In Defense of Rent Control

Rent control policies, widely panned by economists, have been shown to slow displacement and keep housing affordable.

2 minute read

May 17, 2023, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

For decades, rent control policies have earned the ire of economists, who argue that rent control is bad “because rent control is a price control, and price controls artificially distort well-functioning markets, resulting in a mismatch between supply and demand and the creation of the dreaded deadweight loss triangle all budding economist learn about.”

But, Mark Paul asks in The American Prospect, why should renters not be afforded the same privilege as more than half of Americans—namely, those who “enjoy de facto rent control in the form of the 30-year mortgage”?

Paul writes that there’s a problem with the traditional thinking about rent control in economist circles: it doesn’t hold up. “As recent empirical work has shown, the neoclassical account’s core assumptions—one, that rent control restricts the supply of new housing; and two, that it misallocates existing housing, thereby causing an irrecoverable collective loss—fail to hold when it comes to the real world.” Paul explains that “abundant evidence” shows that rent control does not constrain housing supply, and there is no housing boom when rent control laws are repealed.

Rent control can also slow the tide of gentrification and displacement when neighborhoods grow in popularity and value. “It helps turn housing from a nexus of profit to one of community, family, and social space.” Moreover, rent control has broad popular support. “Polling conducted in 2019 by Data for Progress found that a majority of likely voters, including a majority of independents, support rent control, with just 1 in 5 opposing such a measure.”

It’s also a matter of equity: “Homeowners, who skew white and rich, benefit tremendously from the government’s rules, regulations, and subsidies that allow them to pay a fixed monthly sum for housing over 30 years. It’s high time for the government to extend these benefits—and the economic security that comes with them—by adopting rent control to cover all people in the United States.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in The American Prospect

Red on white 'Room for Rent, Inquire Inside' sign

In Most U.S. Cities, Archaic Laws Limit Roommate Living

Critics argue laws preventing unrelated adults from living in the same home fail to understand the modern American household.

May 24, 2023 - The Atlantic

Vancouver Chuck Wolfe

Ten Signs of a Resurgent Downtown

In GeekWire, Chuck Wolfe continues his exploration of a holistic and practical approach to post-pandemic urban center recovery, anchored in local context and community-driven initiatives that promote livability, safety, and sustainability.

May 24, 2023 - GeekWire

New York MTA subway station

Off-Peak is the New On-Peak

Public transit systems in major U.S. cities are starting to focus on non-rush hour travelers as pre-pandemic commuting patterns shift and transportation needs change.

May 19, 2023 - Curbed

Nighttime view of Tacoma, Washington skyline

Tacoma Coalition Calls for ‘Tenants’ Bill of Rights’

The group wants to put more power in the hands of tenants, but the city has its own, competing proposal for addressing the housing crisis.

May 26 - The Urbanist

Wind turbines sillhouetted against a sunset sky along roadway in New Mexico

New Power Transmission Line Approved in the Southwest

The proposed transmission line will transfer wind-produced power from New Mexico to cities in Arizona and California.

May 26 - U.S. News And World Report

Aerial view of 238 freeway in Oakland, California cutting through neighborhood with small houses

The Limitations of ‘Reconnecting Communities’

The Biden administration has pledged to correct the damage imposed on communities by highways and infrastructure, but many projects are only committing to minor improvements, not transformative changes.

May 26 - The New York Times

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.