In the past year, rent control has made its way back into the mainstream, first with California’s failing but highly debated ballot initiative then with Oregon adopting the first state-wide rent control bill in the country. Now, rent control is picking up steam across the country, from Colorado and Illinois to New York and Massachusetts.
With so much contradicting evidence out there, it important for NMHC members to have accurate information and insight into the issue. At the 2019 NMHC Research Forum in Denver, NMHC Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research Mark Obrinsky moderated a panel featuring Jim Lapides, NMHC vice president of strategic communications, and Caitlin Walter, NMHC vice president of research, to talk about rent control and related issues affecting the industry.
The panelists began by acknowledging the fact that there is an affordability crisis when it comes to the cost of housing—this is not a new problem, but one that has become heightened in recent years. Lapides pointed out how affordability has dominated the news recently as well as the political agenda of mayors, governors and, for the first time, presidential candidates vying for the 2020 nomination.
In fact, Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have all openly endorsed rent control as a solution to affordability—with Warren introducing federal legislation to expand rent control. Since 2017, 14 states have made significant attempts to expand rent control, with the potential to affect more than half of the existing multifamily rental housing stock in the country.
In addition to affordability, the issue of evictions is also driving skepticism on the private sector’s ability to bring about affordability by unfairly casting a negative light on landlords. For example, in the popular book, Evicted, author Matthew Desmond uses a case study of smaller landlords in Milwaukee to highlight examples of unfair evictions. This case study, along with his work on the Eviction Lab website, has started a national discussion on an eviction crisis. These types of narratives feed into the public’s already poor perception of apartment owners and managers.
For these reasons, NMHC is working on several resources to combat these narratives. One important project is a toolkit that lays out the most effective ways to improve affordability. It includes several case studies of cities that have implanted creative solutions to tackle this issue.
For more information on rent control, visit nmhc.org/rentcontrol.