The Oceanside City Council faces a final vote tomorrow (Wednesday) on a measure proposed by Councilman Jerry Kern that would return free markets to city mobile home parks, thus simply allowing park owners to adjust rents to the market rate only when leasing to a new tenant. Don’t let Councilmember Esther Sanchez and her regulatory, nanny-state minded cronies tell you any differently, although they will try, while draining the city of needed tax resources.
It’s basic economics, one that Sanchez doesn’t comprehend. As a North County Times editorial recently noted, “It is axiomatic that if government controls the price of a thing, it distorts the market. With normal markets for goods — including property — prices rise (or fall) to points where the demand clears the supply … it is not surprising that Oceanside mobile-home-park owners have chafed under the weight of rent control imposed in that city in 1984 … not so obvious is that by suppressing the market rate for space in the parks, the pressure is increased on housing prices elsewhere.”
A little wonkish, maybe, but that’s exactly why emotion instead of facts often rule the day in these types of debates. Thank goodness that Kern and council colleagues Jack Feller and Gary Felien have an understanding of economics, as well as the courage to stand up for good public policy in Oceanside. The three voted previously to support an amendment to the city’s rent control ordinance, but are surely facing an onslaught of emotionally-based criticism heading into tomorrow. The three need support, while Sanchez and Mayor Jim Wood could use a dose of reality, even if wonkish.
Councilman Kern also notes (in the NC Times):
“Let’s be totally clear: The proposal for a vacancy decontrol amendment to Oceanside’s current rent control ordinance retains full rent control for the current residents. Their rent will not be raised beyond what the current ordinance calls for, and they will be protected as long as they live in their current space. Rents will be adjusted to market rate only when a new tenant takes over the space.
“Rent control is a bad deal for the taxpayers of Oceanside. Over the past 20 years, the city of Oceanside has spent over $3 million on litigation and administration of the Mobile Home Rent Control Ordinance, including $325,000 that was transferred from general fund reserves to the Mobile Home Program Fund. These are tax dollars that should go to fund our basic services, libraries and recreation programs.
“Rent control laws governing mobile-home parks have also ‘confiscated’ a portion of the park owner’s equity in the property and transferred it to tenants. Rent controls constitute a ‘regulatory taking’ because the regulation has unfairly singled out mobile-home property owners to bear the burden to subsidize low-income residents. It is also not known how many of the current residents would qualify for housing assistance, since there is no means testing for space renters.”
By improving the current ordinance to allow owners to make fundamental, free market decisions when it applies to new renters, Kern and his colleagues are doing the right thing. They deserve support. Please consider contacting the councilmembers today, or attending the Oceanside City Council meeting tomorrow, May 25, at 6:00 p.m.