Several weeks ago, residents of a single Anaheim mobile park were notified of a major rent increase. Since then, the owner of Rancho La Paz mobile home park rescinded the increase, pledged no increases for six months to the significantly below-market rents, and is working with residents on a solution.

District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno’s response to a situation in one mobile home park by freezing rents in all 27 mobile home parks in Anaheim for six months – regardless of whether or not residents of those parks face challenging rent increases.

At its April 2 meeting, the council voted 4-3 to table Moreno’s rent freeze.  Later that evening during council comments, Moreno moved to re-agendize the rent freeze for the April 16 council meeting – and Councilmembers Jordan Brandman and Denise Barnes gave him the votes to do so.

Unjust Overreach
So the council will, tonight, once again take up this unjust, disproportionate and unnecessary proposal. The primary interest it serves is to advance his ideological agenda and his political ambitions – neither of which are very secret. Interjecting the city into a rent dispute between landlords and tenants is a slippery slope.

The Rancho La Paz owner is working with his tenants to find a solution. The prudent thing for city government to do is keep an eye on the situation but refrain from legislating on a rent dispute between landlords and tenants.

It’s one thing for city officials to utilize their good offices to foster a reasonable accommodation among the parties – but using a dispute in one mobile home park to impose a rent freeze on every mobile home park in the city is the epitome of overreach.

Imagine you’re a mobile home park owner in Anaheim, running a clean park and charging fair rents. Suddenly an ambitious ideologue on the city council finds you guilty of being a landlord and “temporarily” takes away your freedom to set your own rents.

Furthermore, does anyone think when the six months expires, that Councilman Moreno will announce he sees no need for a rent control/stabilization ordinance? Of course not. He knows what he wants. His temporary freeze is setting the political stage for a push for imposing rent control as broadly as Costa-Hawkins allows.

At the last council meeting, Moreno claimed he did not seek a debate on “philosophies of the market” but instead sought “solutions.” But one cannot separate philosophies of the market from a discussion about imposing rent control, since the debate itself stems from disagreement about the nature of property rights and the role of government in the marketplace. A rent freeze – even if temporary – is a form of price control, which have a poor track as effective public policy.

The federal government administered price controls during World War II, but that was an exceptional instance of total national mobilization to win a global conflict.  The Nixon Administration imposed price controls in 1971 in an attempt to control inflation. It was a failure. The federal government deal resorted to price controls to deal with rising oil prices in the 1970s – and the result was shortages and gas lines.  Ronald Reagan repealed those controls, and oil and natural gas prices fell as a result.

What is needed is more housing of all types, which will necessarily lead to more affordable housing. There is a public policy solution to housing affordability in California – but it does not take the form of rent controls in Anaheim.

Also at the last council meeting, Moreno expressed his concern that the Rancho La Paz owner could walk away from discussions with his tenants. It’s a free country. That’s possible, although unlikely. But the possibility that a single mobile home park owner may not do exactly what Moreno wants is no justification for imposing on every mobile home park, regardless of the situation in each of those parks. Again, this is government overreach.

Moreno’s Rhetoric Poisons The Well
Moreno’s rhetoric makes it difficult to take him seriously when he postures as a solution-seeker.  At the April 2 council meeting, he  Referring a representative of the mobile home industry who brief council during public comments at the April 2 meeting on the futility of rent control, Moreno mounted his high horse and accused his council colleagues of being corrupt:

“[The Manufactured Housing Education Trust] gives donations on behalf of the industry to local elected officials and to state officials to assure we don’t have solutions at the local level. They’re a lobbying firm – they are a lobbyist association that have contributed monies – thousands of dollars to members of this council. That’s why we can’t have a debate because of people who are giving that kind of money.”

Wow. Let’s unpack that outburst.

To Councilman Moreno’s thinking, imposing rent control on mobile home parks is a “solution,” but when mobile home park owners exercise their constitutional right to defend their property rights against being abridged, it is corrupt and obstructionist.

Furthermore, Moreno essentially accused his council colleagues of being bought and paid for by the mobile home industry. Opposition to his rent freeze proposal couldn’t possibly stem from its documented failure as public policy – from some reason,business-friendly, pro-property rights council members being sincerely opposed to rent control is beyond Moreno’s ken and can only explain it the influence of campaign donations.

Let’s take a look at these contributions from the Manufactured Housing Education Trust that so disturb the councilman from District 3:

  • $1,950 to the campaign of Jordan Brandman – who supported agendizing Moreno’s rent freeze.
  • $1,000 to Lucille Kring’s supervisor campaign.
  • $1,000 to Steve Faessel.
  • $1,000 to Harry Sidhu’s mayoral campaign.
  • $500 to the unsuccessful re-election campaign of Moreno’s ally James Vanderbilt.

These donations constituted a tiny fraction of the monies raised and spent by these campaigns. In light of the facts, Moreno’s claim is ridiculous on its face, not to mention insulting to his colleagues.

This isn’t the first time Councilman Moreno has accused his council colleagues of being controlled by campaign donors. He might try stepping outside himself and applying that standard to his own actions.

Moreno largely owes his council seat to the efforts of UNITE-HERE Local 11 and its subsidiary OCCORD. They ran the campaigns to enact council districts, adopt a map with a council district drawn for Moreno and a rotation that placed that district on the 2016 ballot. UNITE-HERE contributed money to Moreno’s council campaign and even violated OC Labor Federation rules by flooding District 3 with precinct walkers to help Moreno narrowly unseat the OCLF-endorsed candidate, incumbent Jordan Brandman. Its fair to say Moreno would not be a councilman absent the direct and indirect financial support of UNITE-HERE and its political allies.

When UNITE-HERE and its political allies planned a protest to shut down the intersection of Harbor and Katella, Moreno joined and got himself arrested along with 20 other people (including Local 11 leader Ada Briceno).

Using the standard Moreno applies to his council colleagues, one could say Moreno’s decision to join the protest was influenced by UNITE-HERE’s past contributions and campaign support – that he owed them and responded accordingly.

That would be also be unfair: Moreno is a true believer and acted accordingly. It’s too bad Moreno is unwilling to concede others on the council beside himself are also acting according to their beliefs.

It’s pretty clear from Moreno’s approach that he is not dealing in good faith nor trying to reach some consensus approach. His end game is city-wide rent control. His six-month mobile home park rent freeze is a tactical move toward that end. It is an example of drastic overreach that does nothing to address the real issue: increasing the supply of more affordable housing.