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Cities in more than a dozen states appear set to consider the tool amid high inflation and rising housing costs.
Some economists say rent-control policies do more harm than good, but that didn’t stop voters in California, Florida and Maine from passing such measures in last month’s elections. Heading into 2023, cities in more than a dozen states appear poised to adopt the tactic, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.
Rent control is a controversial practice. Proponents say imposing limits on rental rates improves residents’ housing stability and reduces evictions. To some, stagnant wages coupled with high inflation and increasing rental prices make rent stabilization an appealing approach to helping residents stay in their homes.
But others argue that rent control reduces funding available to landlords for building maintenance and repairs, disincentivizes new development, and can increase rental rates in units that aren’t covered by the price restrictions.
Voters in at least five cities passed rent-control measures last month, and across the country, advocates and elected officials are directing more attention to these types of policies.
Where Rent Stabilization Won in November
Last month, Portland, Maine residents voted to tighten rent controls by reducing the rate at which landlords can increase rent.
Meanwhile, residents in Orange County, Florida, voted in favor of an ordinance that would prevent apartment owners from raising rent at a rate higher than inflation. That measure, however, is currently tied up in court after the industry group Florida Realtors and the Florida Apartment Association filed a lawsuit.
Other States to Watch
Massachusetts is a key place to watch in 2023, the housing report said. The state currently has a law that blocks, or preempts, local government rent controls, but earlier this year Boston Mayor Michelle Wu established a task force to create a rent-stabilization plan. And with Democratic Gov.-elect Maura Healey more likely to be supportive of Wu’s efforts than outgoing Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, next year could see movement on such policies.
In Nevada, the powerful Culinary Workers Union spent the last several months advocating for rent stabilization measures in North Las Vegas. It’s the first time since the 1970s that the state has seen an organized effort calling for rent control, according to The Nevada Independent. However, the City Council rejected the initiative for November’s ballot, citing insufficient valid signatures. It’s likely to come up in the state Legislature, which convenes only in odd-numbered years, the report said.
The National Multifamily Housing Council, which is an advocacy group for the apartment industry, also expects more Florida communities to push for rent control. The Sunshine State doesn’t currently allow rent stabilization, with the exception of local ballot initiatives that allow for one-year rent regulations. Besides Orange County, lawmakers in St. Petersburg and Tampa also considered adding measures to November ballots, but those efforts stalled.
Advocates in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland and Washington state are also expected to continue pushing for rent control, as these states have proposed rules in recent years. Rent-control proponents are also taking their arguments to the federal level and have been urging President Biden to sign an executive order establishing a national rent cap.
To read the full rent-stabilization outlook, click here.
Molly Bolan is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.