Economics/Class Relations

Academic Heavyweights to Naysayers: Rent Control Works

In News by Patrick Range McDonald

It wasn’t long ago that researchers at the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley, and UCLA released key studies that found rent control is an effective tool to keep people housed and to stabilize the housing affordability crisis. Big Real Estate and other rent control opponents have tried to ignore the findings of these academic heavyweights, but the reports were clear: rent control works. With local rent control movements popping up all over the country, it’s a good time to again showcase these studies.

In 2018, USC released a study called “Rent Matters: What Are the Impacts of Rent Stabilization Measures?” It was co-authored by Manuel Pastor, a highly regarded professor at USC, and commissioned by the California Community Foundation. The study continues to be relevant and important – St. Paul housing justice activists cited it during their successful campaign to pass a pro-rent control ballot measure in 2021.

The key takeaways from “Rent Matters” directly push back against old arguments made by the real estate industry and other opponents of rent control. First, Pastor and co-authors Vanessa Carter and Maya Abood found that rent regulations “do not necessarily increase the rent of non-regulated units and may actually keep rent more affordable for all.” Second, rent regulations have “minimal impact on new construction.” Third, “rent stabilization increases housing stability, which has important health and educational attainment benefits.” Fourth, “there is no conclusive evidence about the impacts on ‘mom and pop’ landlords.” Fifth, “rent regulations may deter gentrification.”

These are huge findings. Unlike the outdated claims made by anti-rent control forces, Pastor and his colleagues show that rent control or rent stabilization will help the people who need it most: poor and working-class residents, communities of color, and middle-class residents, all of whom are getting slammed the hardest by gentrification and the housing affordability crisis. In addition, a study by Zillow, the real estate website, found that in cities where people spend more than 32 percent of their take-home pay on rent, a spike in homelessness will follow. Rent regulations will address that, preventing people from falling into homelessness.


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