Rising Rental Costs in Texas Prompt Rent Control Discussion

Rent control is a political non-starter in the Lone Star State, but as rental prices continue to increase dramatically, advocates are looking for solutions.

2 minute read

February 6, 2022, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

The Colorado River is flooded with brown water with the skyline of Austin, Texas in the background.

Roschetzky Photography / Shutterstock

An article by Timia Cobb for the Texas Tribune report on the consequences of quickly rising housing prices in Texas:

Across the state and country, a combination of social, economic and political forces are driving more people to look for rental housing but limiting the construction of units. That imbalance between supply and demand pushes rents upward, putting tenants in financial binds. And in Texas — where laws favor landlords, and rent control is virtually nonexistent — tenants are left to either take on additional jobs, cut other household costs or move out of the communities they prefer.

Cobb shares data from Apartment List, published at the end of January 2022, that shows the estimated median rent of new leases in several Texas cities increasing by double digits since March 2020.

The article uses the state of the rental housing market in Texas to raise a conversation about rent control, which is a difficult proposition in the state. "Texas allows rent control only if a city’s governing body determines there’s a housing emergency caused by a disaster. Even then, the decision to enact such a policy must be approved by the governor," according to Cobb.

Cobb shares information about the organizations that have pressed for rent control during the pandemic in Texas, to no avail (Los Angeles implemented stricter rent controls during the pandemic, as an example of this approach). The article also gives space to both sides of the debate about whether rent control is an effective tool for affordable housing in the long term. Ian Mattingly, president of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, presents the case, common among economists and landlords, that rent control will lead to fewer apartments being built. The discussion about rent control's effects on supply and demand also gives way to a conversation about the restrictions of zoning in many Texas cities.

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