Tag Archives: Rent control

CA/NY rent control’s “chilling effect” on development | Armonk Real Estate

Equity Group president Sam Zell (Credit: Getty Images, iStock, Equity Apartments)

Equity Group president Sam Zell (Credit: Getty Images, iStock, Equity Apartments)

Sam Zell’s Equity Residential said rent control is having a “chilling effect” on capital going into development.

The real estate investment trust, which owns 80,000 units nationwide, saw its total revenue from rental income and fee and asset management increase to $685 million in the third quarter, from $652 million a year earlier. But on Wednesday’s third-quarter earnings call, executives pointed to how the recent overhaul of rent laws in New York and California were impacting the company’s bottom line.

Equity Residential, which owns 9,600 apartments in New York, said it experienced a 50 basis point drop in renewal increases on rentals in the second half of the year in the state — plus a $400,000 loss in application and late fees.

In June, application fees on rental apartments in New York were capped at $20 dollars for rental apartments. Late fees were also limited to $50 or 5 percent of the rent, whichever is less, and can only be charged after five days of non-payment. Equity Residential has been selling off some of its residential holdings in New York over the last year or so.

Meanwhile, in California, 70 percent of Equity Residential’s 36,805 units will be affected by the state’s new rent control measure, which caps annual rent increases to 5 percent above the consumer price index.

The firm also had stern words for lawmakers who enacted rent control in California and those who tightened regulations in New York, assuring investors that it would not sit idly by while activists continue to push for regulations.

“Through our trade associations, we’ll encourage lawmakers to remove regulatory barriers to new housing construction and incentives to build housing,” said CEO Mark Parrell.

Equity Residential, a member of the California Apartment Association, a real estate trade association that represents large owners and institutional investors, spent $4.3 million to oppose California’s Proposition 10 last year. While the measure was ultimately unsuccessful, the bill’s promoter, Aids Health Foundation CEO Michael Weinstein, is gathering signatures for another similar measure to lift restrictions on rent control.

On the company’s second-quarter earnings call in May, Parrell said, “rent control is a risk, just like climate change, just like the financial strength of the municipality.”

The REIT, a subsidiary of Zell’s Equity Group, has holdings primarily in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, Southern California and Denver.

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Oregon’s new rent control law | Chappaqua Real Estate

Oregon Governor Kate Brown yesterday signed into law a statewide cap on rent increases—the first statewide policy of this kind. The economic rationale is to lessen financial strain on renters, given that housing costs have risen faster than incomes. In many large cities along East and West Coasts, even middle-income families are stretching to pay for good quality housing in desirable neighborhoods. The political motivation behind Oregon’s new law is also clear: Unhappy rentershave emerged as a more vocal constituency across the country, and policymakers in both parties, from Boston to Minneapolis to San Diego, are taking notice.

But Oregon’s new law will not fix the underlying problem of high housing costs, and it could even make matters worse for vulnerable families.


The first affordability problem is that the nation’s poorest 20 percent have too little income to afford minimum quality housing without receiving subsidies. That’s not a failure of housing markets, but a function of the low wages and unstable incomes generated by labor markets. Poor families could be helped by expanding existing programs such as housing vouchers or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to cover more poor households. But to fund those programs, middle- and higher-income households would have to pay more in taxes—which state and federal lawmakers have been reluctant to propose.

The second, more challenging affordability problem is that over the past 40 years, the U.S. hasn’t built enough housing in the locations where people most want to live. Metropolitan areas with strong labor markets and high levels of amenities—including Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., most of coastal California, and the Northeast corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Mass.—have underbuilt housing relative to demand. The same pattern is true for neighborhoods within cities. Affluent residential areas with good public schools, access to jobs and transportation, have effectively shut down new development of anything other than expensive single family homes on large lots.

The only effective long-term fix to the housing scarcity challenge is to build more housing—especially building less expensive housing in cities and neighborhoods where demand is high. This would require substantial changes to local zoning in nearly every U.S. city. But homeowners are a powerful lobby at every level of government, and only a few bold electedofficials have dared to challenge the NIMBYs.


The Oregon law tries to foresee and forestall some ways in which rent control can push landlords and developers into harmful responses. For instance, when landlords cannot raise rents, they often choose to not provide adequate maintenance. The Oregon law allows relatively generous annual rent increases of 7 percent plus inflation to avoid this problem. Although the bill is thoughtfully designed, any such regulations create incentives for developers and landlords to seek out loopholes. Past research shows that property owners in rent controlled cities are more likely to convert apartment buildings into condominiums. A developer considering building an eight-unit apartment building might revise their plans to build only five apartments, just under the cap set by Oregon’s law—thus contributing less new housing overall. Landlords may pre-emptively raise the rent more as they approach the 15 year mark when controls kick in. Even the increased tenant protections could backfire, encouraging landlords to screen out less desirable tenants—including many low-income families with young children.


Rent control is similar to another popular housing policy, inclusionary zoning, in that it tries to push the onus for improving housing affordability onto for-profit developers and landlords. Self-identified progressive homeowners may be willing to support politicians who advocate these policies. But neither rent control nor inclusionary zoning address the underlying causes of housing affordability, and indeed have the potential to discourage new supply and make the problem worse. Politicians need to be honest with their constituents about the cost of better policies as well as the costs of failing to act. Affluent households should pay more taxes to support poor families, and should allow new apartments in their own backyards.

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