Tom Butt
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  The RPA Three - McLaughlin, Jimenez and Willis Lost Thousands of Rental Units in Richmond
October 28, 2020

When the Rent Control and Just Cause Ordinance was being circulated as an initiative by the RPA, the two original signatories submitting the petition were Gayle McLaughlin and Claudia Jimenez. And while running for council in 2016, Melvin Willis was also being paid by ACCE to push Measure L. It is interesting that this trio now makes up RPA's slate to retake control of the council.

Their flagship accomplishment was passage of the Rent Control and Just Cause Ordinance, which was supposed to stabilize the supply and cost of residential rentals. Instead of stabilizing the supply, the ordinance motivated owners to remove at least 1,756 fully covered rental units from the market in just a year between 2018 and 2019, and perhaps as many as 5,558 rental units. The lower calculation is based on the annual reports of the Rent Program (

The RPA Three are responsible for removing thousands of affordable rental units from the Richmond Market
Based on the fee studies provided by the Rent Program, it gets a lot worse. According to records provided by the Rent Program, Richmond lost 5,558 rental units, or 25% of its total rental units between 2017 and 2019:

Lost Rental Units resulting from Measure L are as follows:

That is a total loss of 5,558 units from Jan 2017 to Nov 2019. These units were largely single family homes and condominiums that were taken off the rental market and sold because the owners did not want to have to deal with the costs, risks and red tape of dealing with the Richmond Rent Program.

The 2001 article from respected liberal economist Paul Krugman was widely circulated when Measure L was being debated. To distill it down to a single word: Predictable. There is little that almost all economists across political spectrums agree on - the effect of price controls, though, is one of them.

It is sad, but not surprising that the economists were 100% correct. The only way to bring down prices is to reduce demand or increase supply. Since government has no control over demand, the clear answer is incentives to increase supply. Measure L did exactly the opposite.

Paul Krugman, NYT, 2001: "Reckonings - A Rent Affair:

"The analysis of rent control is among the best-understood issues in all of economics, and -- among economists, anyway -- one of the least controversial. In 1992 a poll of the American Economic Association found 93 percent of its members agreeing that ''a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing.'' Almost every freshman-level textbook contains a case study on rent control, using its known adverse side effects to illustrate the principles of supply and demand. Sky-high rents on uncontrolled apartments, because desperate renters have nowhere to go -- and the absence of new apartment construction, despite those high rents, because landlords fear that controls will be extended? Predictable. Bitter relations between tenants and landlords, with an arms race between ever-more ingenious strategies to force tenants out -- what yesterday's article oddly described as ''free-market horror stories'' -- and constantly proliferating regulations designed to block those strategies? Predictable."

Rent Program Director Nicolas Traylor disputes the numbers derived from the fee studies, attributing the apparent loss of units to errors in his office compiling data, including overestimating the number of units in 2017. However, the lower number of 1,756 comes from the Rent Program Annual Reports, which account for actual units enrolled in the program.