The San Francisco Chronicle's Kathleen Pender looks at the growing number of Bay Area suburbs that are mulling rent- and eviction-control measures on this November's ballot.

In the past six years, the average asking rent in the Bay Area has risen to about 66%, or $1,000 per unit, to $2,504. And now, grassroots efforts have sprung up in San Mateo, Burlingame, Mountain View, Alameda, and Richmond, even as economists warn that rent control rarely results in its intended consequence.

Economists are sympathetic but say rent control is unfair. In California, it helps incumbent tenants in rent-controlled units but does nothing to encourage housing creation.

... Rent control “puts the burden of housing affordability on the backs of a few people,” said Christopher Palmer, assistant professor of real estate at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “It’s a way to say housing is unaffordable, we want to help so we are going to stick it to the man — absentee landlords with tons of capital. It’s not clear they should be the ones having to pay for the affordability mess we are in,” Palmer said.

Or even that they will. Essex Property Trust, based in San Mateo, is a publicly traded company that owns many large complexes in the Bay Area. In a call with analysts last month, its CEO said that rent-control measures “will have limited impact on Essex, primarily because the vast majority of our properties are newer than the rent-control cut-off dates.” He added that renewals at below-market rates are “partially mitigated by higher rents on new leases, reflecting the unintended secondary effect of rent control.”

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