Is there no serious challenge that state government won’t pretend to address with a formula?

Sacramento’s preference for formulas over actual policy solutions was the main story of the end of 2019’s legislative session. The most notable new formula was created by a bill designed to prevent rent gouging.

That’s the Sacramento pattern. Our state government doesn’t try to make such schools have sufficient funding; it only seeks to make sure that they have the money required under Prop 98, the education funding formula. Other formulas govern many parts of the budget and municipal finance.

The rent formula is complicated because it’s full of caveats and includes exceptions. It’s been described as capping increases at 5 percent, plus inflation, but, when you read the bill, there are more exceptions. That will make things different for all but the biggest and deepest-pocketed landlords.

Indeed, the establishment of formula for rent serves hedge funds and investment funds, who are coming to dominate the rental market. By gobbling up lots of properties during and after the Great Recession, big companies have turned housing into just another security. And such funds like formulas because they can use their financial and computing power to maximize returns under formulas.

Of course, none of this solves the real problems of rising rents, evictions, and the shortage of housing. That will require aggressive action to push forward housing, and deregulation of zoning and other strictures. In other words, California’s problems in housing, like those in budget, require doing away with formulas. Instead, Sacramento keeps adding formulas. Is it any wonder big problems in budget and housing don’t get solved?