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Informed Opinions on Today’s Topics : Rent Control on the Borders of Los Angeles

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Calabasas, a small, wealthy city where many people have moved to escape urban woes, is facing what is usually a big-city issue--rent control.

The Calabasas City Council held a public hearing Wednesday night on a proposal for an ordinance regulating rent increases for apartment- and mobile-home residents.

The hearing was prompted by Anthony Pecoraro, who says his landlord unfairly raised his rent after he and his wife were forced to move to Calabasas after the Northridge earthquake. The Pecoraros’ rent-controlled apartment in Sherman Oaks was badly damaged by the temblor.

Pecoraro proposed that the Calabasas City Council enact a rent-control ordinance similar to the one applying to certain multifamily dwellings in Los Angeles.

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During a Dec. 7 council meeting, Pecoraro said his landlord wants to raise his rent by as much as $309 a month. Tenants of other Calabasas mobile home parks complained of rent increases of up to 40%.

Should rent-control be implemented at apartment houses and mobile-home parks throughout the San Fernando Valley and in surrounding suburban cities?

Anthony Pecoraro, Calabasas renter and rent-control supporter

“We live in a quake-altered housing market. The current (rental) market price is based on a disrupted supply-and-demand curve. We currently have fewer options to choose from by way of rent prices. Landlords who want to raise their rents are behaving perfectly legal, but they are not being moral. We live in a dysfunctional society where, if people do not profit exponentially from their investments, they willget frantic. It’s the same old story that’s existed since the beginning of time--the rich against the poor.”

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Daniel Faller, founder and president, Apartment Owners’ Assn. of Southern California

“Rent control is a form of welfare. Only the landlords are doing the subsidizing. People who’ve worked hard all their lives are being forced to involuntarily subsidize others. Studies show that rent control is ineffective. . . . Landlords with low rent want tenants who can afford to improve upon their apartments, and the rich person is inclined to fight for those places to save money. Also, if there were more regulation against mobile-home parks in Calabasas, who would want to build more parks in that area? Rent control is an attempted redistribution of wealth that doesn’t work.”

Barbara Zeidman, assistant general manager, Los Angeles Housing Department

“Prior to the earthquake, the vacancy rate of apartments in the Valley was at 12%. Functioning markets operate at a 5% to 6% vacancy rate. Immediately following the quake, that vacancy rate was cut in half. There has not been a tremendous upward surge of rents occurring in the Valley as a result of the earthquake. With so many options for renters to choose from, there is no way for landlords in Los Angeles to engage in rent gouging. The market is an effective regulating device. (However,) there is a benefit to establishing a government rent-regulatory agency. With the threat of a government response in existence, it tends to make landlord behavior more moderate.”

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Larry Gross, executive director, Coalition for Economic Survival, a tenants’ rights organization

“Rent control prevents gouging and gives tenants rights from being unjustly evicted. Landlords can’t decide one day that they just don’t like you for one reason or another. There has to be just cause for eviction notices to be given. Rent control helps with that. Banks can’t come along and raise mortgages on homeowners or evict them because they can get a better price from someone else. Renters should have the same security as homeowners. It’s a basic premise in life to have some type of affordable housing. Rent control provides for that premise.”


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