Oxnard’s rent control proposal would do more harm than good

Tomorrow, Oxnard City Council will vote on a proposal to cap rent increases at 5% per year (nominal), sunsetting in 2030. I sent them this email.

In October, I shared with you evidence on the harms of rent control. These studies, from institutions ranging from Harvard to CSUN to the California Legislative Analyst, indicate that tighter rent control would benefit some longtime Oxnard incumbents, but at a high cost to everyone else. The legislation you’re considering would raise housing costs for immigrants, reduce new construction, increase homelessness, lengthen commutes, exacerbate air pollution and climate change, worsen matches between where people live and where they want to live, and favor more affluent families in the rental market. My blog post from October provides links to empirical research on these causal links.

Beyond rent control in general, this flawed legislation does not deserve passage:

  • Section F blames high housing costs on new multifamily development, despite overwhelming evidence that new multifamily housing reduces overall housing costs.
  • Section 27–12 claims that a 5% increase “is found and determined to provide a just and reasonable return”, yet the report contains no economic study justifying that conclusion, nor does it cite evidence on the impact of rent control on investment.
  • Since it does not apply to single-family homes (per Costa-Hawkins), this law widens the gap between multifamily and single-family housing, continuing to punish the type we need more of.

The report also omits budgetary trade-offs. For the $1.2 million in annual costs of administering the program, we could send $400 to each set of new parents, averting infant poverty and its lifelong harms. And that’s before considering the significantly lower property tax revenue Oxnard would collect, due to rent control lowering property values. How much more good could we do in the absence of this nativist policy?

This law would not only harm the population it intends to help, it would deny them of resources that could be demonstrably and immediately help them. It is built on flawed research, and it would produce flawed outcomes. Please vote against it, and instead invest in the proven solution to housing instability: legalizing apartments.

Elm Park Apartments in Oxnard. We need more of these, not more laws that discourage their construction.

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Max Ghenis

Max Ghenis

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Co-founder & CEO of PolicyEngine. Founder & president of the UBI Center. Economist. Alum of UC Berkeley, Google, and MIT. YIMBY. CCLer. Effective altruist.