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Rent control is making a comeback

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“The 360” gives you a different perspective on the day’s top stories and debates.

what’s happening

When Despite still rising significantly from pre-pandemic levels, more and more cities across the country are trying to ditch rent controls, an old solution to keeping housing costs affordable. increase.

Voters in Santa Monica, California, Portland, Maine, and Orlando during the November midterm elections This puts a new limit on annual rent increases. recently announced the city’s proposed rent regulation. In early January, a group of 50 Democrats in Congress called on the Biden administration to take action to address “historically high rents and housing instability” in the United States, including “anti-rent inflation” measures. I sent a letter requesting that I take the

Rent control, also known as rent stabilization, can refer to any policy that sets a ceiling by which a landlord can increase a tenant’s rent. In the past, it could have meant that landlords were forbidden to raise rents at all. All rent control programs currently in place allow rent increases, but limit their magnitude. Exemptions are often included for certain types of property or homes built after a certain year.

Rent control first became popular in the United States in response to the massive economic turmoil caused by World War II. Over time, most cities abandoned these policies, and opposition to rent controls grew. among prominent economists. today, in over 30 states. Her only two states, Oregon and California, have stable rent statewide.

why the debate

Conventional wisdom against rent regulation is still very strong, especially among conservatives. Critics argue that rent controls could distort the free market and ultimately make urban rental markets even more affordable, several major studies show. Keeping below market prices means developers have less profit incentive to build more housing units, as supply is constrained and prices rise. There are also instances of landlords letting their properties fall into disrepair because they do not have enough income to pay for upgrades and have no motivation to make their units more desirable.

But a new wave of rent control proponents say these views are based on decades-old research and on very rigid policies that don’t reflect how rent controls work today. They say that because housing has become an out-of-control expense for millions of Americans, raising prices without limit means widespread displacement, higher poverty, and homelessness. They claim that modern rent management plans (many of which allow for annual rent increases of as much as 10% and include carve-outs to cover repair and maintenance costs) allow families to It claims to allow enough space while maintaining a home. For landlords and developers to benefit.

Some argue that viewing rent management only through an economic lens is a mistake. Its biggest advantage, they argued, is how it allows the community to thrive and grow for years without residents constantly coming and going as rents become more and more unmanageable. I’m here.

what’s next

Notable states are , a bill was introduced in the state legislature to repeal the decades-old ban on rent control. If passed, the bill would allow local governments to impose limits on rent increases for the first time in more than 40 years.



Too many Americans suffer when rents depend solely on the free market

“In the current housing crisis, families are facing frequent moves, evictions and homelessness, not only disrupting their lives. A non-existent rental system is also very expensive.” — Elisabeth Strom

Until the housing shortage is resolved, rent management is necessary for people to survive

“Even if everyone agrees now to pursue housing prosperity goals, it could still be decades before the housing market rebalances. And what should we do for the tens of millions of rent-bearing families? Should we just allow the cycle of evictions and quarantines to occur without policy intervention? Rent control is the answer.” Jerusalem Demusas,

The strict rent control policies of the past are long gone

“RC Functions [exist], it doesn’t typically lower or freeze rents, but limits the amount of rent increases so tenants know (and can plan for) maximum rent increases. , repair, maintenance and improvement costs can be factored into rent increases, along with tax increases. Landlords therefore have no excuse to blame RC for poorly maintained housing stock. A reasonable return is acceptable within the rent increase. — Mark Fearer

The biggest advantage has nothing to do with money

“The most compelling case for rent regulation goes beyond research and statistics: continuity and stability are key components of neighborhood social health. It is a weapon against the alienation and loneliness that permeates a community where nothing is permanent, such as physical familiarity or physical familiarity.” — Alan Ehrenhardt

Rent controls help rebalance the system that punishes renters and rewards homeowners

“Severe anti-tenant tensions run through U.S. law. It’s already protecting homeowners from unchecked market forces.It’s time for the law to better protect renters.” — Sarah Schindler and Keren Zehl,


Under rent controls, housing will become even scarcer and of lower quality

“Imagine a law prohibiting steakhouses from charging more than $10 for a steak. All decent steakhouses subject to price controls would be forced to close their doors. Some left open served the lowest quality steak available, without a napkin, on a wobbly table, to be eaten while sitting in an uncomfortable chair. We are forced to cut costs and quality elsewhere in order to continue.This same dynamic occurs in rent management.”—Robert Fellner

The way to control costs is to increase supply, which rent control undermines

“The best way for cities to make housing affordable is to have policies that increase housing supply. Rent controls limit supply and are economic madness.” —Editor,

Rent restrictions exacerbate housing inequality

“Rental controls are a mistake and discourage investment in new and existing rental properties in the long run, even if they provide short-term relief. It will hurt.” — Edit,

Rent controls are politically attractive, but in reality a disaster

“Government-declared rent caps, seemingly straightforward, continue to tempt policy makers. It’s a magic wand for non-politicians.” —Editor,

There are many negative effects that go well beyond the cost of housing

“Rent control is notorious among economists for other negative effects. It exacerbates racism in housing. And what’s true in America is true everywhere.” — Jeff Jacoby

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Photo Illustration: Yahoo News Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images, Getty Images

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