Rent control is a band-aid on a gaping wound: It doesn't help much and it ultimately fails
Stop the sprawl
What you call rent control is probably rent stabilization. In the US rent control is the colloquial way of saying rent stabilization.
I have lived in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Vancouver, and New York. I have never ever had access to the magical rent-controlled apartment, and I probably never will. In the US it typically applies to buildings built before 1947. My 70-year-old great-aunt had a one-bedroom rent-controlled LA apartment in Baldwin Village, aka “The Jungle,” despite having a nice size nest egg, she would not leave that apartment. Baldwin Village was not the safest place in the 1990s, but her rent was $100.00. That was rent control. It freezes your rent.
Only four states and Washington, DC, have some form of rent control/stabilization (California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland), and 37 states make it illegal. The 10th Amendment commonly known as States’ Rights is what allows some states to kill you quickly with a blunt object like “right to work” while other states poison you with lies and delusions. The latter is more humane though!
States’rights needs to die on the neo-confederate dead-ender horse it rode in on.
Rent stabilization doesn’t freeze or reduce your rent. It stabilizes your rent. It holds it steady. That means your rent does not get lower. If you can’t afford the rent now, rent control that raises your rent by 7% or 3% next year isn’t helpful.
We can not let the wealthy dictate the housing conversation. Of course, hegemony dressed up as neoliberalism with a progressive mask wants us fighting for rent control. Then when we agree to their pathetic attempts to STILL not reduce rent, we think we have won.
Not being in Mississippi is not a goal! We’re not lucky because we’re in California or New York and have access to a $2,500 apartment that is stabilized. We’re not lucky to be in a place where stabilization is out of the price range for the average worker.
How is raising your rent only a little bit, annually, on rent you already can’t afford a win for you currently? How? And not only that, it limits you to housing over 20 years old and in some cases over 40 years old.
Again, how is that a win for you?
It most certainly isn’t a win for a person who is not on a lease in a now rent-controlled (stabilized) apartment.
Our rent is too high. It’s too high for everyone, but local rent control is also another way to encourage landlords to be even more racist. You think getting an apartment while non-white is hard now, try it with rent control.
Rent control does several things according to many studies, Brookings Institute, and my personal anecdotal observations: it limits the supply of the cheapest of over-priced housing, can add to sprawl as people get frustrated waiting for an apartment to open up and drive farther out, creates long waitlists, and encourages landlords to delay maintenance.
It’s kind of Battle Royale.
I am not implying we should let the market do whatever it wants. The market’s end goal is to trap us, kill us, and serve us as hor d’oeuvres.
No, we need to work how the rich do. We need to work in unison.
We need an international rent cap. Not a rent stabilization cap, a rent cap.
That international rent cap should be based on the respective country’s median wage. In the US, the annual salary is $35,977 (BLS, 2019) in the UK, the annual salary is £31,411, and in Canada, the annual salary is $37,710 (Statista, 2019).
No more than 25% of your gross income (pre-tax) should go towards housing. Lots of British and American economists have said this, and we agree! We want to be responsible.
According to the advice of leading economics, your monthly rental cap should be the following:
The rent cap for a two-bedroom in the US should be $749.
The rent cap for a two-bedroom in the US UK should be £654.
The rent cap for a two-bedroom in the US Canada should be $785.
I would have set a median cap for flexibility, but I know that kind of grace will result in us continuing to pay outrageous rents in London, Toronto, and San Francisco. You give the wealthy an inch, and they’ll eat your entire leg with Grey Poupon.
Some people might be thinking about the landlord. Please stop it. People get paid to be masochists, don’t do it for free.
Being a landlord is not a job, it is a hobby for sadists. Housing for people is not an investment vehicle.
If gouging people for rent brings you joy, then there is a BDSM community that would be happy to take your money. There are plenty of sadistic hobbies you can participate in, but you can’t be a landlord anymore.
This now has to be a global conversation.
We need imagination in this fight, and it is a fight. Rent control, city by city, was for a reasonable time when we could eat and pay rent during the same month. That time is over.
We need neo-futuristic solutions for neo-futuristic times.