Ryan Chartrand

This may be the last official political column I ever write for the Mustang Daily. I know for some it seems like it’s too soon (three years!), and for others it probably couldn’t come sooner. Occasionally in my columns, I ask my readers to do something. I usually don’t ask them to do anything too crazy, and I won’t this time, either.

All I am asking you to do is vote on June 3.

“I know, I know,” some of you are saying, “I already voted last week for ASI president. I’m done with that voting thing.” Well, on June 3, you can help decide a little a bit of California’s future by voting for Propositions 98 or 99 as well.

While the race for county supervisor has gotten some attention at Cal Poly and in the city, it seems that Propositions 98 and 99 have slipped under the radar.

Propositions 98 and 99 both deal with issues of property rights and eminent domain and, if passed, would amend the state’s constitution to extend some of these rights (I know this sounds boring, but it’s important). Both propositions claim to fight the Supreme Court ruling of Kelo vs. City of New London, which allows the government to use its powers of eminent domain (the government’s power to seize a citizen’s private property without his consent) to transfer property from one private owner to another.

However, there are distinct differences between the two propositions, and only one ballot measure will be allowed to pass. For instance, Proposition 99 only gives protection to “owner-occupied” property, and continues to allow the government to seize other private properties and give them to different private owners. On the other hand, Proposition 98 gives full protection for property owners from this kind of government action. Likewise, Proposition 99 would take effect 180 days after it is passed, allowing the government to make a last-ditch attempt to abuse its powers of eminent domain. However, Proposition 98 would take effect immediately.

While these may be the central differences between the two propositions, there is one last major difference between them: Proposition 98 eliminates government-imposed rent controls, and Proposition 99 does not. Although rent control ordinances for normal housing have been passed in other cities (San Francisco, Berkeley and Santa Monica), they have not been passed in San Luis Obispo (except for mobile homes), but it’s something that people have considered trying to do.

On its surface, rent control might sound like a good thing, but it’s actually a terrible idea. If you understand supply and demand, then it makes sense that price controls cause an excess of demand by restricting the supply. Suppliers sell less if prices fall (which occurs if prices are kept artificially low). By imposing rent controls, there is no incentive to create new areas to live because developers won’t make money off the new units.

Imagine a scenario where an affluent tenant is paying a fixed rate and has open spaces to rent. This tenant doesn’t have to sublet out any spaces because there is a capped rent. Since this person is paying an artificially low rent, there’s no reason to rent to other people; they don’t need the money. However, if there wasn’t a fixed rate, prices may rise, thus more spaces would have to be rented in order to compensate for the rising prices the tenant must pay.

When rent controls take effect in one area, it not only restricts supply in that area, but it dramatically raises prices in surrounding areas that do not have rent control (because everyone rushes there to find housing) and creates what some economists call a “shadow market” in areas exempted by rent controls. In the San Francisco area, the result is a large commuter community, an increase in homelessness, and exorbitant housing prices in the “shadow market.”

So let’s all go out and vote on June 3. If you were to vote yes on Proposition 98, you would help increase protection of citizens’ property rights, and you would help eliminate rent controls. I know which way I’m voting.

Brian Eller is a materials engineering senior and a Mustang Daily conservative columnist.

Brian would like to thank all of the people who have read his articles over the last three years. He would also like to thank his family and friends who have encouraged and supported his writing this entire time.

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