Oregon to Become First State to Impose Statewide Rent Control

Click here to view original web page at www.nytimes.com

Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

Oregon is poised to become the first state in the nation to impose statewide limits on how much landlords can raise rents after state lawmakers passed a sweeping measure on Tuesday.

The legislation would generally limit rent increases to 7 percent annually plus the change in the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation. Some smaller and newer apartment buildings would be exempt.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 35 to 25, largely along party lines. It had already been approved by the State Senate, and Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, plans to sign the bill, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The measure’s passage comes as states and cities across the country have struggled to address a growing housing affordability crisis. Rents have risen while wages have stagnated, and the supply of affordable housing has fallen short of need.

In Oregon, median rent has increased by more than 14 percent statewide in recent years. In Portland, the epicenter of the crisis, median rents have risen 30 percent since 2011, adjusted for inflation.

“There is no single solution — not one entity, or one person — that can solve Oregon’s housing crisis,” Governor Brown said in a statement Tuesday. “This new legislation is one of many actions Oregon needs to take to address our housing crisis. While it will provide some immediate relief, we need to focus on building supply in order to address Oregon’s housing challenges for the long term.”

Lisa Morawski, a spokeswoman for Ms. Brown, said Tuesday that a legal team would review the bill before the governor could sign it into law, at which point it would go into effect immediately. Ms. Morawski did not immediately have a timeline for when that would happen.

Three-quarters of the country’s mayors say that a lack of affordable housing is a significant concern, and they are reacting: Boston is proposing steep taxes on developers. Denver is studying proposals to allow more carriage houses — detached separate units on the same lot as a house — which are generally cheaper to build than homes.

Rent control has been a particularly divisive topic. While Oregon’s would be the first statewide rent control measure, many states prohibit their cities from capping rent increases.

Cities like New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco have rent control policies.

But economists tend to agree that rent control makes housing problems worse in the long run.

Some say that by limiting the amount of rent landlords can collect, they will take the properties off the market, limiting the housing supply at a time when there already is a crunch.

“While the intent of rent control laws is to assist lower-income populations, history has shown that rent control exacerbates shortages, makes it harder for apartment owners to make upgrades and disproportionally benefits higher-income households,” Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, which represents the apartment industry, said in a statement Tuesday about the Oregon bill.

Apartment buildings with fewer than five units are exempt from the bill. So are housing complexes that are less than 15 years old. The bill also sharply reduces the circumstances in which tenants can be evicted.