My statement at Thousand Oaks City Council about Councilmember Jones’ anti-renter remarks

Tonight I gave the below general public comment regarding Councilmember Ed Jones’s remarks about renters at their last meeting two weeks ago. You can read about that meeting in the Acorn and watch video of Jones’s comments in this Twitter thread.

Thank you, Mayor and Councilmembers.

I wanted to comment on statements from Councilmember Jones at the last city council meeting. When criticizing apartments proposed for Thousand Oaks Boulevard, he said:

I think we’re building two societies here: The homeowners who, as we all know, take an interest in civic life […] So it goes against my thinking to all of a sudden convert everything to apartments in this town.

When Councilmember Adam pushed back on this statement, Jones continued,

I think renters are fine people, I just don’t think they have the same level of community interest as the homeowners do.

I’m a lifelong renter, and I’ve been heavily involved in my community. I’ve been active in local political groups for the past several years, and I’m the founder of Ventura County YIMBY, a grassroots group working to end the housing shortage here in Ventura County. Many other members of our group, which is over 500 strong, are also renters. We do this because we want the best for our community.

My father, an Argentinean immigrant, was also a lifelong renter, and he’s also been active in his community, organizing fellow Latinos for political causes in California. That is, he was a lifelong renter until he purchased a home in 2005. He then foreclosed on it in the 2009 Financial Crisis, and has gladly returned to renting since.

As an economist, I can tell you that access to rental housing isn’t just more inclusive to more diverse types of residents, especially those who struggle to afford down payments, it’s also good for the economy. Investing the bulk of one’s net worth in a single, volatile asset, is rarely good financial advice, and people need housing options that don’t demand that. Rental housing also offers more flexible housing to young people who are vital to entrepreneurship and new industries.

This is all somewhat tangential to the project that was discussed at the last meeting, which didn’t reduce homeownership by a single home. That project provides dense infill housing, which is good for the environment and good for affordability, and I hope you move to approve its development quickly.

But more importantly, I hope you consider that many of your constituents choose to rent, and they deserve as much representation and respect as constituents who choose to own. Thank you.

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.