Colloquium in Political Science class features debate on Prop. 10

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Alexandra Nobida/Staff

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Activist Andrea Slater and author Steven Greenhut debated Proposition 10 and controversial rent control issues Wednesday afternoon during professor Alan Ross’s Colloquium in Political Science class, or Political Science 179.

Prop. 10, which will appear on the November 2018 ballot, would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that controls cities’ jurisdiction over rent control laws. Under the current act, cities cannot pass rent control laws affecting condominiums or single-family housing, nor can they enact rent control on apartments occupied after February 1995.

Slater believes that the Costa-Hawkins Act is preventing cities from dealing with the current housing crisis.

“The benefits of repealing Prop. 10 is that it allows individual cities or counties to determine what works best, rather than just a free rein system that has priced people out of their apartments,” Slater said.

Greenhut, a speaker for a nonpartisan free-market think tank, R Street, said he believes that repealing Prop. 10 would not be useful because it would encourage more rent control.

“It is a pretty simple supply and demand issue,” Greenhut said. “I understand why people want an easy solution. Unfortunately, it took a long time to create this mess. … As a writer, researcher and landlord, it’s clear that rent control provides a big disincentive to providing a rental supply.”

The audience questioned both speakers about their views, not only on Prop. 10, but also on economic models, housing regulation and the housing shortage. Many of the questions centered around the idea of rent control and its effectiveness.

Slater defended rent control, saying that rising rent is forcing many people out of their neighborhoods. Despite this, Greenhut argued that rent control not only causes stagnation within the housing market, but also puts unfair burdens on landlords. He compared the situation with being forced to sell other objects, such as cars, at half-market value.

Greenhut’s comparison of housing to cars drew ire from some audience members.

“I think that the underlying issue is that housing is being treated as commodity. … It ignores the fact that housing is a necessity,” campus junior transfer Shannon Malloy said. “How do you differentiate commodities — anything that you might buy or sell — from something that’s a necessity?”

Political Science 179 is a one unit class featuring different guest speakers each week. Ross, who created the class 38 years ago when he himself was an undergraduate, chose “Election 2018” to be this semester’s topic. In the coming weeks, the class will host speakers such as campus professor Robert Reich and U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León.

“The class is all about getting students involved in the political process,” Ross said. “To encourage them to get involved in campaigns and at the very least to become an informed voter.”

Contact Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AE_Stass.