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Many States/Communities Considering Rent Control

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022 -- 8:00 AM

(By Jennifer Ludden, Wisconsin Public Radio) Last spring, a month after an out-of-state investor bought the apartment building where LaMonica Dickerson lives in Louisville, Ky., she and more than 100 others got an eviction notice.

According to Jennifer Ludden with Wisconsin Public Radio, if she wanted to stay, she was told her rent would be $500 higher. "They're forcing homelessness," she says. "Married couples are having to split because they don't have anywhere to go together."

Dickerson negotiated to stay put and pay only $200 more a month, but if rents rise again when the lease is up next year, she doesn't know what she'll do. "I was going to go back to Nashville, and when I saw the rent in Nashville, because that's my home, I love Nashville, it broke my heart."

Dickerson is part of a vibrant tenants' rights movement that has revived a push for rent control, fueled by anger and desperation after years of rent hikes that have outpaced wages and inflation. This month, voters in Florida, Maine and California approved ballot measures to impose or tighten caps on rent hikes.

This expansion is happening despite years of research that shows rent control can actually reduce the overall amount of affordable housing, and may not help those who need it most. But supporters say solutions for the housing crisis take years to play out, and people at risk of eviction or even homelessness need help now.

To that end, Dickerson recently joined dozens of other tenants from around the country who converged on Washington, D.C., to lobby Biden administration domestic and economic policy officials.

In addition to strengthening tenant protections, the group has suggested an executive order to set rent caps on federally backed mortgages and subsidized housing. "We need universal rent controls in this country, and we actually need the federal government to champion them," says Tara Raghuveer of the advocacy group People's Action, which organized the trip.

Raghuveer argues that federal action is needed because many states largely ban cities from enacting rent control, though often with exceptions and possible workarounds. She also cites the growing share of housing bought by institutional investors.

"They own properties in Kentucky and Missouri and Illinois and California, and therefore they need to be regulated by federal law," she says. It's not clear the Biden administration agrees with that, or would have such legal authority. But more states and cities are debating rent control and taking action.

Feel free to contact us with questions and/or comments.