By Chris Kramer — Sept 9, 2023
On May 30, 2023, I attended a town hall meeting on the proposed establishment of a Rental Inventory by the City of Monterey. The stated intent of the meeting was to collect public input. However, by the end of the meeting it became clear from city officials that a rental registry was already a foregone conclusion. They were not so much interested in hearing whether the public wanted a rental registry, but rather, what information should be collected by the registry that they already intended to establish. The meeting was well attended in person and online with, reportedly, more than 150 participants. The majority of the attendees were clearly against establishing a rental registry at all. On June 20, 2023, the City Council received a report on the town hall meeting and additional feedback about the program.
On September 5, 2023, the Monterey City Council voted 4-1 in favor of moving forward in establishing a rental inventory and requiring registration of all residential rental properties within the City of Monterey beginning January 1, 2024. The first reading was passed, with the following amendments:
- Landlords and tenants will split the cost of registration evenly with 50% fee pass-through to tenants.
- To the extent possible, the 50% of fees passed through to tenants will be itemized on their rental invoice/statement.
- ADUs, JADUs, and owner-occupied properties will be exempt from registration fees.
- There will be no criminal charges imposed for violations of this ordinance.
The next steps in the process call for a second reading of the draft ordinance with the added amendments on September 19, 2023 at 4:00pm. If the ordinance passes at that time with no additional changes requested by City Council, it will go into effect 30 days later.
The City Council of Monterey is moving ahead on the rental registry ordinance despite the widescale objections from the public. Such a registry would violate the privacy of both renters and landlords, as private lease information will have to be submitted to the city. It will cost landlords and renters $400,000 a year. Isn’t the idea to make housing more affordable for renters? An additional $400,000 per year burden doesn’t exactly make things easier for renters. And government programs don’t usually stay put. Historically, they tend to expand and go up. How much will this program cost renters 5, 10, and 20 years from now? And for what purpose or benefit? Who does it help, and how? It will not lower rents one bit. It will not add any rental units at all. The majority of the attendees at the Town Hall Meeting on May 30, 2023, were overwhelmingly against such a registry (I was there). Is the mayor and city council interested in what their constituents are trying to tell them? Are they concerned about their constituent’s privacy rights? I’m hearing a lot of cons for the rental registry, but I haven’t heard much in the way of pros yet. What are the pros?
What I’m hearing from some of the people who are advocating for the rental registry is that they are aware of the fact that additional development is necessary to bring down rental prices. They say that development takes time and in the meantime something else needs to be done.
This “something else” they are referring to seems to be the proposed rental registry. And while City Council Members and rental registry advocates are quick to point out that this ordinance does not establish rent control, their presentations state that one of the reasons a registry is “needed” is that it will provide data that can be used to help determine future rental regulation. In other words, a rental registry paves the way for rent control. In this area, rents are high because supply is low relative to demand. While most of the rental registry advocates seem to understand that, and also correctly understand that additional development is necessary to relieve that, they seem NOT to understand that policies like rental registries and rent controls result in the exact opposite outcomes that they desire. These kinds of policies incentivize landlords to sell their rental properties to buyers who then live in the home instead of renting them. Would be landlords invest elsewhere instead of a rental property. Or they invest their dollars in rental properties in a neighboring city instead. Would be developments don’t get developed. If Monterey makes it difficult for landlords to be landlords, some of them will just simply stop being landlords. The result that occurs over time is that there is an even greater shortage of rental units available. We end up with the opposite outcome than we desired, which was supposed to be additional rental units and affordable rent.
When advocates of rental registries and rent control say that we must “do something” because “the status quo isn’t working”, let’s make sure that what we decide to do is not just change for the sake of change, or because it makes us feel better. Let’s make sure it actually makes sense and will provide a benefit. Let’s make sure it will make matters better, and not worse. Let’s make sure it can achieve desired intentions instead of resulting in opposite and unintended consequences. And let’s make sure that we are not violating individual liberties in the process.
Read the draft ordinance here:
The Carmel Pine Cone: “Monterey City Council Approves Rental Inventory” – Sept 8-14, 2023 – By Mary Schley – Read article here:
Carmel Pine Cone, September 8, 2023 (main news) (fileburstcdn.com)
Monterey Herald: “Monterey Rental Registry Ordinance Draws Vitriolic Attacks From Landlords” – Sept 7, 2023 – By Dennis L. Taylor – Read article here:
Monterey rental registry ordinance draws vitriolic attacks from landlords – Monterey Herald