Renters, property owners and activists came out in droves Tuesday evening to rally against and for rent control in Long Beach, with signs in hand and opinions ready, over 100 people crowded city hall.
The Long Beach City Council met its constituents with the promise to discuss a proposed ballot measure that could enact rent control.
Rent control limits how and when landlords can increase monthly rates to protect renters from being priced out of their homes; however, not everyone sees it that cut and dry.
During the meeting, council members reviewed questions and clarified language on the citizen ballot initiative regarding rent control. Although no decision can be made by council members, locals persisted to divulge their opinions.
Attorney and landlord Matthew Salaben sees rent control as a public policy that drives housing prices up, making them a less desirable investment.
Salaben pointed to the initial renters being protected from increases, but for people moving into the city or people looking for a new place to live will have higher rents.
However, he does have a horse in this game as well. He pointed out that property owners, such as himself, won’t have the profit incentive to maintain their properties if rent control goes into effect.
“As a landlord, there’s no incentive for me to be nice to tenants,” Salaben said. “I can’t make the profit.”
For a renter, it’s a matter of having a roof over their heads. Long Beach resident Jennifer Campbell describes living in Long Beach while on disability as a constant challenge, since one more rent increase could put her on the street.
“Us broke folk, as I like to put it, need somewhere to live,” Campbell said.
Before she was on disability, Campbell was a student at Cerritos College, self-employed and raising her daughter. She says rent control isn’t about dollars and cents for her; it’s about not living from disability check to disability check.
“The ultimate goal is that people can stay in their homes,” Campbell said. “We’re not criminals.”
Liz Waite, a Cal State Long Beach junior in theatre arts, sees rent control as a temporary solution to housing displacement.
Waite also calls hypocrisy on Mayor Robert Garcia for what she sees as a contradictory stance in being against rent control while cherishing the city’s ethnic diversity.
Where the contradiction comes in is that she sees a lack of rent control allowing landlords to push poor and ethnic communities out of the city.
“If you care about diversity then you gotta put your money where your mouth is and preserve our communities,” Waite said. “Long Beach is losing its people because of what is happening with housing cost.”
Activist Zoe Nicholson also sees a need for the poor to live integrated with the wealthy rather than on sidewalks.
That being said, she wasn’t entirely pleased with the crowd.
“This turnout tonight is extraordinarily disturbing,” Nicholson said. “I see hundreds of people here that aren’t residents, activists, [they] are paid professionals.”
Nicholson referred to the more wealthy folks at the rally. She waited to get into the council meeting, claiming their pocketbooks have an interest in stopping rent control in its tracks.
She also doubtful that the rally will change any of the council member’s minds.
“Activism doesn’t change the mind of the nine voters, those people knew how they were going to vote yesterday,” Nicholson said. “The purpose of rallies is to activate people.”
Salaben shared a similarly pessimistic sentiment from the other side of the issue.
“I think this is all smoke and mirrors, but I would still like to be able to tell them that as an attorney and a business owner that I’m far against any type of rent control,” Salaben said.