Last month a group of concerned residents came from Los Angeles to the California Apartment Association headquarters in Sacramento to protest rising rents and urge the adoption of rent control.
Rather than call in the police, or lock our doors, I met them in our lobby and began a dialogue that is long overdue. I did agree with some of their concerns, but I disagreed that rent control is the answer.
In the real world, regulations and restrictions have only resulted in fewer available homes. Rent control puts extreme pressure on existing inventory, especially in some of California’s most expensive cities. Since controls are not “means-tested,” they do nothing to guarantee that lower-income residents will have access.
While we don’t support rent control, the California Apartment Association wants to be part of the solution – helping enact policies that encourage new home development.
The need for more affordable housing is something we can all support because if we don’t find a way to build more – and soon – the American dream of living and working in a community you love will be lost to millions of Californians.
This is a real crisis, as potentially destructive as the drought.
Funding for affordable housing has decreased by about 80 percent in recent years. In high-cost areas, police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers can’t afford to live where they work, and that makes all of our communities poorer.
An estimated 1.5 million low-income families lack access to affordable housing anywhere near their jobs, which worsens traffic, climate change and income inequality.
Housing development creates jobs – 29,000 for every $500 million spent on affordable housing. And more housing creates long-term societal benefits: less poverty, fewer homeless and stronger communities.
Focusing on solutions – not restrictions – is a win-win for cities and the state. In some places, it can take more than 14 years to build an apartment building; that does nothing to solve the problem.
So I invite all of those who are beginning to recognize this crisis to find real answers. Builders, union construction workers, policymakers, tenant advocates, legislators, reporters and even tweeters – let’s all sit down together to hammer out a solution.
That’s what Californians are good at, and if we put our minds together, I believe there is a path forward – one that guarantees affordable housing options for generations to come.
Thomas Bannon is CEO of the California Apartment Association. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.