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 rent or passing through costs to tenants is not politically feasible, unless means testing (e.g., like HUD’s (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Section 8 qualifications) is begun, reducing property owners’ costs is a wise solution to preserving our aging affordable housing units.
Many properties were built in the 1950’s or earlier and are now 70 years or more old. There is a critical need to assess age and condition of existing rent-controlled housing inventory. We need to create data points for accurate management of building conditions - the older and worse condition the more likely to be taken off market under the Ellis Act to be replaced by new, market rate construction. The cost to repair and improve older construction can be greater than demolishing and rebuilding as market price condominiums or luxury rentals.
Here are some possible solutions to preserve rental housing:
• Support efforts for banks to recast existing aging loans (versus refinance loans) to reduce monthly loan payments.
• Allow open access by property owners to selected city purchasing sources and discounts,
• •
Increase participation in HUD Section 8 housing through outreach to existing low income tenants and landlords to participate.
Arrange grant funds from state and Federal sources for mandated quake retrofitting, balcony repairs, and building systems to upgrade and/or repair or replacement (e.g., roof, plumbing, wiring, insulation).
Restructure rent control increase petition to return to original amortization schedules, simplified process and 30-day decision / response from City, including tenant economic hardship exemptions.
• Study European rent control methodologies.
With very low mortgage interest rates, we should motivate renters to buy property: condominiums and single- family homes. We need to all stop being prisoners of rent control! The City of Santa Monica should:
• Immediately suspend rent control on owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes,
• Arrange stakeholder meetings to develop new ideas and best practices,
• Remove “re-rent at prior rent upon move-out” rule for owner occupancy on older structures,
• Assist and promote property tax assessment reductions,
• Encourage property owners to refurbish, repair, and upgrade properties through temporary City fee waivers (e.g., permits, trash hauling, etc.),
• Conduct outreach to property owners to encourage California Earthquake Authority coverage for structures of 4 or fewer units,
• Use “Rent Control News” and City website to promote landlord specific cost reduction means and methods,
• Like the City of San Francisco, promote accessory dwelling unit construction (e.g., garage conversions) to comply with state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) mandated goals,
• Permit use of Ratio Utility Billing Services (RUBS) to promote conservation and reduce costs to property owners, and
• Meet with insurance companies to obtain input on improving building structural conditions with the goal of reducing risk and insurance premiums.
These are just some ideas, so let us all work together to develop “win-win” solutions!
Jay J. Santa Monica (Submitted Via Email)
(Editor’s Note: These are certainly some refreshing, “out of the box” ideas.)

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