Currently in Santa Monica, rent increases are capped at $140 for higher rent units. Thus rents below $2300 pay the full 6% raise, but those above pay less than 6% – perhaps a lot less. 

This means that smaller units with longer time (poorer) residents will pay much higher percentage raises than larger units with more recent (richer) tenants. Thus the poor pay far more in percentage terms than the rich. Rewarding the rich more than the poor goes against all that is fair and democratic, and is completely upside-down. 

The council should ask the rent board to provide a chart of the average percentage raises for each percentile of rents (from lowest 1 percentile of rents to highest 99 percentile).

Rather than jumping on the rent board’s populist fix of rent freezes, which benefit the rich as much as anyone, (and where the rich pay much lower percentage raises anyway) the council should take time to consider other potential solutions first, that are more progressive and equitable.

A better way is to remove the $140 cap entirely, so richer tenants pay their full share, and lower the maximum rent increase percentage to, say, 5%. After all, isn’t asking the rich to pay the basis of the councils approach to everything else they do? 

At the very least, the council should send the all the ballots back to the rent board with the above comments, and tell them to come up with something better. 

The current system where the poor pay more than the rich is utterly wrong and unfair. And the rent control board’s proposed ‘fix’ will just prolong that unfairness without end.  

On a related note, If more rent control buildings are lost, and the rent-board receives ever less revenue from rent control fees, will they then ask for ever higher fees, which will then accelerate the loss of housing even more? At what point should the city take control of funding for the rent board to stop this vicious circle of fee increases and apartment loss? This request for higher fees is part of the same simplistic response to events that the rent board has been painting themselves into corners with for too long. 

The council needs to insist the rent board thinks again on all the measures they have submitted for ballot this year, with special attention to fairness and progressive protections, rather than protections heavily biased towards the rich, as is the case now. 

Peter Borresen, Santa Monica