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Ten Experts Answer FAQs on Rent Regulation

Fast-rising housing costs have prompted renewed interest in rent regulation—the main objective of which is most often to protect renters from sharp rent increases. Several state and local governments have advanced rent regulations in recent years, providing an opportunity to evaluate their impact. These efforts include: 

  • Oregon: In 2019, Oregon signed into law the nation’s first statewide rent control bill, prohibiting landlords from raising rent more than 7% plus inflation annually for the duration of a renter’s tenancy. (After a tenant moves out, there is no limit on a landlord’s ability to raise rent for a new tenant filling the unit.) The law exempts subsidized rents and does not apply to new construction for 15 years.  
  • St. Paul and Minneapolis: In a 2021 election, both Twin Cities voted in favor of rent regulation measures. St. Paul set an annual cap on rent increases of 3%, even with changes in occupancy, while allowing landlords to request exceptions based on reasonable returns on investment. Voters in Minneapolis voted to authorize the City Council to pass its own rent regulation measure, though the council has yet to do so. 
  • Santa Ana: The City of Santa Ana, CA passed a law to limit rent increases to less than 3% per year or 80% of the annual change in inflation, whichever is lower, for certain rental homes. If inflation is less than 3.75% in a given year, for example, then the maximum rent increase allowed would be less than 3%. 
  • California: California passed statewide rent regulations, limiting annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation (with a maximum of 10%) with some exceptions—including for units that are more than 15 years old. 

The details of these and other rent regulations involve unappreciated policy tradeoffs that can significantly affect outcomes for tenants, landlords, and housing markets more broadly. Yet too often, the debate over rent control ignores such subtleties.  

Proponents argue that rent regulations protect renters, particularly low-income renter households, from sharp and destabilizing rent hikes and promote more stable families and neighborhoods. Critics argue that rent regulations actually exacerbate high rents in the long run by encouraging landlords to convert rental homes to condos, discouraging new housing development, and ignoring the primary driver of high housing costs—the lack of supply.  

BPC asked the following experts with a wide variety of perspectives—ranging from proponents to critics of rent control—to share their thoughts on rent regulation, its nuances, and effects, particularly on the supply of housing.  

The views expressed in these videos do not necessarily represent the positions held by BPC as an organization. 

See their responses below: 

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What goals have recent rent regulations been adopted to advance? What are some of the inherent tradeoffs in furthering these goals that state and local governments should take into account when designing and implementing rent regulations?

How do rent regulations affect housing production and supply?

Not all rent regulations are the same. Are there ways to design rent regulations that minimize the downsides while preventing tenants from displacement?

What other policies should states and cities implement in tandem with rent regulations—or in place of them—to best address rising rent burdens and promote housing stability among low-income families and communities? Are there alternative policies you would recommend to provide relief for tenants facing recently rising rents, increasing evictions, and fewer housing options in the current market?

To what extent do existing rent regulations effectively target and benefit low-income households?

Where would you like to see additional research about the effects of rent control?

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