Real Estate: The Idea of Rent Control is Gaining Steam

Conor Dougherty and California’s escalating housing costs have yielded epic commutes and a rising tide of homelessness. Now they are close to producing a political milestone: a vast expansion of tenant-protection laws that would cap rents statewide.

On Tuesday, the State Senate voted to advance a bill to limit rent increases to 5 percent a year plus a cost-of-living adjustment. The State Assembly, the Legislature’s lower house, could give final approval as early as Wednesday, though passage is uncertain.

The legislation is the latest in a series of measures that have swept through state and local governments this year to regulate rents and strengthen tenant rights. For decades, such provisions have been mostly limited to a relative handful of apartments in the nation’s big cities.”

The Times article stated that, “Normally a leader in progressive politics, California is something of a follower in this case. Earlier this year, Oregon limited rent increases for most tenants to 7 percent annually plus inflation. In New York, state lawmakers significantly strengthened regulations that dictate the rents of almost half of New York City’s rental stock and allowed other cities to impose their own rent caps.

Most states have laws that explicitly ban rent control, a century-old mechanism that has divided tenant activists, who argue that it is the most cost-effective way to quickly curb housing costs, and economists, who largely agree that it constrains the long-term housing supply. Only four states — California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York — have localities with rent control, along with Washington, D.C.

But the idea of rent control is gaining steam, fueled by a far-reaching network of tenant unions and others organizing efforts to combat displacement and skyrocketing rents.”

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