As rents in the U.S. approach record highs, calls for national rent control are gaining momentum. The Biden administration has outlined a renters bill of rights, with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) exploring ways to curb "egregious rent increases" in properties backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, USA Today reports.
Rents have surged by more than 25% since 2019, straining many Americans' finances in tandem with record inflation for nearly all consumer goods. While rent control is seen as a quick fix by some, critics argue it could actually lead to higher rents. Instead, opponents are advocating for long-term solutions such as increasing housing supply through zoning changes and repurposing unused buildings.
Frustrated, many Americans have coalesced around rent control as a solution, but critics say this will only push rents higher. They say a national plan to increase housing stock is a better solution but takes much longer to implement.
"There are proven solutions to our housing challenges," said Sharon Wilson Geno, president of the nonprofit apartment advocate National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC). "At the state and local level, communities have successfully used zoning changes to encourage the creation of new rental housing communities and financial incentives to reuse dead malls and empty office buildings for more housing, just to name a few."
An often-cited 2019 Stanford University study said rent control intensified San Francisco’s housing shortage. Faced with a strengthened ordinance, landlords either converted their units into condos or exited the rental business, resulting in 15% fewer apartments and higher rents, it said.
The measure "appears to have increased income inequality in the city by both limiting displacement of minorities and attracting higher income residents” with new condos, the study said.