Comments

1
There are rent control/stabilization policies that won't help, and will have negative outcomes, we need to be smart about how we talk about this to ensure we do something actually beneficial.

That said, some proposed ground rules for this debate.
1. No invoking San Francisco or New York. There are 100s of cities with rent control policies in America, and only one San Francisco and one New York.
2. No pretending rent control is synonymous with a price ceiling. That form of rent control has been studied and it failed, not a single politician is proposing a price ceiling.
3. No pretending the literature on rent control is as conclusive as climate science research. A comprehensive review of the available literature found under 100 total articles (https://econjwatch.org/file_download/238…), and many of those were covering specific rent control policies different than those proposed by folks in Seattle.
4. Both sides need to be realistic about the aims of rent control. The aim of rent control is not cheap housing. Cheap housing needs to be created by other housing development policies. The aim of rent control is stable housing. This is the flaw in most Econ articles, they place no value on housing stability, whereas for most renters that would be one of their top concerns.
5. There is a value to having economically integrated cities/neighborhoods/schools; if not a direct economic value, then certainly a societal one. If you want to turn Seattle into a gated community for only those that "deserve" it, you are the one that doesn't belong here.
6. Shelter is not simply a commodity, it is a human need.

Some points:
The free market will consistently fail to provide adequate housing at the adequate time. We already seeing that as soon as developers have built enough for rent to stabilize, they are now pulling back, so that rent never actually goes down significantly even though over 1/3 of renters in Seattle are rent-burdened (spend too much on housing to take care of other needs). There will always be a role for the government to guide private development to better outcomes. Rent stabilization policies may increase the need for intervention, but the market was never going to offer affordable housing.

We are a democracy, that means saying rent control is bad because it benefits people who already live somewhere and hurts those that may move there later is a pointless argument. What matters is the voters who live there now and can vote to make their own lives better rather than privileging some hypothetically future resident.

One of the RHA's stated worries is that people will choose housing stability and stay in their rent controlled apartments and not give at least 1/3 of their income to landlords. Economists would consider this an inefficiency, but most real people would consider it a benefit for those who choose stability instead of ever larger homes. By the way, the RHA encourages landlords to raise rent by 10% every year (you can find this expert guidance in their newsletters, and in statements by their loathsome director). If you get a 10% raise at work every year, congrats! Most of use do not, and need housing that acknowledges that reality. Housing instability causes very real economic damage, we can see that very clearly here in Seattle, but those costs are rarely factored into this debate.
2
Let's get this over with.

For: Rent control helps individuals lucky enough to get rent controlled apartments. It's a relatively straightforward measure lawmakers can take to tangibly, directly benefit some people.

Against: Rent control is bad for everyone else. It makes housing less affordable overall, & encourages shady landlord practices. There are more efficient policy measures to effect housing affordability like changing zoning and encourage more, denser, new construction.
3
@1 Thanks for the thoughtful comment.
5
@4 grow up.
9
Convince me of the following: Trading ''can't get an apartment due to high costs" for "can't get an apartment due to long waiting lists" is a vast improvement.
10
@1: Nice try at moving the goalposts -- and at stifling debate. We're not buying it, especially as your points #4 and #5 contradict each other. (Here's a hint: when your very first act is to try to exclude inconvenient facts from the dialog, you've just admitted you know you won't win on all of the facts.)

There are more efficient policy measures to effect housing affordability like changing zoning and encourage more, denser, new construction.

One example of which is how the City of Seattle and Vulcan are redeveloping Yesler Terrace:

In addition to replacing all 561 original units for families earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income, SHA is dramatically increasing affordable housing opportunities by creating up to 1,100 additional low-income units at Yesler.

But low-income units won't be the only housing there. All income levels will be represented, with the explicit intent of creating exactly the diverse community mentioned @1.

@4, @8: How's that graph of Seattle's unemployment rate vs. minimum wage since 2013 coming along? Not going the way you predicted? Any idea why?

Seriously, you're obviously still sore about reality having savagely beaten you on that one. The fact is that governments control the prices of all kinds of things, from the days when A.T.&T. was a regulated monopoly (long-distance telephone service prices) to ongoing dairy price controls. The price of gasoline in the United States is far lower than in some oil-exporting countries -- do you really believe that's the free market at work here?

There may be something positive to be said for some kind of rent or price control on housing, but no one here has yet said it.
11
@7 I can't speak @1 specifically, but let's stop joking with this diversity nonsense. Most people conceive diversity as "people my age with similar educational backgrounds who agree with me politically - but their skin is slightly different color". If you don't have friends who vote different than you, who have gold teeth or long fingernails, that would go to Burger King before they went to Whole Foods, that can't wait to own a big house in the burbs, then your shit isn't diverse in any way that matters at all (except to pat yourself on the back for). Seattleites - urban, liberal Seattleites (including young black urban libs) - have shown over and over and over and over that diversity is not something they value. Look at this fucking city and say that with a straight face.
12
@11: Yes, we must all agree there can be one and only one definition of diversity.
13
@8: I interpret @5's point to be: cut the slippery slope bullshit. I concur.

"Let's abandon the market system completely" is an illegitimate point.
14
@10 "The price of gasoline in the United States is far lower than in some oil-exporting countries -- do you really believe that's the free market at work here?"

What is it that you think is at work regarding the price of gasoline? I'm having a hard time understanding what this has to do with proposed legislation relating to rent control.
15
Everyone knows rent control is a bad idea. Liberal economists have been just as clear on this as conservative ones. It’s the one thing about economics that everyone agrees on.

Can we just drop this issue? Do we have to debate every stupid idea?
16
What is it that you think is at work regarding the price of gasoline?

Plenty of things, some of them governmental interventions in the market.

...what this has to do with proposed legislation relating to rent control.

In context, it was a response to mistral's bitter, petulant whine @4 about governmental price controls.

Can we just drop this issue?

I hope so. As I implied @10, @2 was exactly right in noting there are plenty of policies we can adopt to create solutions to our housing problems, instead of just re-allocating existing properties based on what politicians want.
17
I'm assuming that rent rises with property tax. That is about to hit the fan in the next day or so.
18
Higher Taxes! Hooray!
19
Today's rent is going to look good in 6 months to a year.
20
The free market will consistently fail to provide adequate housing at the adequate time. We already seeing that as soon as developers have built enough for rent to stabilize, they are now pulling back, so that rent never actually goes down significantly even though over 1/3 of renters in Seattle are rent-burdened (spend too much on housing to take care of other needs). There will always be a role for the government to guide private development to better outcomes. Rent stabilization policies may increase the need for intervention, but the market was never going to offer affordable housing.

Only if the highly regulated market exists as it does now. Here is a little thought experiment. Imagine that we subsidize the construction of apartments. Every developer gets a thousand dollars for every unit they add. Same goes for basement apartments of course. Do you think we will see more apartments?

Try the opposite. Levy a tax on every apartment of 10 grand. Do you think we will see fewer apartments?

The problem is, we are doing the latter. Through our policies are basically taxing renters and those who don't own their own place. The cost of construction is much higher, and only makes sense when rents are high, which means even if you don't move to a new place, your rent is higher.

Consider what a place is, before it becomes a new apartment. It might be a house. It might be a parking lot. Maybe it is just a bit of grass, outside a house, or simply a basement that is part of a bigger house.

In all cases, the property has value as is. The decision to build or not involves three factors: the cost of building, the value of the new place, and the value if you do nothing. When rent dips and the cost of construction is high, it is better to just keep it as is. Parking lots suddenly seem like a good value. Even adding a basement apartment seems like too much work if the rental tax is high.

The problem is, through our regulations, we are basically taxing each and every apartment. So not only are we failing to subsidize the construction of new units, we are actually taxing the fuck out of new construction, because we value parking more than we value apartment dwellers. We are concerned about whether a new apartment building is pretty more than we are whether people can afford to live there. The combination of requirements pushes up the cost of construction, and often times it is just cheaper to leave the property as is -- unless rent is very high.

It gets worse. Not all property is the same. For every dumpy house, there is a very nice house, worth a lot of money as is. Here is a beautiful house that has value even if you just sell it to someone looking to buy a very pretty house. It is also very cheap to convert that house to an apartment. That is the type of house that only gets destroyed if housing is very expensive, because it is very expensive to throw away that house, even if you do add more units.

Now consider a run down lot a few blocks away. Wouldn't it make sense to build there, instead? Of course it would, but that would be illegal. In fact, in most of the city, you can't build apartments. In most of the city, you can't even build a townhouse, or a small lot house. You can walk through much of the city, admire a nice, regular looking house and think "Yep, that would be illegal right now (because the lot is too small)".

That is the bullshit regulatory environment we live in. It isn't rare -- most of America lives like that. But the result is very high construction costs, which in turn lead to very high rents.

Change the policies and you will see more development, even when rents drop. One of the cheapest type of development is ADUs. That is because unlike most development, you retain the value of the existing property. If I add a backyard cottage, my house is still worth a lot. As it turns out, the actual cost of construction (i. e. hiring someone to build a backyard cottage) is relatively low. What is expensive is all the bullshit requirements (e. g. required parking). If the requirements change, then adding a backyard cottage or a basement apartment becomes much cheaper, and that sort of development is cost effective even when rents are extremely low.

As it turns out, this is what the mayor's committee (the HALA committee) actually proposed. They wanted to change the ADU laws, but the mayor himself rejected that part of the compromise. That is because the old mayor had no balls, and cared more about angry home owners (who complained about apartment dwellers in "their" neighborhood) than he did the rights of those simply looking for a place to live. He was a chicken shit, but there is no reason we should be. Simple, easy, common sense changes to these antiquated laws could dramatically increase the housing supply in this city, even when rent is going down.

That doesn't mean it would create adequate housing for everyone -- it never has. You will still need subsidized housing the way you still need food stamps, despite our very low food costs. But you will at least get much cheaper market rate housing if you stop making it so fucking hard to add places to live. This, of course, also means that when we do subsidize housing, the money goes further.
21
You can walk through much of the city, admire a nice, regular looking house and think "Yep, that would be illegal right now (because the lot is too small)".

I once lived in a fine old brick apartment house in the Pike-Pine corridor of Capitol Hill. It could not be built today, because it has no dedicated storage for tenants’ automobiles. For modern buildings, Seattle requires a certain number of parking spaces per rental unit. Obviously, this drives (pun fully intended) a higher cost of rental, even for tenants who do not own cars. In the many happy years I lived in the Pike-Pine corridor, not once did I look around and think, “Why, the one thing we most definitely need here is more cars!” Yet, that is the city’s policy.

Before we create whole new categories of laws, perhaps we should review and revise the ones we already have.
22
Its way too late to stop investors and developers now after the deals with the devils were made long ago. They’ll listen to the gripping, take notes, chat amongst themselves, maybe do a day trip to check out the planning for the new over-budget-by-7-million “Hugo House”, then drive back (sans carpool) to their homes and condos and think, “Gosh, poor people shouldn’t live in Seattle if the cant afford it” and hit the hay for another beautiful day of taxpayer-paid uselessness. I recommend moving to a new state, maybe take up learning Mandarin, take up a community class course in weaving baskets or check out Shen Yun In March - its actually a great show.
24
Let me try again since no takers the first time:

Convince me that trading 'can't get an apartment due to high prices' for 'can't get an apartment due to long waiting lists' is a vast improvement.
25
@24 is exactly right. Also, you are likely to have to pay a big "finders fee/key deposit/bribe" to get the rent controlled apartment once it is available, so you get the best of both worlds by waiting AND paying. Awesome!
26
The issue here is really simple: rents are high in Seattle because there isn't enough supply for the demand. Putting an arbitrary cap on rents doesn't solve that problem. But it does do three things: It rewards those renters who are living in rent controlled buildings; it rewards bad tenants because landlords will be required to renew their lease and instead go through the costlier eviction process; it arbitrarily punishes landlords for the low supply of housing and high demand-neither of which landlords are responsible for. Oh, and I assume those of you in favor of rent control, also favor house-price control (i.e., arbitrarily tying the selling price of a home to the number of years you've owned it), and property tax control (limiting how much the city can increase property taxes each year-next year the increase will average 17%), mortgage interest rate control, home repair price control, etc. While we are in the process of enacting legislation for rent control in Seattle, we should also enact legislation barring North Korea from striking us with nuclear weapons-both pieces of legislation will be equally effective at solving the problems they propose to solve.
27
Ok, so justify this rent increase! My rent increased 62% this year 575 dollars. How the he'll is that justified? Property taxes didn't increase that much, it all crap and as usual Washington state landlord greed. If this is happening in olympia Seattle people are nuts. I can only assume that what there trying to do is increase the homeless population to give away more money to people that don't work, and screw the hard working people. Just more libtard thinking.

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