An Analysis of
by John I. Gilderbloom
Rent control is primarily concerned with the level of rents. In theory and in popular understanding, rents themselves are the product of the intersection of housing demand and housing supply. But demand and supply, in turn, are dependent on the structural features and idiosyncrasies of local housing markets. This chapter identifies the factors that are associated with higher levels of rent and that cause a demand for rent control.
Earlier chapters have alluded to the reluctance of local officials to introduce rent control. While ideological factors have entered the picture on occasion, most controls have been instituted as a straightforward response to real or anticipated rent increases and to the hardship that they impose on households of modest means. Proponents of rent control have been aggressively alert to the recent general rise in rents, after a period of stagnation, and to the resultant increase in rent-to-income ratios among the least affluent sectors of the population. Further, they decry the situation wherein the high cost of housing makes it impossible to afford other basic necessities. 1 The question is: What are the best ways to address the problem? The answers are several: income guarantees, subsidized housing production, rent control, or other market reforms. Whatever the avenues for relief, they presumably could be more easily evaluated and compared if the sources of rental increases were better known.