In simple terms, CULTURE means that’s the way we do it around here. ASPIRATION is what we hope to do or be.

Some things have changed.

30 years ago, renters and rental owners shared an expectation that tenants had an obligation to pay rent. The United Nations has declared that housing is a human right. Many people would consider that idea a wonderful aspiration. 95% of UN member states have relatively less and relatively lower quality housing than the US.

The UN language is “access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home.” What if a person has no income? Does it mean the owners of the duplex, the teacher and spouse who live on one side, must provide free housing on the other side of the duplex to unrelated homeless strangers? COVID eviction prohibitions and statewide rent control are signs we might be headed that way.

The situation in San Diego

Over the last generation, San Diego government policies have resulted in building half as many new condos and apartments as our kids and grandkids needed when they moved out of the family home. In San Diego, it takes a decade for a master-planned community to clear the legal and political hurdles and begin construction.

Many of us know kids who grew up here and wanted to stay in San Diego but could not afford housing. They moved to places where housing is more affordable.

The current San Diego City Council recognizes the housing shortage. They plan on declaring housing as a human right in San Diego. Declaring rights does not create any more housing.

How should society or rental owners deal with tenants?

What should we aspire to? The answer starts with values.

* Jesus said to treat others the way you want to be treated.
* A communist might aim for “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need.” That has not yet worked anywhere but it might still be said, somewhere.
* A Hindu might say it’s bad karma to give to the poor because they might have to repeat the poor life again to work off what they did in a previous life.
* Discouraging initiative and promoting dependence bothers libertarians.
* Some rich people feel an obligation to assist the needy, noblesse oblige.
* Some see not helping someone in need as depraved indifference.

Negotiation can be tricky when the parties have differing expectations about how to deal with complex issues. The way we apply our values may be different. That’s culture at work; and things get more complicated if housing is a right.

How this plays out

Many households give to some worthy causes. My wife and I select and support some that we consider worthy. We recognize that households differ in capacity, inclination, level of generosity, and favorite charity. Each household donates their money to a charity of their choice. Simple, right?

We object to the government or our neighbor deciding what charity we must donate to or dictating how much we must give. We respect your right to choose how to donate your funds, time, and talent. We want to make our own choices. Yet, we know that most of the good things come at a cost and that someone must pay that cost.

Most US states and most nations are spending today’s money and passing the debt to our kids and grandkids. After World War II the interstate highway system was constructed, and citizens have paid gasoline taxes for 70 years. Highways benefit society for decades.

Some economic realities

If society imposes an extra cost on only one kind of investment, guess what… fewer investors will want that kind of investment. If stocks with an” A” in the company name had to pay a 10% vowel tax, the value of those stocks will shrink, and some companies will change the spelling of their names.

If the government imposes extra costs on income property, fewer people will want to own rentals. If there are fewer housing suppliers, what will be the inevitable outcome? Without owners, who would maintain the rentals?

Many well-intentioned people want those costs to be paid by someone else. Some wish the rich would “pay their fair share”, i.e., more than what they’re already paying.

“Have the rich pay for it” might sound like a convenient idea, but it might not work. Few rich people will deliberately choose an obviously inferior investment. Taxing the wealthy and giving some to the poor does not increase society’s productivity.

Wise societies tax almost all citizens for programs that benefit society in general. It’s unfair to only penalize rental owners for problems they did not cause. During COVID, rental owners became the lender of first resort, as tenants quit paying rent but could not be evicted. Some government entities agreed to reimburse the owner for part of the rent loss… if the residents signed the paperwork. Many tenants did not sign, even though it cost the resident no money.

Were all those rental owners “the rich”? Hardly. The two largest groups of rental owners are teachers and retired people. While their tenants didn’t pay rent, the rental owners still had to meet their mortgage payments, taxes, utilities, insurance, and maintain their buildings.

Our choices have consequences. Often the unintended consequences can be horrendous. Where do we go from here? What do we aspire to?


Now it is time for feedback.

Would you build an additional dwelling unit (ADU) on your property to rent to a household that wants to live here?

Would you be willing to pay higher taxes to ease the rental housing shortage?

Are you considering moving out of California because of government policies?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

Click here and find out how Terry and his team can help you make the most important financial decision of your next decade.