BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
A candidate for Redwood City Council is saying that a mailer sent out by the California Apartment Association, a landlord group, is a “complete distortion” of her views.
The mailer, sent out last week, urges homeowners not to vote for Reddy because of her stance as a renters advocate who supports rent control.
The ad, which states “We can’t trust Diana Reddy” and “Do you know the real Diana Reddy?” depicts Reddy in a “Yes on R” shirt, which was a rent control measure in Burlingame from November 2016 that ultimately failed at the polls, with 9,350 no votes and 4,668 yes votes.
Reddy also worked on Pacifica’s unsuccessful rent control measure, and has stated that she supports rent control and just-cause evictions. Reddy is the only candidate in the Redwood City Council race who supports rent control.
The ad also uses a headline for an opinion piece Reddy wrote for a newspaper called “The big lie about California’s housing crisis.”
“But if you look at the article that was referenced in the hit piece, I don’t say the things it says I am saying,” Reddy pointed out. The ad claims that Reddy is in support of removing private property rights, regulating single-family homes and restricting the control of people’s homes.
“People who are against stabilizing rents say it’s an attack on property rights, but people can’t build their homes on sides of cliffs,” Reddy said. “There are rules to protect people, and when a community is not protected from being displaced…this is a complete distortion of who I am and what I stand for.”
“I am an advocate for renters, and an advocate for people who are more vulnerable,” Reddy said. “I am one voice, but one that needs to be heard on our city council.”
The California Apartment’s Association has spent $9,631.77 on the mailers, according to finance forms filed with the Redwood City Clerk’s office. That’s about a third of how much cash Reddy has raised in her campaign. According to the most recent financial statements, Reddy has raised $29,729, which includes a $5,000 loan from herself.
Reddy is running for one of three seats on the Redwood City Council.
She is running against incumbent Diane Howard, life long resident Christina Umhofer, planning commissioners Ernie Schmidt and Giselle Hale, Complete Streets Commissioner Jason Galisatus and former planning commissioner Rick Hunter.
VACANCY TAX: BETTER THAN RENT CONTROL
Rent control doesn’t force owners to offer their properties “to let” at the allowed rent. Rent control doesn’t force land owners to build more housing. On the contrary, it discourages both, reducing the supply of housing and RAISING other rents. Exempting NEW buildings from rent control may avoid deterring construction, but it still doesn’t open up EXISTING buildings for tenants. Worse, it means that the stock of rent-controlled housing becomes a shrinking fraction of the whole housing stock — unless the exemption is only for a limited time, in which case you’re discouraging construction again!
Will removing regulatory barriers to construction solve the problem? Not by itself, although it’s obviously a necessary condition. Cheaper housing requires developers, builders, and owners to increase supply to a point where it reduces their return on investment. They obviously won’t do that voluntarily. They will do it only if they are penalized for NOT doing it.
SOLUTION: Put a punitive tax on vacant lots and unoccupied housing, so that the owners can’t afford NOT to build housing and seek tenants. By reducing the owners’ ability to tolerate vacancies, a vacancy tax strengthens the bargaining position of tenants and therefore reduces rents. It yields both an *immediate* benefit, by pushing existing dwellings onto the rental market, and a *long-term* benefit, by encouraging construction.
Such a tax, by reducing the cost of housing, would make it easier for employers to pay workers enough to live on. A similar tax on commercial property would reduce rents for job-creating enterprises. That’s GOOD FOR BUSINESS and GOOD FOR WORKERS.
A vacancy tax is also GOOD FOR REALTORS because they get more rental-management fees for properties coming onto the rental market, plus commissions from any owners who decided to sell vacant properties to owner-occupants (who of course don’t pay the tax).
Best of all, the need to avoid the vacancy tax would initiate economic activity, which would expand the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of the city/state/country gets a tax cut!
I think it’s time to check whether people in rent controlled apartments actually have a second home nearby. I am aware of several cases where a couple actually maintain two homes. I also think it’s wrong for a single person to occupy a two bedroom affordable rental. We need local governments to start keeping lists of who lives in each housing unit and what their relationship is to each other is (for example, are they domestic partners, or is one unrelated person paying to rent the second bedroom). We also need to tax wealthy tenants who take advantage of rent controlled units. Some people, like nurses, teachers, etc., are more deserving of cheap rent controlled apartments. Whenever there is a vacancy, it should be listed with local government first, so that City Hall can determine who should have a right to apply for the vacancy first (i.e. people who will benefit the community). We also have to bring affirmative action into the rental game. People who are traditionally discriminated against should have the right to rent apartments before others. Santa Monica, California is already trying to get landlords to rent first to people just out of prison, the drug addicted, the mentally ill, the homeless, etc. Seattle has enacted a “first applicant” to apply rule so that landlords can’t discriminate and simply choose who they like as a tenant. Prop. 10 will allow local government to control who gets to rent bedrooms in people’s homes. Landlords will not be able to let their units fall into disrepair because Prop. 10 will also allow for inspections and videotaping of people’s homes by local government. Prop. 10 will also give cities like Santa Monica a legal justification for expanding their program of reviewing residents’ state tax returns to determine if the resident is making money writing screenplays in their home or baking cookies.
A major problem with rent control is that it isn’t means-tested. So you have savvy affluent tenants far richer than their landlords enjoying and holding onto below-market rents while those truly in need struggle.
A problem with means-tested rent control, however, would be a built-in bias against renting to lower income tenants.
The best solution as mkst all economists have said, of course, is to allow the market to provide enough new housing to catch up to demand. Decades of NIMBYism have inhibited the market from providing the housing needed to keep up with our regional job creation boom.
Reddy is a rent-control activist, somebody who comes to town and tries to get people to pass a law that gives the government control over private property. She did this in Pacifica and San Mateo, and maybe other cities. She’ll do the same in Redwood City. If you own apartments or a home in Redwood City, you shouldn’t vote for Reddy. I’m glad the landlords group put out this mailer, and I thank the Daily Post for covering this issue.