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.

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.

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.

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.