Well-Informed Versus Over-Regulated

I was talking with recently elected District 1 Mendocino County Supervisor Glenn McGourty about the challenges we face with housing in the Ukiah area—both a lack of supply and a lack of affordability. As a supervisor, Mr. McGourty will have many opportunities to address regulations, existing and proposed.

While the most onerous regulations usually originate at the State level, others are introduced and enforced locally, everything from inclusionary zoning to Class K building permits, the implementation of accessory dwelling units, oak tree protection ordinances, and more.

If you’ve read previous columns, you know I’m not a fan of government regulation. It tends to raise the cost of development and restrict supply, which has proved to be a significant problem throughout California, including right here in Mendocino County. I agree with Supervisor McGourty who said, “Well-informed property owners are far better than regulated ones.” People who invest in real estate typically act in their own best interest and protect their investments.

For example, rather than drafting a ridiculous oak woodlands ordinance that makes it nearly impossible for homeowners to comply, simply trust that most homeowners recognize that a big, healthy oak tree in the front yard provides wonderful shade and increases the value of their home. No regulation necessary to protect that tree.

I’m not opposed to all government regulation, just most of it. Regulations that prevent property owners from infringing on the rights of others are sometimes a good idea, like preventing someone from running their septic leech field right up to the property line where their neighbor’s well is, for example. Sometimes I agree with the action being required, such as mandated smoke alarms, but I question whether it is the government’s place to decide how each of us might best spend our money.

Virtually all government housing regulations restrict supply, whether it be through setting a minimum lot size, restricting where structures can be built, or demanding we install sprinklers in every new single-family home, even if it is a one-story, 800 square-foot residence. Whether we regulate the construction or the supply, it is the buyer who ultimately foots the bill.

Rather than having the government step in, non-governmental regulation can sometimes keep homes and neighborhoods in good repair. Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) are designed to do just that through rules and limitations placed on groups of properties by a builder, developer, homeowners’ association or neighborhood association. CC&Rs can cover everything from square footage to paint color, as well as whether you can park your 63’ RV in the front yard. We should use CC&Rs rather than zoning laws, because CC&Rs are done by the property owners for the property owners. Case in point, if the hotel next to my office were regulated by CC&Rs rather than a zoning designation that the county can simply ignore, that property would still be a hotel instead of a homeless shelter.

I look forward to working with this new board of supervisors as they move in the direction of what’s reasonable when it comes to local ordinances. Let’s hope their decisions make housing more available and less costly for all of us.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.

Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.

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