'Proper Punishment'

Every decent income-property owner cringes at the term "slumlord" and its implications. However, some assumptions are being aired in the local media that must be challenged.

The judge in the Avol case is quoted as saying that this doctor is wealthy, he can easily afford to make all the repairs mandated, and must do so immediately. (He has said he has already spent $100,000 on repairs.) The only assets that can fairly be tapped to pay for these repairs are the value of the apartment house and its income. The wealth or poverty of the owner should be immaterial. With controlled rents of about $265 per apartment, there is probably little money left after fixed expenses to make repairs.

Also, there has been an implication that this property owner is somehow responsible because his tenants live in overcrowded, unpleasant conditions. Apparently this is all they can afford.

Are the people of California willing to pay for decent housing, at a cost of more than a billion dollars, for all who need it? Obviously not. Yet the idea persists that one small segment of the population, the income-property owner, should subsidize poor families. Grocery stores do not pay the cost of the food stamp program, nor do doctors fund Medicare and medical bills.

Landlords do not cause poverty. They rarely make large profits from it. Landlords do not break windows, smash door locks, punch holes in plaster, nor urinate in halls. When the cost of repairing this mayhem exceeds the profit from the property, the apartment house will be torn down.

The extremely poor can either be housed at government expense, or in crowded, less than ideal private housing. And if city government succeeds in closing down all substandard housing, it is probable that more of the poor will live on the street.


Sherman Oaks

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