Los Angeles recently changed its municipal code to give tenants “permanent protections against eviction and burdensome rent increases.” L.A. County has extended its eviction moratorium, originally scheduled to be lifted on January 31, through the end of March. And a few hundred miles north, California state lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit landlords from booting criminals from their property.
Residential evictions are an unfortunate business. Even under the most justifiable circumstances—in which tenants refuse or are unable to pay rent, cause property damage, or violate their rental agreement—the process can be ugly. But evictions are also necessary. Banning them is a triumph of politics over property rights.
Eviction moratoriums have damaging practical effects. Consider the incentives to increase and improve the housing stock. Who would build rental housing if they knew that some of their units will be occupied by de facto squatters who cannot be thrown out? Developers will instead build in one of the states to which Californians are fleeing. This won’t help California’s homelessness crisis; it will only deepen it.