Santa Monica Rent Control Board
Primary Audience: Board members and local government officials
Items Produced: Special report issued once a year to document the demographic changes resulting from a state law that undermined local rent control efforts.
The Santa Monica Rent Control Board has oversight responsibility for about 28,000 rental-housing units, representing approximately 70% of the rental units in this small but densely populated city in Southern California.
Selecting a theme of “Then and Now” my co-editor and I began our research into the demographic changes that had taken place within this seaside community over the previous 13-year period as well as the 30+ years since the enactment of local rent control laws.
We poured over Census data as well as statistics from local housing agencies, state labor bureaus, and in-house agency data. The result was a comprehensive snapshot of a radically changing city, one that bears little resemblance to its low-key roots.
High rents affect not only who can afford to move into Santa Monica, they affect how long tenants can afford to remain in their units.
Whether residents set roots in a community or continually move around matters in two important ways: it defines a neighborhood’s character, affecting its desirability to prospective residents, and it defines how a city sees itself, as a stable, engaged community or a more transient society.
For long-term residents, the value of their controlled rental housing (especially vis-à-vis the high rents of their new neighbors) is an incentive to stay in their units. While mobility within the city was a ready option for tenants prior to vacancy decontrol, today, tenants remaining in long-term controlled units are vacating more slowly. For some long-term tenants, it would be too expensive to relocate within the city, and options for affordable housing are generally far from Santa Monica.