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Chelsea Connery and Rob Rosenthal

Families forced out of their neighborhoods from exorbitant increases in rent; vulnerable people trapped in abusive living situations with no way of affording their own place; overcrowded households; exacerbated mental and physical health from housing insecurity; rising displacement, evictions, and homelessness — the skyrocketing cost of rent is wreaking havoc in Connecticut.

This legislative session, our state has the opportunity to correct this alarming housing trend that is impacting millions of working families a year by passing rent stabilization — capping annual rent increases and expanding good-cause eviction protections.

Rent stabilization works.

Research shows that rent caps are effective at increasing housing stability and affordability for current tenants and protecting households from displacement. There are various types of rent stabilization policies across the country, and the advantage of Connecticut implementing it now is that we can learn from the over 200 municipalities and two states with such policies, choosing what has worked best.

A rent cap policy does not tell property owners what to charge, it just stabilizes the rate of increase once initial rent is set. This form of stabilization is an essential step in ensuring that the housing we have stays affordable with reasonable rent increases. It’s very much like a speed limit. Your car is your property, but you have to operate it in a way that doesn’t harm other people in the community.  

Building more housing is not enough — the housing crisis requires a multiplicity of solutions that address short-term and long-term needs. 

New construction is only one part of the answer to our state’s severe housing crisis. The truth is that the market doesn’t create housing that is affordable to all Connecticut residents. Over half of Connecticut renters right now are cost-burdened, meaning they pay over 30% of their income on rent.  While we need to build more housing that is affordable, we know that can take years. Moreover, we need to ensure that housing remains affordable. A statewide rent cap provides immediate relief to renters and ensures that housing we build today remains affordable tomorrow.

An annual rent increase of 2.5% is more than enough to cover the cost of business. 

Annual inflation since 2000 has been below 2.5% — and more than half of most landlords’ costs, such as mortgage, do not rise with inflation, since they’re fixed. Annual increases in median rent in Connecticut over the 2010s, including the years just prior to the pandemic averaged 2.1%. But, since 2020 rents have increased an average of 20% — far more than inflation or rising costs associated with managing housing. During the same period, corporate landlords’ profits mushroomed. This policy is designed to protect Connecticut renters from predatory and corporate landlords who impose egregious rent increases.

Rent caps will not negatively impact responsible landlords. 

Many of our rental homes are operated by our neighbors who take pride in their properties and care for their tenants. This law is designed to protect Connecticut renters from predatory and corporate landlords who rent-gouge. It will not have negative consequences for small landlords who are doing right by their tenants. No matter where they’re from or how many rental homes they manage, all property owners in Connecticut should follow shared, reasonable rules that ensure renters are treated fairly and able to stay in the neighborhoods they love. 

Corporate landlords and investment firms are entering our housing market like never before. These outside interests outbid local and small property owners and then extract wealth from our neighborhoods through outrageous rent increases, further deepening their pockets to buy up more of our housing stock. This vicious cycle started during the foreclosure crisis in 2007-08, and is continuing during the pandemic housing crisis. Rent caps disincentivize this destructive practice by prohibiting speculators from profiteering at the expense of our neighbors — both property owners and renters.

Rent stabilization does not negatively impact the quality and quantity of rental units. 

The most rigorous studies of modern rent stabilization show it does not negatively impact new construction. And rent stabilization will not negatively affect property maintenance, since the proposed cap more than covers the maintenance component of landlord costs. This doesn’t require unlimited profits.  It’s part of the cost of being a landlord, as all responsible landlords recognize.  

Rent stabilization will benefit all of us — but it will particularly address racial disparities. 

Rent stabilization and good-cause eviction protections apply to renters of all incomes. However, because renters are disproportionately working class, Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color, the benefits are particularly important for these households, who are the most susceptible to rent gouging, eviction, and displacement. At the same time, the policy will also protect more affluent tenants from rent gouging. Everyone deserves a stable home, no exceptions.

Being able to live in the same home for many years is a benefit to the whole community.

When rents are stable and predictable, we’re able to plan for our future. We can budget to make sure we’re able to make the rent, while also being able to provide the daily needs for our families. Our kids can attend the same school. We can get to know our neighbors and be involved in our community. We can plant a garden and know we’ll still be in our home to harvest the produce.

Homeowners already have the stability of a steady mortgage payment and freedom from the fear of sudden displacement. Coupled with protections against evictions without good cause, rent stabilization allows us all to enjoy the security of a stable home, today and tomorrow. We all deserve the chance to put down roots in our communities.

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Click above to vote and comment on HB 6588: AN ACT CONCERNING RENT STABILIZATION
Chelsea Connery

Chelsea Connery

Chelsea Connery is a Ph.D. candidate in Leadership & Educational Policy and an organizer with the Cap the Rent campaign.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal is a professor at Wesleyan University where he has taught courses on housing and homelessness, served as provost twice, and was the founding director of the Center for Community Partnerships.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.