ben Bernanke to step in to control money supply. "
  • Jonathan in response to that, "that's ridiculous. Supporting the financial markets is completely different to rent control restrictions
  • Naomi raised the need to have a phased approach to removing rent control. Ending it completely would create unnecessary hardship and difficulties
  • The property owners in the group were put on the defensive when comparisons were made between rent control and prop 13 which restricts taxes. Barbara pointed out that rent control limits the income to property owners, where as property tax was an extra cost for property owners and is different.
  • Rob : "Property tax benefits people who don't want to move. People won't take new jobs, or will find themselves commuting to keep their rent control appartment
  • Many comments were made about how rent-control hurts the beneficiaries. They have less incentive to purchase property; they are disinclined to move elsewhere. James told the story of a friend who wants to live outside of SF, but won't because she dosen't want to lose her rent controlled appartment.

This was at times an intense debate, and discussion went on over many beers. I wish I could capture all the fun of the meeting

-- james

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