While the balance of power in Congress and notable gubernatorial races were on the minds of many Americans during the 2022 midterm elections, less publicized ballot measures securing rent stabilization and affordable housing also had success last week. According to National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel, dozens of proposals raising money for and authorizing construction of affordable housing passed across the country.
In addition, measures capping rent increases at below inflation levels passed or were leading in five cities:
- Portland, Maine
- Richmond, California
- Santa Monica, California
- Pasadena, California
- Orange County, Florida
The Pasadena measure was leading, but the results were not official as of early Wednesday morning. While the Orange County measure passed overwhelmingly, a court ruling is likely to prevent it from taking effect.
“Housing is a winning campaign issue. It’s one that voters show up for and it’s one that should cause policymakers at all levels to act,” Yentel said. “The act of organizing itself builds strength, it builds power, and it builds connections and it builds momentum.”
Calls for more affordable housing and rent stabilization have been growing as homelessness increases even in places outside urban areas. In addition, teachers, police and other public servants say they cannot afford to live in the places where they work, resulting in nightmare commutes and staffing shortages.
“The market is out of whack, the government needs to step in and regulate it so there can be stability,” Leah Simon-Weisberg, a tenants rights attorney in Berkeley, California, said.
Opponents say rent stabilization increases costs for landlords, the majority of whom are mom-and-pop operations with a handful of units each. They argue restricting rents will spur disinvestment in rental stock and discourage construction of affordable housing.
“Decades of empirical research have shown this policy does not help the underlying cause of the housing shortage that we have now. If anything, it makes the housing challenge more acute,” Ben Harrold, public policy manager at the National Apartment Association, said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.