The Politics and Economics
of Rent Control
Paul L. Niebanck
America's housing dilemma has rekindled an interest in rent control as an instrument of policy at the local level. 1 Three communities where rent control has been recently debated give evidence of the vitality of the issue.
Pembroke Park, Florida, is a tiny incorporated town that lies between the burgeoning cities of Miami to the south and Fort Lauderdale to the north. Development pressures from both directions are immense, and the value of land for commercial or high‐ priced residential uses has skyrocketed. The town's population, representing barely one-fifth of 1 percent of the regional population, is predominantly older people, stable residents, singles, and couples. They live primarily in mobile homes, and typically they subsist on low and moderate fixed incomes.
These mobile home occupants want rent control, and at a public hearing in November 1983, attended by hundreds of affected persons, their testimony was unified and insistent. "We are captives." "There is nowhere to go." "Rents have risen ninety percent in five years." "I have forty dollars left for medical expenses." "Our bargaining position is unequal." "We can't trust the land‐ lords." 2
Recognizing the expensive—and possibly futile—legal battle that would ensue if rent control were enacted, the town commission rejected the pleas of its constituents that night in November. Advocates wasted no time, thereupon, in taking steps to recall the naysayers.
Fort Lee, New Jersey, located across the George Washington