Amid housing shortages and increasing living expenses, San Diegans are struggling more than ever to find housing and stay housed.
To put roofs over people’s heads, we must start by having an adequate housing supply for all income levels. This is crucial if we are going to make a dent in this crisis and ensure more equitable housing for all.
This week, the City Council passed a resolution declaring housing as a human right, and Mayor Todd Gloria and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera recently rolled out a new vision for tenant protections with this value in mind.
As a longtime rental housing provider and representative of the Southern California Rental Housing Association (SCRHA), I can confidently say that housing providers are the backbone of stable housing. The pandemic is clear evidence of that.
It is critical that policy is crafted that allows our residents to stay in stable housing situations, which our members care very much to provide. This requires a balanced policy approach that acknowledges the vital role of rental housing providers and recognizes the need for laws that help keep communities safe and nuisance-free.
For renters who are facing displacement, adequate rental housing options and resources are key. This is especially important for our most vulnerable residents, including the elderly, and those facing difficult health complications or physical limitations.
When it comes to housing, we are all part of a much larger ecosystem. By incorporating feedback from the diverse members of the “housing ecosystem” — including residents, tenant advocates, rental providers and community leaders — the proposed reforms can be effective and reflect the unique needs of our communities. Such an approach will also help San Diego avoid policies that result in unintended consequences for the housing market.
That is why rental housing providers are critical to the dialogue. When rental housing providers, especially those facing their own financial hardships, are unable to meet new requirements, they exit the market. Oftentimes, this ends up benefiting entities who buy their units and convert them into costlier condominiums.
Unfortunately, this further reduces the rental housing supply and often results in the removal of older units that are most affordable to the average San Diegan. When rental housing options grow scarcer, competition for the limited units available grows, further burdening those struggling to find a home.
The tenant protection reforms being discussed would create new city partnerships with rental providers like the SCRHA and community nonprofits, and we applaud this. Through these partnerships, we will be able to better provide renters with ongoing resources, ensure they are informed of their rights, and connect them to available legal and nonprofit assistance to prevent displacement.
We have a golden opportunity before us to create effective solutions that work for housing providers and renters — and we must seize it and continue to work together to deliver real results. We must also recognize that policies like tenant protections address very specific scenarios happening now and we must remain focused on the future and avoiding past mistakes that led to fewer housing options.
Lucinda Lilley is an experienced property management professional, past president of the Southern California Rental Housing Association and CEO of real estate consulting firm Bridging Influence.