Guest opinion: Kel Darnell: Rent control is not the solution to Boulder’s housing woes
By Kel Darnell
We all want Boulderites to be able to afford clean, safe housing with great amenities in close proximity to their places of work. Data from economic studies prove that rent control is not the solution to achieve this goal. In fact, it can move us away from being able to provide attainable, quality units in the local market and can push smaller landlords out of our community.
With the high demand for housing in Boulder and the extreme prices of homes, rental housing is often the only viable housing option in our area. As the demand for Colorado living has increased over the years, we have seen a huge influx in renters coming from out of state and neighboring metro areas seeking asylum in our enviable foothills. Our state’s housing crisis may seem unruly now, but with the current legislative proposal pointing to rent control, the worst is yet to come.
The assumption that high rental rates are caused by a lack of government regulation leads to misguided solutions, like the Legislature’s new proposed House Bill 23-1115. By feeding the misconception that rent control solves high rental prices, we are only getting farther and farther from real solutions. If passed, HB23-1115 would allow local governments to enact rent control in their communities in order to control housing costs. The unfortunate reality is that this bill will only hurt the people it is intended to help. To solve our affordable housing crisis, we need to inject more supply into the market.
Boulder has a consistent need for more rental housing units, with high demand year after year because of the constant influx of college students on CU Boulder’s growing campus. Our rental housing residents tend to move often and want well-maintained rental units. Rent control is a proven way to decrease the number of available housing units. In markets where rent control is implemented, the quality of the rental units decreases dramatically as landlords can no longer raise rent enough to cover expenses that are required to maintain the units, especially in an inflationary environment. Many of our housing providers in Boulder are small operators who run their businesses on a very tight margin. Restricting their income without any redress for increased costs and inflation puts stress on their budgets which could force them to sell, putting even further strain on our rental housing market. In short, rent control is likely to take away from the necessary, quality supply that we already have and reduce the number of small landlords because they will no longer be able to operate under these conditions.
There have been numerous economic studies providing data about the damaging effects of rent control. Stanford University conducted a compelling study on the effects of rent control on the residents of San Francisco. Evidence reflected first and foremost a decrease in housing supplies by 15% upon initial implementation, followed by an increase in rental rates. Renter’s mobility also dropped by over 20%, meaning renters were clinging to any housing they could get their hands on — in this case, having the opposite effect on housing supply — sustaining those already with housing and shutting out those without housing.
As housing providers, we fear the enactment of rent control by our local governments. This policy is not the sound legislation that it is being presented as. In Colorado, we need incentives for more housing supply and relief for those seeing hardships. For more information on rent control and its impact please go to www.barhaonline.org.
Kel Darnell is the board president of the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association.