Arizona experts weigh in on rent control alternatives

Mar 10, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 8:44 am

(Photo by Steve Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)...

(Photo by Steve Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

(Photo by Steve Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — You’ve probably heard of rent control, which puts a ceiling on how much the price can be increased. It’s an idea that may be on the minds of some Arizonans with the cost of rent rising so sharply over the past few years.

Rent control isn’t found here in Arizona, though, and there’s a legal reason for it.

“The state preempts local rent control and stabilization measures,” Allison Cook-Davis with ASU’s Morrison Institute said.

Even if local municipalities wanted to implement rent control policies to provide security to renters, they’re prohibited from doing so. That old decision by the state legislature came down to the rights of property owners.

“They don’t want to see that kind of control over private enterprises,” ASU real estate Professor Mark Stapp said. “I know there are people who believe that’s a bad policy because of the rapid increase in rents that we’ve seen.”

There are other ways to help out struggling renters that don’t put the burden on landlords.

“The expansion of the federal low-income housing tax credit is important,” Stapp said. “There’s also home funds and CDBG funds and other things.”

ASU’s Morrison Institute also took a look at some alternatives to rent control that could work within Arizona’s laws.

“Alternatives might look like rent subsidies or tax credits for renters,” Cook-Davis suggests. “Or incentives for landlords like a reduction in property taxes to maintain the affordability of their units.”

All of these alternatives would avoid one negative side effect of rent control.

“In some cases, [rent control] has been shown to decrease the rental housing supply,” Cook-Davis said.

Supply can be decreased because owners decide to sell the units instead of renting them at a lower rate. The Morrison Institute’s report found rent control policies in San Francisco led to a decrease in rental supply, which led to all rents rising because of increased demand.

Stapp said regardless of how it’s done, addressing housing costs and making sure people can afford to live in Arizona is necessary for the state to grow and thrive.

“We have to focus on creating a highly desirable, resilient, sustainable place,” he said.

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Arizona experts weigh in on rent control alternatives