Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rent Control Under Threat!

In the midst of a housing crisis that is already squeezing the poor out of the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported a couple of days ago that a June 3 ballot measure would abolish all rent control laws in California (see,0,7822882.story). While this undoing of tenant protections would be gradual (since protected units would only join the unregulated market after their current occupants move out) it could deal a fatal blow to efforts at maintaining income diversity in the city, particularly in poor- and Latino-heavy, gentrifying districts like Echo Park, Koreatown, Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights.

Four of the most popular arguments against rent control blame such regulations for actually reducing the amount of affordable rentals in the city in the following ways: 1) by discouraging developers from creating new rental units since their ability to make a profit is reduced; 2) by keeping units occupied much longer than they would be without rent control since tenants, who would otherwise like to move, often remain in a unit to continue to pay below-market rents; 3) by encouraging landlords to leave the “low-profit” business of renting and convert their properties into condos; 4) and by encouraging landlords to jack up rents as much as possible the moment a longtime (and below-market paying) tenant moves out.

All four arguments are flawed, however.

1) While it is true that landlords whose regulated rental properties stand to make smaller profits, the fact that the law exempts all developments built after 1978 (when it was passed in Los Angeles) has meant that developers have continued enjoying considerable returns on rental housing built since then. Even if the law were to be updated so that it applies to all rental units created before February 2008, new housing developed for the next several years would continue to harness profits for both builders and landlords, especially if it took another three decades for the ordinance to be updated again. Given that a provision in the law allows for yearly increases in rent to match inflation, a landlord never sees any decrease in rent revenues throughout a protected occupant’s tenancy from the day she moves in.

2) As for the regulation encouraging the prolongation of a tenant’s stay in a rent-controlled unit, therefore keeping it unavailable to others, while true, the fact is that unless the tenant moves out of the city altogether, becomes homeless, or dies, she would always need to move into another home, meaning that the net number of units that would be made available by her moving would be null. Associated with this same argument is the point that tenants themselves suffer when they feel they cannot move into a new unit of their choice, say, closer to a new job, because they are compelled to stay put where they can pay below-market rents. However, that many people can’t afford market-rate housing is a problem that must be blamed on an unfair distribution of wages among workers, not on rent control, which actually ensures that at least one unit in the city remains affordable to a tenant.

3) Indeed, many landlords in rent-controlled markets have converted their properties into condominiums as a way of cashing in on the skyrocketing real-estate market in recent years. But laissez faire in rental housing would leave low- and moderate-income tenants no better off if they can’t afford the rising home values, be they for rent or sale. (A better protection for tenants would be to curb the condo conversion mania.)

4) Finally, that a landlord starved for profit during years of a renter’s occupancy is more likely to raise rents to the maximum as soon as the unit becomes available is foolish, as it ignores common market sense: a) the provider of any good will always seek to make the biggest profit possible, and b) the price of any good is ultimately set by the market.

Rent control is hardly a silver bullet to our affordable-housing crisis; it does create other problems, the main one being a landlord’s lowered incentive to keep up regulated properties. But in the face of public officials’ paltry efforts to minimize poor people's displacement being brought on by gentrification, rent control is the only thing that can save Los Angeles from becoming exclusively for the rich. Now the question is whether we can save it, as the June 3 election (when no mayoral, gubernatorial or presidential candidate will be elected) will almost surely garner a low voter turnout, which always benefits conservative causes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You're Invited to an Instant Gathering

you’re invited to an instant gathering...of planners, architects, designers, and other fresh people with a care for the urban environment.

the on going situation at the historical Wyvernwood Apartments in Boyle Heights has prompted several individuals to get together for drinks, discussion, and an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals from our great city. as our neighborhoods continue expanding, its time we extend our networks as well.

join us this Friday at fellow LUFillo Chuy’s place precisely in the Wyvernwood neighborhood.

bring a dish, some bottles (or cans), and a smile.

PLACE : 2676 East 8th Street (cross street is Soto)
DATE & TIME: Friday. Jan 18. 6pm

Direct LUF Link

Thursday, January 10, 2008

House along the Nacimiento Bike Tour 08 Route

Because of the rain we didn't get a good chance to catch a critical mass (if there was any) riding the Nacimiento Bike Tour. Then again, we were out on the street about 2 hrs. after it began. We did get a chance to visit one of the host residences along Pasadena Ave (I"ll post the address later).
This nativity scene has plenty of history.
According to the elderly mother and daughter duo which resides here, they've been doing this for decades. The mother is 90-years old and has been doing nacimientos for about 80 years (!!). Her nativity scene is an awesome collection of figurines from around the world (Middle East, South America) which came via her grandkids traveling abroad. This nativity scene took about two weeks to assemble (!). The women began arranging the scene since early December and finished just in time for Christmas Eve.

The women invited us to visit them again, but with our nephews and nieces to continue the tradition...which is why they do it year after year. They stated they receive a tremendous joy when people enter their home to witness the nacimiento, and they hope that tradition continues here in the U.S. for future generations. So we promised we'd come back on February 2nd, el Dia de La Candelaria. I will post more information soon enough so that everybody can go to the celebration of the 2nd. My other friend took some amazing shots, I will post them later. In the meantime, Imma eat this orange they gave me and head to class.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

LUF Holiday (Dia de Los Reyes Magos) Party

Join us for a Los Reyes Holiday party at the Eastside Luv Café @ 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 6, 2008

1835 E. First Street,
Boyle Heights, CA. 90033

For Further information: 626 437-4446