Might not be the best solution, but can’t be dismissed so easily

Readers Write: Rent Control

Are the Star Tribune’s opinion editors mounting an under-the-radar campaign to nip in the bud Minneapolis’ consideration of rent control? That’s how it appears, with the paper running two anti-rent-control editorials in the lower-profile “Other Views” section of the editorial page within a two-week span (Washington Post, Sept. 25; and Bloomberg, Oct. 4).

Having recently dug into research on rent control on behalf of a client, I am well aware of the policy’s limitations. Rent control protects current renters at the expense of new arrivals, discourages maintenance of controlled properties, and leads to condominium conversion of rental housing and otherwise skews the housing supply to those with greater financial capacity.

But research also shows that rent control policies are effective in limiting displacement of lower-income families and seniors, and the research is inconclusive regarding whether the rental supply is constrained by those rent control policies excluding new development. Further, researchers point out that other local policies can limit condo conversions and require adequate maintenance of rental housing.

In summary, as a short-term emergency response one can defend rent control — as bad as it is over the long term. This is much like utilizing inexpensive trailers to house people after a devastating hurricane. Rent control might not be the best solution to a crisis in housing affordability, but it cannot be dismissed out of hand as a bridging strategy.

Researchers who either focus on rent control flaws or its successes do agree that a better approach is to increase the rental housing supply and provide subsidies to those still priced out of the market. This solution is expensive but not unattainable here. Rent control should be considered in Minneapolis and debated on its merits of fitting into an overarching housing policy based on expanding supply and access.


The writer is an affordable-housing consultant and volunteer.

"Might not be the best solution, but can’t be dismissed so easily"; By Chip Halbach; StartTribune:ReadersWrite; October 4, 2019

Keywords: Gentrification, HousingCrisis, Rent Control

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