BARHA Question 6: Rent Control - Boulder Area Rental Housing Association

BARHA Question 6: With housing affordability an ever-increasing challenge across Colorado, rent control has come up in discussions.  This is evidenced by last year’s proposal at the state legislature.  Have you researched the topic of rent control?  If so, do you think that it is something that makes sense for Boulder?

Aaron Brockett: There are aspects of the current law prohibiting rent control that I would like to see changed. For example, the current law makes it very difficult to create on-site affordable rental housing. But I do think rent control in general should be approached with caution as it can create unintended consequences in the housing market. If the rent control preemption is removed, I would need to do much more research, as well as listen carefully to community perspectives, before making a decision about the best approach to the issue.

Mark McIntyre: I have researched the topic and in short—it’s complex.  One of the most informative pieces that I have heard (it’s a podcast) is Freakonomics Radio Podcast entitled, Why Rent Control Doesn’t Wor​      k.  I think the name is click bait because it is not anti-rent control so much as a warning of the unintended consequences of  policy that seems like a simple solution on the surface but ends up with results that few think are beneficial.

I am a believer in markets and I am a believer in the government providing direction and protections. Ultimately, I am a believer in providing the greatest good for the community and doing so with policy that is balanced between equity and efficiency, between markets and controls, and that is based on facts and evidence.

Rachel Friend: I support both robust renters’ rights, and making housing affordable.  And I recognize through my research on rent control that the topic is thorny / there is not a simple solution for keeping rental costs down. Frankly, if affordable rent was an easy problem to solve, we would not be discussing this.  The necessary policies would be in place.  I am an attorney with a recent background in representing asylum seekers and childrens’ best interests, and teaching criminal justice – I’m hardly an expert economist. The best thing for me to do is bring my common sense, pragmatism, and values to the table, and then consult with and trust the experts and economists, who can guide us in determining what policies will actually produce the most beneficial affordable housing outcomes.

Secondarily, I love it that CU has a legal aid department that will review students’ leases.  I’d favor all Boulderites having access to the sort of leveling of the LL-T playing field which CU students enjoy.

Bob Yates: I have not extensively researched the topic. It occurs to me that there may be unintended consequences. If the state legislature ever permits cities to enact local rent control, the Boulder community will need to be very thoughtful on whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Junie Joseph: Currently in Colorado rent control is against the law. Rent control is great for current renters, it protects those who have lived in the community a long time such as the elderly, low-income renters. It protects these group from being priced out due to new development or market fluctuation. Also, I have met people while canvased who lived in the mobile home park in Valmont who told me they are living in a mobile home park because they were priced out of their housing in Boulder. So rent control has its place in society. But also, we must recognize that it disadvantages future or potential renters since (1) current renters tend to “lock up” rentals when rent is forced to be below market rate, and (2) reduced rental rates discourage production of new rental housing. Boulder’s housing market is vastly distorted by land-use regulation. I believe the best way to provide affordable housing is to reduce the regulations, rather than pile additional regulations on top. The best way to provide affordable housing is to create it by using various tools such as in-fills and looking at how we use space in Boulder. I am willing to learn more about this issue.

Paul Cure: I have an understanding of rent control nationally but do not have a full understanding of how it could be applied locally.

Mark Wallach:    I lived for many years in the Kingdom Of Rent Control (New York), where, despite some benefits, it had become wildly inefficient and a bit corrupt. Tenants were not only protected during their lifetimes, but could essentially pass on apartments to their children under the same rent control regime. There were many instances of tenants subletting their units for large profits while they lived elsewhere, and landlords began to use private detectives to determine the actual physical residency of their tenants. Every year or so there would be a scandalous story about a star of the stage or screen living in an enormous apartment on Central Park West for $200/month. So I start with a degree of skepticism about such systems. However, if a form of rent control is not to be imposed here, we need to address how to deal with our most economically vulnerable populations, and the type of protection they deserve. This has nothing to do with those who illegally turn their apartments into Air BNBs, or contaminate them with meth. It has everything to do with hard-working individuals who live under a threat of eviction, and with no other place to go in this wealthy community. That is the conversation we need to have in Boulder, with solutions based upon the needs of both tenants and landlords. In the absence of solutions, one cannot be surprised if a solution is imposed at the State level.

Corina Julca: Yes, I have researched the topic. I read about the rent control / tenant rights bill that passed in Oregon this year and the one that is on the table in California. Colorado could pass a similar law in 2020, but it’s too early to say. For now, Boulder cannot pass a rent control ordinance. When people think about rent control, they often picture a situation like that in NYC, where tenants remained in increasingly awful apartments, because the rent couldn’t be lifted and the landlord had no money or motivation to maintain the premises. The bill in Oregon caps rent hikes at CPI + 7%. I think the devil is in the details. If small landlords can continue to raise rents above their costs, including increases in property taxes, I think a broad range of people could agree on a rent control bill. A bill that is too harsh will backfire causing many of the small landlords in Boulder to sell their properties, reducing housing options for students, workers and others.

Brian Dolan: I have seen this topic come up, but I honestly do not know enough about it to comment intelligently.  I am looking forward to learning more about it as the process continues.

Andy Celani: I have not researched rent control.  I am not sure of its effect in Boulder.

 Benita Duran: Yes, I’ve researched the topic of rent control.  Yes, I think it has application for Boulder.  City Council alone cannot legislate this alone – it is a state law. My understanding of the case against rent controls is that they distort the market. This argument makes no sense. The market in Boulder has already been distorted, for many years. Colorado law dictates the discussion, and advocates of rent controls have not been successful over the periodic attempts to change the law. That said, with Boulder rents rising to the point working people cannot afford to live and shop in Boulder, thus adversely affecting the local economy, we need to start the conversation; and, provide direction to Boulder’s state representatives with regards to where our community stands on this issue. The time is now to be exploring this option/opportunity.   It would be a bold step for Boulder, but one that deserves full consideration.

Gala Orba: Yes I have done some preliminary research.  I do think it makes sense for Boulder and I am committed to finding a way to roll it out so it is fair and just for all.  I have spoken to some landlords about it and have learned that they are open to Rent regulation as long as it is fair for their investment.  It can be rolled out incrementally to help all adjust. One way to make it fair is to balance it with property tax hikes.  if it’s balanced- it will work for all.  I support a fair and just rent control program in our town. I want to hear from you more ways in which we can do this so it works for you.  I believe Rent Control can be done in a fashion that works for all.   Change is tough but we can do it together.

Nikki McCord: A pillar of my campaign is a Safe Environment for All, focusing specifically on marginalized communities. Rent control allows low and middle income residents to remain in Boulder, establish long lasting community ties, and bring stability to their lives. Alternatively, rent control dissuades landlords from investing in their properties. In order to speak to both interests, as your next city councilwoman, I would be open to exploring a pilot for rent control on certain classes of dwellings. After the pilot was complete, lessons would be explored, the policy would be tweaked, as it is expanded to more classes of dwellings. This way, landlords and renters can voice their likes and dislikes about the policy so that it can be written in a way that addresses the concerns of both parties.

Susan Peterson: I have not adequately researched the topic of rent control, but I believe it’s a tool we could consider.  I understand that today it is illegal in Colorado.  Through the city’s inclusionary housing fund, the city provides funds to agencies such as Boulder Housing Partners, Thistle Community Housing, EFAA, and others would to provide permanently affordable housing, which by its nature provides rent control.

Adam Swetlick: I  have.  I  think  local  control  of  rent  control  is  just  another  tool  in  the  toolbox  that  is  worthwhile  to  have  the  option  for. Repealing  the  prohibition  on  rent  control  statewide  does  not  mean  it  would  be  automatically  adopted  in  Boulder.  I’ve heard  from  City  Staff  time  and  again  that  they  want  every  tool  possible  to  help  increase  affordability  in  Boulder,  so  I think  it’s worthwhile  to  at  least  have  the  option  as  a  city.