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Portland Rent Control: The Best Intentions Gone Awry

Portland Rent Control: The Best Intentions Gone Awry

When rental rate increases for housing exceed growth in income and inflation, it is natural for tenants to want Portland rent control. The fastest way to do so is to ask government officials to limit rental rate increases, or approve a form of disguised rent controls such as tenant moving reimbursement when a rental increase exceeds a set amount. This latter approach has been adopted by the city of Portland.

Although the intentions are understandable, government attempts to control rents short term inevitably lead to negative and counterproductive consequences long term. A comprehensive review of research on the effects of rent controls is summarized by the National Multifamily Housing Council. This review, based on sixteen different research papers, makes the following conclusions. Click the link to read the full article.

  • A disproportionate share of the cost of rent controls fall on the poor
  • Higher income households gain the most from rent controls
  • Rent controls promote housing discrimination
  • Rent controls unfairly raise the tax burden on housing providers
  • The most effective way to control rents is to increase the housing supply

Other research has shown that rent controls lead to reduced rental housing maintenance, deterioration of rental housing quality, lower new housing construction, lower property values, and then lower tax receipts, which in turn reduce social services provided by local government. A vicious cycle of decline is the unintended consequence of any form of rent control.
Instead of instituting Portland rent control, which is only a quick fix that will make matters worse, the core issue causing rental increases should be addressed – lack of growth in the housing supply. Portland tenants, tenant rights activists, and government officials should focus on zoning and building codes. These are the primary impediments to new housing development. By changing these, real growth in the Portland housing supply can begin, and rental rate increases will be controlled. And rents will be controlled without negative and counterproductive consequences outlined above.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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