Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How tapeworms propagate

Some City politicians are describing as "fear-mongering" the London Property Management Association's warnings to tenants of $20 per month rent increases if the Housing Advisory Committee's proposed Rental Licensing Program (PDF) is adopted, as neither licensing fees nor the question of which rental units will have to be licensed have been settled yet.

The amount itself may be speculative, but it is hardly fear-mongering to warn that regulatory costs to landlords will be passed on to consumers, costs that must assume not only any proposed fees to cover the $219,000 needed to hire and equip two new full-time inspectors to police the program but the additional regulatory burdens of drawing up and submitting various property maintenance, waste management, parking and floor plans, and, in the case of out-of-town landlords, employing local agents. Given these costs, $20 per month would appear moderate in many instances, but under the proposed program tenants will face the additional penalty of deterring landlords from providing discretionary upgrades when regulatory costs must be assumed instead. If Coun. Judy Bryant is worried that speculation about the costs causes "a huge amount of unnecessary stress for tenants," the obvious solution would be not to impose any.

It should hardly need to be said that the presumed objective of the program to create a "fair playing field" in the rental housing market is not within the City's proper sphere of responsibility, but it must be added that such a course, if rigorously pursued, will have the effect of denying Londoners rental opportunities. Under a burdensome regulatory regime, the availability of decent and mid-priced units will always tend to be sacrificed either for cheap units in which upgrades can be kept to an absolute minimum or to luxury units in which high prices can absorb the regulatory costs.

Under existing property standard laws and the availability of various recourses to tenants, the proposed program is a solution in search of a problem. In defense of replacing complaint-driven inspections with mandatory ones, municipal officers submit the highly anecdotal claims that tenants do not complain because they fear retribution and that licensing will "potect [sic] the residential amenity, character and stability of residential areas."

For the first claim, it is refuted by staff's own admission in the proposal that the number of property standards complaints has nearly doubled between 2002 and 2007, due in part to increased referrals from municipally-funded agencies that have already expanded staff to work with these issues. Will these hires be rescinded if mandatory inspections are implemented to forestall the need for complaints? Of course not. For the second claim, as much as "amenity, character and stability" are anecdotal and arbitrarily defined in the first place, they ought to be characterized as more functions of an area's residents, as their neighbours will usually testify. If licensing were a remedy to community concerns, it would be substantially more useful to license tenants rather than units…

…except that that idea would hardly be amenable to the class-division prejudices of the program's core of progressive socialist proponents, expert raconteurs of the classic landlord-as-oppressor narrative. In a city with as high a rental vacancy rate as London's, it is a stretch of any ordinary sensibility to imagine that people have been "put" into oppressive tenancies from which they cannot extricate themselves without the intervention of politicians and bureaucrats. Nevertheless, a passive victim class is a pervasive invention of political documentary in pursuit of political interventions on its behalf, even when prior political interventions have created the apparent exigencies for which they must be exercised.

As example, Edward Michael George submits an article by Peter Kuitenbrouwer in today's National Post that ascribes the blame for violence in some Toronto neighbourhoods to urban planners and politicians for designing areas that "teach […] residents that they are less valuable." As much as massive planned low-income projects degrade the structural environment of cities, it is obvious that no one has ever been "put" in them, let alone with permission to receive the lesson that they are vessels to be filled with degradation or that they are simply passive distributors of violence in response. By denying their roles as actors in their own lives, the author ascribes rather more a poor — shall we say, less than human — value to people, which leaves them with no recourse nor reason to amend themselves of course. It should be evident that if urban planning and politics were responsible for this state of affairs, then less of the same would be remedial, but alas a program that denies people rationality to compose their own actions leaves them dependent upon nothing else than more of the same — except different in some urban planning or political way, it must be supposed.

1 Comment:

Honey Pot said...

It is just logic to know that the cost to the landlord is going to be paid by the tennant.

Landlords are in the business of making money, or why would they bother supplying rental units?