Response to New York Times “In Silicon Valley Suburbs, Calls to Limit the Soaring Rents”

Thursday, June 16, 2016
Aimee Inglis
Tenants Together

In the article “In Silicon Valley Suburbs, Calls to Limit the Soaring Rents” the NY Times effectively published California Apartment Association talking points and assumptions without checking the facts.


Here are three of the most inaccurate statements that assume the facts are settled:


  • “Indeed, study after study has shown that while limits on rental increases may have helped a comparative handful of tenants stay in their apartments, they only added to a shortage of affordable housing and did little to stem the tide of higher costs.”
  • “Rent control also comes with unintended consequences. The supply of rental apartments can become tighter as landlords exit the business. The properties that remain can become shabbier as owners stop keeping up with maintenance.”
  •  “Economists have an almost universally dim view of rent control because it does nothing to attack the underlying problem here, which is that more people want to live in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley than there are housing units to put them in.”


Our community of tenants, advocates, and academics disagrees:


  • Rent control has not discouraged the construction of housing in rent-controlled cities. Any correlation between rent control and housing shortages does not equal causation. We realize that building housing and especially affordable housing are key parts of the solution to a housing crisis (see recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies research brief). Rent-control and just cause are tools to prevent displacement of tenants who are already in their homes. For tenants in their homes, they shouldn't be expected to absorb rent increases double and triple the rate of inflation, and fear eviction for arbitrary reasons. With 12 cities with rent control in California, there are more tenants able to afford their homes in California because of rent control, in contrast with voucher programs that have limited funding and limited effectiveness.
  • 1996 study by two University of Louisville sociologists published in The Journal of Urban Affairs examined over 120 cities in New Jersey some with rent control concluding that, “rent control did not impact most measures of cost, quality, and quantity of rental housing.” The study found the one of the benefits of rent control included protecting against “extreme rent increases.” A study in Alberta, Canada in 2013 had similar findings.
  • Economists have not objectively studied rent control as it exists in California. We would be most interested in an objective study not funded by the industry to report on the facts. Also, economists are not the only academics concerned with the economy. Sociologists have made more recent studies of rent control. Search “Stephen Barton rent control” and you will find many city-specific studies in California that have unfortunately not received wide circulation.



We object to the characterization that tenants and advocates are not considering fine policy points for our positions and NY Times deferring to landlord and real-estate lobby groups to frame the nature and solutions to the housing crisis.




Further reading:

  • Alston , Richard M., J R Kearl, and Michael B. Vaughan. 1992. "Is there a consensus among economists in the 1990s?" American Economic Review 82(2): 203-209.
  • Arnott, Richard. 1995. "Time for Revisionism on Rent Control?" The Journal of Economic Perspectives Vol. 9, No.1: 99-120.
  • Forbes, Jim, and Matthew C. Sheridan. 2004. "The Birth of Rent Control in San Francisco." San Francisco Apartment Magazine Online, June.
  • The Harvard Law Review Association. 1988. "Reassessing Rent Control: Its Economic Impact in a Gentrifying Housing Market." Harvard Law Review Vol. 101, No 8: 1835-1855.
  • Zuk, Miriam and Chapple, Karen. “Housing Production, Filtering and Displacement: Untangling the Relationships.”

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