April 2, 2018

Rent control coming back?

In These Times -In the 40 years preceding the Great Recession, rents grew twice as fast as incomes. Then came the 2008 housing crash, in which more than 10 million families lost their homes to foreclosure. Less than one-third are likely to buy again, thanks to wrecked finances and credit scores. As a result, more U.S. households are renting now than at any point in at least the past 50 years. Due in large part to predatory lending, Black and Latino households were more than 70 percent more likely than white ones to lose their homes in 2012, and they’re now nearly twice as likely to be renters. Rent affordability is also worse in communities of color: Median renters in predominantly Black neighborhoods spend 44 percent of their income on rent, and renters in predominantly Latino communities spend 48 percent.

As this nationwide housing affordability crisis becomes harder to ignore, Washington state is one of several places where advocates are launching a renewed push for rent regulation... While a scattering of cities and towns in four states—California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York—and Washington, D.C., have rent control laws in place, 35 states, including Washington, prohibit or limit local governments from regulating rent hikes. But legislation introduced by Democrats in Washington in January would repeal the state’s ban, in effect since 1981.

Progressive legislators in Illinois also have pending legislation that would repeal restrictions on rent control. And in California, a first-of-its-kind “national renters day of action” in September 2016 helped propel rent control to victory at the ballot box in two cities and launch new campaigns in at least seven others. While rent control remains a controversial measure among mainstream Democrats (many of whom receive hefty donations from real estate lobbies), these campaigns are attracting support from a broad swath of local unions and community organizations, as well as socialists who see rent control as the first step toward weakening the market’s grip on a basic human need.

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