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Posted on January 21 at 5:44 p.m.

touche, binky "There are two Golden Rules, and I'm betting you each try to live by one of them." LOL, and a fitting conclusion.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 21 at 5:26 p.m.

To JL,

As I said, I have inspected many, many units and spoken with many, many landlords. My job has moved me around quite a bit, and I generally stay in one unit for as long as I stay in the community which in my case is around 4 years at a stretch. I rented one place for 10 years. Near as I can tell, the units of good landlords in SB rarely become available, probably for good reasons.

Because I am a savvy tenant, I guess that automatically makes me a problem tenant for problem landlords. It is interesting to me that the detailing of common rental unit conditions and common SB landlord attitudes provokes an attempt to make an ad hominem dismissal.

As far as a survey goes, that would be great. Maybe the Independent would publish the results of my survey. I do have all the raw data. Study the links I provided, start going to look at craigslist apartments as if you were a prospective tenant. It will not take long for an unbiased observer to draw the same conclusions.

Would that the landlord behaviors I describe were merely those of an "extreme" few. The internal inconsistencies in the comments of a certain self-identified landlord speaks volumes. And still yet the defenders of the status quo choose to ignore the implication of the Golden Rule.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 21 at 4:16 p.m.

All my many words can be summed up by the Golden Rule. I guess the Golden Rule is nothing but "class warfare" to you. Too bad.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 21 at 3:02 p.m.

Furthermore, the way landlords talk about their tenants in unguarded moments is revealing. Some actual quotes: "I know I charge too much. When my son's family starts living there, I will charge fair rent." "This is a democracy; tenants must be happy with the rent and the condition if they sign my lease." "I don't like savvy tenants." "The renting class" could afford to buy "if they didn't drink and smoke their money." "My rental used to be a dump, but stupid tenants rented it anyway."

By the way, the tenant who makes $30/hour is not necessarily a higher quality tenant than the one who makes $15/hour. Income is no measure of character. Besides, SB landlords do not seem all that interested in getting quality tenants. They routinely refuse quality (but savvy) tenants in favor of problem tenants who they know from the get-go will end up forfeiting the security deposit. For too many landlords, it is all about moving as much money from the tenants pocket to the landlord's pocket as possible. On the one hand, landlords despise the “renting class.” On the other hand, landlords eat tenants alive with high rents so that it is impossible for the tenant to get ahead and save that down payment.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 21 at 3 p.m.

If you are a good landlord, then you are rare in SB. An exception does not invalidate the rule. However, you say your apartments are dark. Then you should lower your rent to account for it. "if the tenant doesn't turn their heat on.." are you kidding? I am talking about apartments that whose furnaces are incapable of maintaining 65 degrees. The habitability standard is 70. Generally, these same places cannot be cooled either, and the tenants find themselves living in unhealthy heat in the summer. If your units are like that, lower your rent some more, to compensate them for the additional heating expense and lack of comfort in a town billed as "perfect weather." If any of your units are illegal, lack sufficient amps (should be 200) and outlets, or otherwise look jerry-rigged, lower the rent some more. If you do not have the required off-street parking, even if the city has "grandfathered" your unit, lower the rent some more. Do you tenants have on-site laundry? If not, lower the rent some more. Tenants should have the choice to be carless, and not have to go to questionable laundromats especially for the rents they are paying. Do you expect tenants to repair the appliances at their own expense because the tenant is the one using the appliance? Lower your rent even more. Or maybe you are offering a studio, but call it a 1/1 because you expect the tenant to sleep on the unheated, enclosed front porch that faces north and has a giant picture window. Lower the rent some more.

I have inspected just about every downtown apartment that has appeared on craigslist over the past several years. Give me your unit's address, and I might be able to tell you whether it is squalid or not. I have seen 1/1's listed with each and every of the above conditions and these landlords are asking $1500. Such places would be expensive at $1000.

Excellent tenants who expect their landlords to fulfill their responsibilities run the risk of receiving notice. It is too big a risk in a town like Santa Barbara where it can take months to find a rental where both the condition is okay, and the landlord reasonable. So tenants have to settle for a lot less and keep their mouth shut. You "think" your tenants are happy. In my experience, good landlords do not have to "think." They know, because a good landlord is so rare in SB that tenants are not shy about paying the compliment.

In short, there is NO ACCEPTABLE DEFENSE of landlord practices that fall below the standard of the Golden Rule. Normally, business arrangements involve a fair exchange, in this case, proper living quarters for fair consideration in a relationship of mutual appreciation and respect. SB landlords take the consideration, but do not provide proper quarters; that is taking unfair advantage of tenants. "I could care less" is evidence of a bad attitude. You should care more. Tenants with good landlords do not resent writing the rent check every month; they are happy to do so.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 21 at 12:38 p.m.

One thing Botany is right about is that the definition of price gouging has not been well determined. Some people believe there is no such thing, that high prices in even an emergency is nothing more than supply and demand. In contrast, Fair Market Value does have a definition. In a healthy community, market and FMV tend to intersect. Most SB tenants are at a serious knowledge disadvantage.

Many prospective tenants, willing to pay even high SB rents, refuse one crummy rental after another only to end up in a crummy place anyway because rental inventory is so low. Nothing about this unhealthy community pushes landlords to offer decent housing. I am not sure what he is defending since he has admitted that SB tenants are not getting what they are paying for.

Actually Santa Barbara has changed. Study those links I provided, especially the one showing the changes over 30 years.

60% of SB employees live elsewhere. Some people seem to think that the percentage should approach 100%. Some people come close to suggesting that SB, enclave of the wealthy, should be like one sprawling resort hotel where all the employees come in from the outside.

For sake of argument, let us assume that we accept SB rent rates. For the rent, landlords are actually required by statute to provide legal, habitable housing. The criteria of habitability have also been determined by statute. Further, the landlord's own self respect should require him to provide housing he himself would want to live in. To the extent that landlords take money, but do not fulfill their statutory responsibilities (leaving aside for the moment the issue of doing what is right), they are unjustly enriched.

SB rentals are characterized by darkness, cold and squalor, especially the ones on Craigslist. The quality housing from the best landlords are rarely listed because departing tenants help ensure that their friends get the unit. Nothing wrong with that, but the rental choices that are available are pretty poor.

It is also wrong to assume that everyone here has complete and open free choice. That is an American myth completely unsupported by the reality of people's lives. None of us get to have or do everything we might like to choose. I do not think even Botany would like the results if every SB employee actually took his suggestion and moved to elsewhere.

A couple years ago, the city council began requiring that all private employees working on a city project be paid a "living wage," the maximum of which the city set at $15.12/hour. You cannot even get a crummy studio for that. The cost of commuting plus the cost of a rental elsewhere often exceeds the cost of an SB rental. Add on the commute time, additional child care expenses, and other inconveniences, and no wonder SB renters "choose" squalid SB apartments. However, the fact they made that choice in no way exonerates the behavior of SB landlords.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 21 at 10:41 a.m.

Here is a source that break it down by zipcode http://zipatlas.com/us/ca/santa-barba...

Instead of clicking on the city-data link provided above,I retrieved it afresh http://www.city-data.com/city/Santa-B.... It doesn't include the percentage of renters.

This site shows different data for SB vs Calif http://www.areavibes.com/santa+barbar...

Gap between SB rich and the employees who keep the place humming http://www.areavibes.com/santa+barbar...

Comprehensive data: http://www.fizber.com/sale-by-owner-h...

One thing that could account for some of the discrepancy is that we do not know the protocol for the data-collection. For example, it is possible that an owner-occupied front house masks the presence of the renter-occupied back house, not to mention the significant number of illegal rentals that escape the count.

Fair Market Value is a specific term with a specific definition. In a healthy community, market competition will compel landlords to charge FMV. When the community is unhealthy, price gouging occurs. If it were true that fair is whatever landlord chooses to charge, there could be no such thing as price gouging anywhere.

This source catalogs how Santa Barbara has become increasingly unhealthy over the past 32 years. www.voicesforhousing.org/images/santa...

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 20 at 6:19 p.m.

to "binky" That data refers to Santa Barbara COUNTY, which of course, bears little resemblance to the Santa Barbara currently under discussion. I was being conservative. I read a source (but neglected to write it down) that said 70% of Santa Barbara downtown residents rent.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 20 at 4:33 p.m.

To Richard, the only sustainable business philosophy is the Golden Rule, based on mutual appreciation and respect. Landlords should offer good quality homes for fair rents, and tenants should pay their rent and return the property in good condition.

I have no intention of devising on my own a Fair rental value. In your diatribe, you do not dispute the definition of fair market value. Instead you try to dismiss the characteristics of FMV as somehow irrelevant. Nor did I suggest blindly trusting a government agency. You do not need a government agency to tell you that SB rents are unfair. In fact, you seem to agree that they are unfair.

You are right. Santa Barbara is not a normal town. Million dollar houses are dark, poorly built, and have no insulation. Lots of people defend SB's high prices as what you pay to live in sunny SB. But people are not getting what they pay for.

A society can be healthy only when it includes all its members. The guy living in the wealthy enclave still needs someone to scan his grocery, clean his teeth, cut his grass, serve his meal, etc, etc. All those people should have access to decent housing at fair rent. To the extent that Santa Barbara is not healthy, it is sick.

If landlords continue treat their tenants improperly, they should not be surprised if one day the chickens come home to roost, and SB ends up with rent control like some other sick communities in California. There are many reasons why there are so few rentals, and one is that the renter-to-owner ratio in SB (65/35) is exactly backwards compared to healthy communities.

On Not the Only One

Posted on January 20 at 3:33 p.m.

Another problem with rental units in SB is that landlords offer crummy places they would not live in themselves. they postpone repairs as long as possible, then "renovate." After renovation which is nothing more than the deferred maintenance they should have been performing all along, they jack up the rent $200 pretty much admitting they charge too much for hovels,and charge even more for the quality they should be offering in the first place.

When I talk to SB renters (easy since more than 65% of SB residents are renters), I find that the lack of outcry is due to a "someday me too" fantasy. They are not complaining too much now because when their ship comes in and they become a landlord, they plan to be just as greedy and just a disrespectful of their tenants.

Business relationships are most sustainable when characterized by the Golden Rule. Landlords should charge FAIR rent for good quality housing, and tenants should pay on time and leave the property in good condition. Landlord/Tenant relationships in SB are characterized by mutual resentment instead of mutual appreciation and respect.

I have no doubt there are other places as bad or worse than SB. Their existence in no way constitutes a defense of Santa Barbara. When the success of other is attained through unfairness, it is nothing to be admired.

Furthermore, SB professionals are in a strange predicament. They make too much too qualify to purchase so-called affordable housing, but not enough to qualify for a median turn-key house. Rents are so high as too make it difficult to save that down payment, and the quality of even turn-key houses in SB is quite poor. Even properties asking $1mil tend to be dark and uninsulated. SB real estate agents turn on every light in the house and hate it when open house attendees turn them off to evaluate the natural light (or lack thereof). Supposedly we are expected to be happy for high rents and high house prices because this is sunny Santa Barbara. The reality is that people are not getting what they are told they are paying for.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

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