The striking difference in attitudes about what acceptable protections exist for homeowners versus renters is what motivates me to advocate for stronger tenant protections and why I believe the Board of Supervisors did the right thing by extending the countywide eviction moratorium.
I am a homeowner, landlord and developer who owns almost 400 apartment units in the San Diego area. Nevertheless, my company is small and many of my tenants know me by name.
The Southern California Rental Housing Association’s claim in its recent lawsuit that landlords will have “their lives and livelihoods threatened” by the moratorium is laughable and misleading. Landlords who treat their tenants fairly and with respect in accordance with the law won’t be adversely affected by this ban.
Contrary to the rhetoric coming from the industry that protects the economic interests of an elite few, this is not an ordinance that will attract squatters, ruin lives and permanently devastate real estate holdings.
In our society, people who own property already enjoy many freedoms and protections that don’t exist for people who rent. That includes the freedom from being told how to live your life under your own roof, and the freedom to have a consistent housing payment from month to month.
But renters live under the rules and regulations mandated by the landlords, and if they aren’t good tenants they can be asked to leave.
I know that my home isn’t the most attractive on my block and that maybe we don’t spend anywhere as much time tending the lawn as our neighbors do. My little dogs probably make too much noise. But my neighbors can’t get together to demand my husband and I sell our house and leave.
Similarly, if a homeowner enters into a fixed mortgage contract, the holder of that mortgage can’t decide that the return on their investment isn’t sufficient anymore. They can’t just raise the interest rate and tell the homeowner to sell their home if they don’t like that.
Yet, it’s perfectly legal for an apartment owner to decide that the rent they are charging isn’t as much as the market will bear and tell the current renter if they can’t keep up, then move elsewhere.
With the kind of freedoms landlords as property owners enjoy in our society comes a responsibility for them to ensure that their tenants are protected, especially during a pandemic that has claimed so many lives.
After all, we live in a world full of regulations that protect our health and safety. We expect the water we drink to be free from pollutants. Federal, state and local agencies exist to monitor and protect the quality of the air we breathe. And regulations exist to ensure the food we eat isn’t contaminated.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many tenants in San Diego — including some of my own tenants — to lose jobs and income. We need to ensure that all renters in San Diego and beyond fully recover from the economic devastation of this pandemic.
That means landlords should take the rent assistance being offered to them by the state so they don’t evict and end up contributing to a housing and homelessness crisis that has already devastated the lives of far too many of our neighbors — especially those who have historically been marginalized.
Finally, whether you are a small landlord or a corporate landlord, you have chosen to gain your income through an investment that is subject to risks in the economy, like a historic pandemic. You aren’t always guaranteed a profit and it’s your obligation to prepare for that.
Ginger Hitzke is the owner and CEO of Hitzke Development Corp. in San Diego.