By Peter Borresen

This week the Santa Monica City Council passed the first reading of a superb new law that, although technically not rent control, is exactly that – It will magically allow owner occupied triplex and duplex owners to be allowed to raise rents, but at the same time will allow the tenants to gain $21,000+ relocation fees should rents rise more than a token amount and thus halt all attempts at rent raising. This law is pure genius: Something that looks and smells and tastes exactly like rent control, but technically is not.

This brilliant piece of out of the box thinking is the perfect solution also for tenants forced from single family homes and condos by rent increases. It is not rent control, as owners can still increase rents, but the crippling relocation fees will effectively halt all rent increases. Fantastic!

Next week, at the proposed law’s second reading, I strongly urge the council to extend it to add the magical “it’s not rent control, but it does exactly the same thing” solution to all of Santa Monica’s housing, including single family homes and condos! State law bans rent control from single family homes, but does not ban relocation fees. It’s the perfect end-run around that pesky Costa-Hawkins bill that bans rent control on single family homes.

Owners and renters can all rejoice! Owners can still raise rents, but in reality rents will never be raised! Everyone wins! There is something deliciously Orwellian about this double-speak, and I can see that’s why the Santa Monica City Council is so cock-a-hoop about it.

If our councilors really cared about renters they would jump at this change to save them, and if they don’t it shows how they really are insensitive to renters’ plight.

Prepare for the amazing “It’s-not-rent-control-but-it-does-the-same-thing” to be imposed on your house and condo next week!

And why stop there? State law bans rent control on apartments built after 1994, but using this magical “it’s-not-really-rent-control” they can stop rents rising on even the newest apartments in the city, perhaps even fabricating a magical “vacancy-control-that’s-not-vacancy-control”, without resorting to that embarrassing phrase which, as all economists know, is why Santa Monica was called “Skid-row-on-sea” in the 1980’s.

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