Good Intentions and the Road to Hell

So today’s blog is going to be local – that is about Artesia-specific issues. My apologies in advance to the millions of readers not in Title Town. Our fair city, in a misguided attempt to “protect” its citizens, is proposing an ordinance requiring owners of rental properties to submit to inspections and bring up to code any infractions. To any and all who may be reading this: I oppose the ordinance. Here’s why:

Artesia has a severe shortage of available rental properties right now, and this shortage has existed for some time. This ordinance will only compound the problem. Are some rental spaces dilapidated, dirty, and unsafe? Probably. Do the tenants have a right to leave such an environment – yes. Per applicable law, tenants can break a lease and have legal recourse if basic necessities like heat, water, electricity are lacking or serious safety or health hazards are present within the unit. Why then do we need another layer of regulation, bureaucracy, and government between the landlord and tenant? We don’t. An already serious shortage of rental space will be exacerbated by such an ordinance, and we as a community are already suffering the effects of the tight rental market. I personally know of several companies wishing to relocate or open a branch location in Artesia. Companies that would hire workers, pay taxes, pump money into our economy, who have chosen other cities in the area due to the fact they felt their employees would not be able to find places to live. This is real net-loss in terms of capital, tax revenue and opportunity every time Artesia is passed over.

The Law of Unintended Consequences comes into play here as well. If this ordinance is passed and it becomes hard to provide rental units for the lower income segment of our community, you will see shanty towns spring up just outside the city limits to take up the slack. If I had the resources to do so, and no moral compass, I would buy some acreage outside the city limits. Then I would buy as many single wide trailers – perhaps FEMA trailers at an auction – as I could afford and place them on the acreage in neat rows and rent them to those displaced by the ordinance. Problem solved? No. Problem shifted. Buck passed. In a few years the same problem exists with regard to tenant safety and protection, but the City will have no jurisdiction. Already, some of the most egregious examples of tenement-esque rentals are outside the city limits. Passage of this ordinance just strengthens the position of the slum lords who own and operate them.

It puzzles me to see the blighted houses and buildings all around town that have been there for years. We all know that these structures pose safety and health concerns to our community, but there seems to be no movement on the part of our city leaders to rectify these. Yet if weeds grow in the alley behind my house, without fail, I will get a letter from code enforcement. But now we need another regulation? Let’s fix the important issues first. This ordinance only makes the lives of everybody harder. Landlords are looking at expenses they may not be able to afford. Tenants are looking at increased rents. Many property owners will simply evict their tenants and shutter the properties due to the ordinance. In a few years we will have more blighted shacks that never get torn down. Who exactly does that help?

I understand the intent is good. Those who are advocating this ordinance want to improve the lives of people. But look around for a minute. Our country has just about “good intentioned” ourselves right out of business. Every regulatory action began with the best of intentions, but so many lacked the forethought required to see the very real and negative impact many degrees away. This is bad for Artesia. Let your city leaders know how you feel about it.

All Real Estate. All The Time.

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