It’s an iron-clad rule of California governance: why bother to solve a problem when you can just create a formula to make it more complicated.
That approach to a big problem—those of renting in our era of high housing costs—is now being advanced in the state legislature.
AB 1482, a compromise bill that now seems likely to pass, doesn’t produce more rental housing to limit rents. It doesn’t protect renters from evictions. And it doesn’t do anything to improve rapidly declining quality of rental housing, a huge issue that is largely being ignored in the state. (If anything, the bill may further reduce housing quality).
What it does is create a formula for rent increases. It’s essentially a cap: 7 percent, plus the rate of inflation.
This isn’t a policy anyone wants. Tenant advocates want rent control, and others want more and better housing in more appropriate places. But this bill is moving because it will pass. In California, we always seem to be able to compromise on formulas.
We let formulas govern how we fund schools. We leave the problems of pensions and retirement to formulas that we won’t alter, no matter what they do to public services. Formulas are big in the other big area of the budget, health. And our constitution is littered with supermajorities and other formulas that have turned that document into one undersigned and incomprehensible algorithm.
Here’s hoping that Gov. Newsom vetoes this bill—on the grounds that the last thing California needs is another formula. It needs actual solutions that address its people’s housing needs.