Provo’s Control over Rental Properties

This month, Provo’s municipal government has incrementally increased its control (again) over local rental properties, thereby further subjugating otherwise-free local markets in violation of our rights.

We each have equal God-given rights, which (in their most basic form) include rights (1) over ourselves, (2) over the fruits of our labors, (3) over our children within reason as they mature to adulthood, (4) to interact contractually with others, and (5) to defend ourselves against others’ aggression.  Those last two rights together constitute not only the “non-aggression principle,” but also our right to charter political systems to expertly assist us in defending ourselves.  Meanwhile, our rights to both property and contract together are essential to free markets.

And free markets are what we should ideally have.  Which involves respecting each other’s rights to property ownership.  Whenever we own something, it means that we enjoy absolute authority to decide how to use that thing within the limits of our God-given rights.  And, if we ever overstep the limits of our own rights to infringe upon the equal rights of others, then the state may justly intervene to help thwart such rights-violations—but, otherwise, the state has no legitimate authority to dictate property usage.  We may not always approve of our neighbors’ decisions about how to use their own property, and we may freely exercise our rights to say so—but, ultimately, it’s their choice to make (and to hopefully learn from), and not our choice (or our politicians’ choice) to enforce upon them.  Relatedly, we should be perfectly free to contract with each other as we please, without politicians and/or bureaucrats intervening to dictate contractual terms, except as needed to help defend people’s rights.

Unfortunately, we no longer enjoy a free market in rental housing here in Provo, as our municipal government has increasingly arrogated control over such properties, dictating the details of how they are both managed and rented.  This control has increased over decades through many incremental steps, including caps on occupancy during the 1980s, a landlord licensing law in 2003, and a new disclosure ordinance that barely took effect this month.  Although such laws are presumably well-intended, they nevertheless attack rights that they should be defending, which renders them not only illegitimate but also damaging to Provo’s economy.  Central economic planning imposes burdensome “red tape” that innately stifles healthy innovation, whereas genuinely-free markets facilitate such innovation, which yields steady improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness that foster both prosperity and abundance.  We would all benefit from such abundance, but we don’t benefit from politicians commanding us in all things—they should simply help us to defend our rights as needed, but otherwise stay out of our way.

Sadly, Provo’s current array of city officers show no significant interest in reducing such burdensome regulation—in fact, both Vision 2030 and Vision 2050 indicate their interest in increasing such economic regulation, including by artificially restricting the supply of rental housing within Provo’s city limits in order to drive more renters out of Provo into other parts of Utah County, allegedly for our own collective good.  As for driving those “excessive” renters out of town, though, it seems that this excess does not necessarily include ALL renters—in fact, Mayor Kaufusi recently stated that she intends to actively “ensure that Provo attracts and retains young single professionals.”  Such statements demonstrate a sad lack of understanding of the proper role of government—it’s not our city officers’ responsibility to determine our city’s “ideal” demographic mix (more of one sort of people but less of another sort) and then enforce it through public policy, but only to help us to defend our rights so that we may remain free.  They likewise shouldn’t be choosing which local startups to subsidize, which existing businesses to relocate within our city limits, where those businesses will operate, what sort of outward appearance those new shops will have, et cetera, as they are currently seeking to do—we didn’t hire them to dictate our local aesthetics (although some might disagree), but only to maintain our rightful liberty.

Regaining our freedom includes repealing such burdensome regulations, and allowing our neighbors to both manage and rent property as they please.  Yes, this could mean that some neighborhoods will become slightly more crowded with student renters than they already are—but I believe that our attitude about such potential nuisances should ideally conform with Thomas Jefferson’s wise pronouncement that “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”  We could learn much from him about maintaining proper respect for our neighbors’ rights to both property and contract.

So, let’s choose freedom!  And that includes upholding new city officers in 2019 who (unlike our current set) will not aspire to run our lives, but only to protect our rights so that we may remain free people, rather than mere cogs in a communal wheel.  You may learn more about Provo’s ongoing political degeneracy on our website, along with how you might act to effectively reverse such trends.  With your help, Provo can remain one of America’s best cities, rather than following the same sad path that led once-thriving Detroit to ruin.  And there’s no time like the present to start on this project, especially while our weather remains so well-suited for knocking on neighbors’ doors.  Will you join us?


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