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Is National Rent Control the Right Answer?

Proposed legislation from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a move toward more progressive housing policy. But critics say the one-size-fits-all approach is not the best solution for addressing the national housing crisis.
October 4, 2019, 10am PDT | Camille Fink
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New York Development

Kriston Capps takes a closer look at the rent control portion of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s tenants' rights bill, the A Place to Prosper Act, part of a legislation package called A Just Society.

"Among the proposed new protections is a national cap on annual rent increases, maybe the most explosive suggestion across all six bills. By establishing a national rent control doctrine, Ocasio-Cortez is putting down a federal marker in a national conversation about the affordable housing crisis," writes Capps.

Critics argue that a national rent control measure would curb new construction as investors move to other sectors of the real estate market and would encourage condo conversions. "Applying San Francisco–style rent controls to the apartment industry nationwide will tip the scales in a way that will make building new apartments impossible, [Doug] Bibby says."

Oregon and California have both passed legislation to cap rent increases. Proponents of the California bill, AB 1482, the Tenant Protection Act, say it is set up to balance the needs of tenants and landlords and to support new construction.

"A national rent control policy also raises questions about which problems Congress wants to solve. Is it that housing is unaffordable, so we need to build more of it, while protecting vulnerable renters in those neighborhoods where construction is happening? Or is it something larger about the nature of capitalism and the role of shelter as a human right?" notes Capps.

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Published on Thursday, September 26, 2019 in CityLab
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