This just in from the Trib: Sometimes your rent goes up

Today’s Trib features a story about an apartment building in North Oakland which has been sold after belonging to a single owner for 42 years. All parties agree that the building was poorly maintained, and the old owner claims he decided to sell because some tenants made it nearly impossible for him to perform improvements. The new owner is now renovating the building and raising rents to cover the costs, as permitted by law.

I cannot say whether Jamaal Johnson, when writing the article, was being purposely misleading or merely lazy. But either way, the end product is irresponsible and just one more example of the biased drivel that passes for journalism at the Trib.

There are myriad problems with the story, beginning with the second paragraph, where Johnson asserts, without any clear reason, that the tenants may become homeless due to a rent increase. Irresponsibly omitted from the story is the fact that Oakland funds programs specifically to aid residents in this sort of situation by providing them a deposit and first and last month’s rent for a new unit when they have to move on short notice.

The artice then quotes a resident of the building ludicrously claiming that he will be priced out of Oakland if he loses his current far below market-rate apartment. There is an ample supply of apartments in the city available for the prices the tenants were paying. Having to move from the chi-chi Piedmont Avenue area into a less tony neighborhood is hardly the same thing as having to leave the city. The Trib is wrong to repeat such hyperbole.

Then there is Johnson’s erroneous implication that the owner paid more than 10 times market value for the building. It was assessed at $375,000, but the owner paid $4 million. Nowhere in the story does it say when the last assessment was made, but since single bedroom homes in the area currently sell for well over that, it seems safe to assume that it has been decades. No matter what the tenants want to claim, $4 million for a thirty unit apartment building in an upscale Oakland neighborhood is anything but a “bad investment.”

But the real problem I have with this story is not just about a few facts being omitted. It is that the article takes for granted that something is wrong with the law because it permits property owners to ever raise the rent on their units, while ignoring the many factors contributing to high rents in the city. We have a serious apartment shortage in Oakland, and no one seems to have any interest in building more units. Between the crazed opposition and endless appeals to any new project from anti-growth organizations and the insane insistence by some groups (and our local newspaper, apparently) that all residents have a basic right to eternally subsidized housing, is it any wonder why?

7 thoughts on “This just in from the Trib: Sometimes your rent goes up

  1. Jim M

    Assessed value and market value have nothing to do with each other. My house is assessed and taxed at a value far below its market value. This is due to Prop 13. New buyers have a different assement since they paid more for their house. It’s worth the same as mine though.
    That’s why taxes are so fun here. If it is a flat rate parcel tax, it is unfair to older owners since they pay a higher percentage of the assessed value of the property. On the other hand a tax on the value of the property sticks it to new owners. Gotta love Prop 13.
    Prop 13 forever altered California’s political landscape. Removing Prop 13 would be like an amputation without anesthesia.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Exactly, Jim. The story notes the assessed value, then what the new owner paid for it, then quotes residents complaining about how they shouldn’t be punished for the buyer’s “bad real estate investments.” It is deceptive.

  3. Deckin

    My God, they must be closet socialists there at the Trib–who could be so stupid? How could a ‘reporter’ write (without any qualification or explanation), with attendent insinuation of some sort of nefariousness, that the owner overpaid for the complex, to the tune of 3 odd million dollars! Exactly what was running through Mr. Johnson’s head as he was typing that? And how exactly is the new owner supposed to profit from such a ridiculous overpayment? Is this one of Phil Tagami’s deals?

  4. Deckin

    The last thing about Tagami was obviously facetious, in case any satire deficients are looking in.

  5. Rebecca

    I honestly can’t handle the comments in the Tribune’s website on that article anymore. Why do people think that they are owed something for nothing? How have we come to believe that if you are successful and hardworking, that you must be doing bad things? And as the opposite side of that, if you are poor and downtrodden, then in some way you must be altruistic and good at heart. That’s like saying that I like to read because I have brown hair.

    This article is unbelievable, but what is more unbelievable is that so many people just eat it up and completely believe this stuff. It’s no wonder we are a nation in debt. Where does the magical money come from that would enable people to get subsidized rent for nothing? The idea that someone will come and save you is what gets people into trouble. The expectation of a handout by people like this drains our society’s ability to help people who are truly in need.

    Nobody is going to be homeless because of this, it’s just a bunch of people who didn’t save when they should have. It’s sad, but I see many of my friends engaging in the same kind of behavior now: partying too much, only working part-time, over-spending themselves in every area of their life. I don’t live like that and I’m missing out on a lot of fun. So why should I be expected to pick up these people’s slack when they end up reaping what they sow and are still renting in their 50′s?

  6. Native Oaklander

    V Smooth,
    You’re as out of touch with the human eliment as the greedy developers…

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    Deckin -

    As I said above, I’m not certain if the story was intentionally misleading or simply incredibly lazy. Either way, it is inexcusable.

    Rebecca -

    I find the Trib comments fascinating. Of the comments on this story (55 as of this writing), I count 16 in support of the tenants and 31 in support of the landlord. The rest are either irrelevant or I was unable to discern which side of the issue the writer was trying to take. I think the comments are an interesting reflection of public opinion, although the sheer hostility of many of them is somewhat disturbing to me. To characterize all property owners as greedy, or all poor people as “thugs” is neither civil nor productive. I wish commenters on both sides would make more of an attempt at rational argument.

    Native Oaklander -

    I don’t find it productive to label all developers greedy, nor do I think it is fair to assume that I have no sympathy for the tenants of this building simply because I don’t think the government has any place mandating property owners to lease their units for far below market rents. My priority is to advocate policies that will do the most for the public good in the long term.