Bianca Flecha with “Cap the Rent” organizer James O’Donnell. Credit: Yash Roy photo

Advocates for legislation that would cap rent increases at 4% plus the rate of inflation are hoping the Housing Committee will forward the bill to the House before its deadline today. However, the bill was not on the agenda Monday, which means the proposal is dead disappointing some lawmakers and hundreds of advocates.

“My main purpose today is to reaffirm in this 2023 session something has to be done about rents because they are really out of control,” Rep. Gerald Reyes, D-Waterbury, said Monday. 

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

However, legislative leaders are looking to instead create a task force to study the issue of affordable housing in Connecticut. 

Advocates gathered Monday for a discussion about rent stabilization pointed to a recent poll that found 72% of Connecticut voters surveyed support a 2.5% rent cap. 

That’s in addition to the hundreds who testified in favor of the measure. 

Chelsea Connery, an organizer with the Cap the Rent campaign, said she was personally pushed out of her home of seven years when the landlord decided to sell it. She said the speculative increases proposed by the new owner were prohibitive and forced her to move. 

She said the process was “disempowering.” 

Bruni Pizzaro, executive director of Junta for Progressive Action, called the situation a “crisis.” 

“Our communities can not wait,” Pizzaro said. 

She said she’s not “anti-landlord, but I’m pro housing rights.”

Heather Wilson, a senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said over the past year rent increases have largely impacted middle income renters. 

Nationally, 70% of landlords are small landlords, but 15% are large institutional investors, who own far more units. 

Connery said in New Haven you might be renting from an LLC, but it’s managed by one of the three big management companies. She said it’s hard to escape that reality. 

“There’s not the power and balance,” Connery said. 

She said those landlords have the upper hand and there’s no freedom of contract. 

Landlords argue that rent control restrictions will only worsen Connecticut’s affordable housing crisis as property owners will increasingly leave the residential rental market if they are unable to recoup their own costs.

“Without the ability to increase rents to keep up with rising costs landlords have little incentive to improve the property, and builders are discouraged from creating new housing stock,” John Souza, president of the Connecticut Coalition of Property Owners, wrote.

Only two states, California and Oregon, have statewide rent control policies on the books. Both were passed in 2019. 

California caps rent controls limits at either 5% plus CPI or 10% of the lowest rent charge any time during the 12 months prior to rental increase (whichever is lower).

Oregon combines CPI with a flat increase at 7% when calculating statewide rent caps. In 2022 property providers could raise rents a total of 9.9%. 

Rep. Hilda Santiago, D-Meriden, said she doesn’t believe the rent cap legislation will pass. 

“Because we do have many people who don’t believe in the legislation,” Santiago said Monday. “And we have people on our side who come from conservative towns, moderate towns, and they might not vote on it.” 

In general, those who support rent stabilization don’t think a task force is necessary. Landlords and other organizations who opposed the idea because of the impact it could have on the market largely support the study. 

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The Connecticut Home Builders and Remodelers Association said these task forces created by the bill that is on the agenda today will afford the legislature a better understanding of factors to consider such as how rent caps may impact finance industry norms, constrict lending, and require greater amounts of equity from borrower causing many development projects with affordable components to not pencil out.