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Rent Regulation in Review – Policy Trends in 2017

Rent Regulation Policy Trends

Housing affordability has increasingly become a pressing issue, prompting state and local legislators to examine a variety of proposals intended to generate enough supply to meet the demand of their constituents. While some of these measures are truly innovative, such as providing property tax abatements to help reduce veteran homelessness, others are simply reincarnations of past failed policies – prominent examples are the efforts to enact rent regulation as a solution to the affordable housing crisis. There has been an assortment of rent regulation proposals at the state and local level in 2017, each detailed below. 

Legislatures in Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts and Michigan have seen bills that would roll back state-level prohibitions on rent control. There have also been efforts to enact these polices in new states, such as Hawaii. There has been a proliferation of mandatory inclusionary zoning legislation, with bills introduced in California, Connecticut, Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina and Michigan. The only bill to advance was in California, which was signed into law by the Governor.

At the local level, California’s tenant rights advocates have been galvanized by their successful efforts to facilitate rent control in the cities of Mountain View and Richmond last year. This has spurred attempts to bring rent control to other California cities, including Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, Glendale, Pacifica, and Santa Rosa.

On the other side of the country, rent control has also received significant attention. In Portland, Maine, a rent control ballot measure was sent to the voters. The City Council in Hyattsville, MD, is considering a rent regulation measure. In New Orleans, mandatory inclusionary zoning is being reviewed, while an ordinance has been introduced and is moving forward in Philadelphia – that law would require construction of affordable housing as a condition of development. Recently, the Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance that implements mandatory inclusionary zoning when developing near the Beltline region.

These rent regulation policies have caused major concern for the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the apartment housing industry. While NAA has always been opposed to rent regulation, the organization recently adopted a formal policy statement to reinforce the industry’s position on the subject, which can be found on the new NAA rent control page (member log-in required).

As NAA and its members continue to push against these state and local level attempts to mandate price controls on rental housing, we are starting to see successes. Rent regulation proposals have been defeated in the California cities of Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, Pacifica and Glendale. The  ballot measure in Portland, Maine failed. At the state level, the Indiana Apartment Association has worked successfully to get the state legislature to pass legislation to preempt inclusionary zoning in the Hoosier state, and NAA-affiliated associations in Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina and Oregon have stopped legislation that would subvert existing state preemption of rent regulation. The Maine Apartment Association has also been leading the charge on a proposal to ban rent control in the state. Legislation in Hawaii that would create a statewide rent control program was also defeated.

In states that currently lack any protections against rent regulation, it’s critical that NAA members actively work with NAA and their affiliates to advance legislation that protects property rights from government-imposed price controls.

If you are aware of a state bill or local proposal addressing rent control, please contact Robert Melvin, Manager of Government Affairs via email.