Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech recently expressed concern about housing affordability in Colorado in a commentary published by Colorado Politics ("Let's restore local governments' power to regulate rent," Aug. 30). We share Councilwoman Kniech’s concerns about the lack of attainable housing in the Denver metro area, but rent control is not the solution.
According to Councilwoman Kniech, the answer was in last legislative session’s Senate Bill 225, which was rent control by another name. At the hearing for Senate Bill 225, testifier after testifier praised the bill because it would permit rent control.
The solution to reducing rents and easing the burden for working families is to create additional housing supply and reduce regulations that drive up the cost of rentals. Costs of building have increased substantially in the past 10 years. A large part of that increase is government regulation. Currently, over 32% of the cost to develop a new multifamily housing development is regulation, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. Instead of introducing new regulations that will continue to slow down new construction, we should be encouraging new construction and renovation as the key to more affordable housing.
Rent control over and over has been proven to hurt the very people it’s meant to help, which is why 81% of economists believe that rent control has not had a positive impact in the cities that use these policies, according to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Rent control drives up rental prices for everyone, save a select few who would qualify for a rent-controlled unit. This would harm Colorado’s booming economy and further reduce available housing. Rent control as a silver bullet simply doesn’t work.
Rent control decreases affordability, erodes the local tax base, fuels gentrification, reduces renter mobility, and leads to neighborhood blight when communities cannot afford to invest in maintenance. Ultimately, rent control depresses housing supply, which pushes attainable and affordable housing further out of reach for those struggling to make ends meet.
Instead of rent control, Colorado leaders should pursue comprehensive and thoughtful solutions, such partnerships between local governments and developers, tax credit programs, and direct assistance, to address the affordable housing shortage. According to a poll conducted by Baselice and Associates earlier this year, fewer than one in five (19%) of those surveyed selected rent control as their first choice for addressing housing affordability in Colorado.
Respondents’ first choice for addressing housing affordability were public-private partnerships between state or local governments and the private housing sector to create more housing (28.6%) and building more housing and reducing barriers to increase supply (28.2%). An additional 13% of Coloradans supported increasing direct assistance to renters over rent control as their first choice.
Instead of rent control to address inequalities in housing, our elected officials should embrace policies that increase housing supply, reduce barriers to development, and identify additional resources for affordable housing. Housing attainability is a complex issue that requires innovative thinking and collaboration. As an industry, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and work alongside our elected officials to find smart solutions that will keep Colorado and its residents on a positive path forward.
Terry Simone is the president of the Colorado Apartment Association.