Understanding Rent Control Politics

U District used to host lots of low-rent apartments, but rents have steadily climbed in the last decade. (Credit: Doug Trumm)

“If Sawant’s rent control bill went into effect, my apartment would get turned into a condo and I’d lose my place to live.”

“Developers won’t be able to make a profit so it will destroy new home construction.”

Those aren’t exact quotes, but I think it represents the tenor of some of the conversation around rent control without having to single anyone out. I’ve been reading reactions from folks in the urbanist-ish community locally to Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s rent control push, especially as her “opening” policy has finally been released. I’m concerned that as folks rush to analyze the policy they are forgetting the importance of politics. More importantly they are forgetting this is about people and emotions.

Let me take you back to another case where some members of Seattle’s community forgot about people and politics when reacting to a proposed policy change.

Similarities with Fight for 15

During Seattle’s “Fight for 15”, I remember folks being extremely critical of Sawant’s “radical” position. If you recall, she initially pushed to pass an immediate $15/hour wage for all employees of large businesses, only a three year phase in for small businesses and no tip or health care credits. What actually took effect was a pretty gradual phase-in. After four years of phase-in, workers for small businesses still haven’t reached $15/hour (if they’re a tipped worker or their employer contributes to  healthcare). Workers at larger businesses only got to $15 last year! Because of the four-year delay, that $15 is also only $14 in 2015 dollars. In practice, a lot of small businesses have had to voluntarily match the large business mandated hourly rate to compete for labor.

Despite nearly apocalyptic predictions from many quarters, the local economy hasn’t fallen apart. Sawant got a lot of criticism for being “unrealistic”, but if she had been “realistic” and opened with a more gradual policy, what would have actually passed? Would we have a $15 wage or $12? Would we entirely have exempted “small” businesses from the higher wage? Would employers always be able to pay workers less if they contributed to health care or the worker was tipped?

But let me take you back to my personal emotion at the time because this is actually about emotions. At the time, I was working as a developer at Amazon, so I was in no way affected by a minimum wage change, nor was I worried restaurants or other businesses would get too expensive for me. But I had worked minimum wage jobs, especially in college and high school. Even at my jobs that weren’t technically minimum wage, my pay was set as a certain amount over the minimum wage. When Fight for 15 showed up, I was definitely in support. From a policy perspective, it was a no-brainer–an inflation adjusted minimum wage from the 50s and 60s would mean a $20 hourly wage–but also from a personal belief that people who work should be paid what it takes to live.

Sawant with Fight for 15 supporters after successful passage out of committee in 2014. (Credit: Office of Councilmember Sawant)

Of course, not everyone thought this. A lot of people focused on the dire predictions about how it would destroy the local economy. Many business owners said they’d have to decrease hours or let go of workers or raise prices (gasp!).

While I could acknowledge intellectually that those reactions were understandable, even if I disagreed with their predictions, what I heard them saying was:

  • My theoretical future business profits are more important than people’s pain now.
  • Families having stable and livable incomes is less important than my costs to operate not rising.
  • My business isn’t actually profitable unless people are willing to work for unlivable low wages.
  • I have a right to low business costs but people don’t have a right to live.

I know those read harsh and that no doubt most folks (then and now!) would deny that’s what they meant. But that is how I took a lot of public business owners’ statements at the time. There are still businesses I avoid because their owner said something that angered me during the $15/hour fight. Some of them have subsequently made statements that repair some of that, but most haven’t.

The problem for me is that when those folks, many of whom self-identify as “liberal” or “progressive,” saw a proposed change to improve the lives of actual people, their concerns were immediately about themselves and their status. Even though they were far better off than the workers getting $9.47 an hour or less than $20,000 a year full time (by comparison, the average new rental lease in 2014 was about $1,200 in Seattle). They often hid their focus on their own benefit with concern for workers–“might have to let people go”–but ultimately they were saying that their current business was unsustainable if they couldn’t continue to pay a sub-living wage.

Rent control politics

Why does this old fight matter now? Because I see that pattern repeating with rent control–only this time it’s not just business owners opposed. It’s many of us policy wonks and “urbanists,” many of whom are doing relatively well. Many folks seem to be unaware (or choose to forget) that Sawant’s opening play is always far more than she knows will ever pass. Given my admittedly shallow knowledge of state rent control law, I don’t think there is any policy we could pass in Seattle that won’t face an immediate legal challenge. So Sawant might as well go big since whatever actually takes effect (possibly years from now) will be watered down.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant rolls out her rent control proposal at Seattle City Hall on September 23rd. (Credit: City of Seattle)

The point of the push now isn’t to have a workable final policy. The point is to get people thinking about and supporting what is right. And while I might disagree on how to get there, her position that a person’s housing costs shouldn’t go up more than about inflation is just. That’s what I have with a 30-year mortgage on a house. People who rent should have the same stability.

Another problem with the way we’re talking about this issue is that by focusing on the policy and nitpicking whether it’s “workable,” we are largely focusing on predicted harm and impact on those who are most powerful and wealthy, not those currently being harmed by rent hikes and economic evictions. Given that this policy will change, when we focus on its hypothetical harm of it, we give the impression that we care more about landlords and developers being able to “make a profit” by raising people’s rent by 10%, 20%, and even 50% a year. I don’t care if they can’t “make a profit” if they can’t do that. They don’t have a right to make a profit by destroying people’s lives.

Being forced to move quickly, often due to unsustainable rent increases, sidetracks people’s lives. Kids are forced to change schools mid-year. Parents are forced into longer commutes. Families are made homeless. Economic instability can ultimately kill either indirectly from stress-related health impacts over time or even directly when a stressed and depressed person tragically decides killing themselves or a partner is the only way out.

Sorry to be a downer. But that is what we’re not focusing on when we get all nitpicky about a policy that everyone knows is not the last word but merely an opening negotiating point. To someone who has been forced out of home after home, that is willing to take all kinds of crap from their landlord to make sure they don’t get kicked out, to someone working a job they hate because they can’t really risk losing it and their home … we look uncaring. Those people are hurting now. Many have been hurting for a long time. When we focus only on how landlords won’t be able to turn a profit with the proposed policy or developers won’t want to build housing, we’re saying to all those folks willing to show up to Sawant’s hearing this week: your pain is not important.

Now is the time for folks to support some kind of policy that makes it possible for folks making $30,000 per year and $60,000 per year to live in the city. There aren’t a lot of folks pushing much in this area and I appreciate Sawant starting with something when no one else is. We need to show that we really believe everyone has a right to live in the city, not just the people who can bounce back from 10% rent increases year after year. We need to care more about people than entrenched systems – that we can change.

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Rachael Ludwick (Guest Contributor)

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Howard Metzenberg

What many discussions of rent control miss about investment in rental housing is that if investors have “rational expectations” about the effect of present and future regulation, then possible future changes in the law are already priced into the market, and thus are already having an effect on investment in new housing.

Rational expectations is a technical term from economic theory, and the current Wikipedia article provides an excellent and readable summary:


Washington’s statewide prohibition on rent control actually attracts investment in housing! End the statewide ban, and investors with rational expectations will stop investing in Seattle housing, and invest elsewhere.

“Now is the time for folks to support some kind of policy that makes it possible for folks making $30,000 per year and $60,000 per year to live in the city.”

This is really well said and the key point. Sawant’s proposal is insufficient not for technical reasons but rather because it doesn’t solve this problem. And the thing is, we know how to solve this problem. The solution for families making $60,000 is called a “triplex.” Median rent in Seattle triplexes is $1,500, bang-on the recommended 30% of income. Unfortunately we them illegal to build most everywhere by 1957, so we’re short hundreds or thousands of older ones. The solution for individuals making $30,000 are called “microaprtments.” And there are listings today for $750/month, bang-on the 30% of income recommended standard. Unfortunately the City Council regulated them out of feasibility a few years ago.

Fixing this gets at the heart of a right to live in the city.


I prefer to assume the best intentions, even of my opponents. So I assume a business owner is worried about having to lay people off, or worse, going out of business and firing everyone. Rent control opponents or “nit pickers” may actually be just as worried about affordable housing, but they believe rent control could result in less housing. If you assume the best, people may actually be willing to listen to your arguments and work with you. Calling them uncaring probably won’t help.


Hate to be a “smart boy urbanist” but I disagree. We need more homes, and RC will kill any desire to build more by focusing activist efforts on more RC rather than things that actually work.

Michael Goldman

Here’s the conclusion of Sims, 2007 about the effect of rent control on housing construction, the only empirically robust study on the the subject I’m aware of:

“The results suggest that eliminating rent control has little effect on increasing construction in the years immediately following the law change”

Eric Fischer also looked at the effect of rent control on rental prices in San Francisco and found no relationship but I wouldn’t call his study empirically robust (and it doesn’t directly address the issue with new construction you raise).

Let me know if you have heard of any empirical study to back up your claim.



From a January 2019 report by the Urban Institute (https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/99646/rent_control._what_does_the_research_tell_us_about_the_effectiveness_of_local_action_1.pdf):

One study finds 5.1 percent increase in San Francsico: “Although rent control has generally been found to have positive effects for residents in controlled units, these benefits may be offset by negative effects on the uncontrolled sector, which may see increased rents caused by constrained supply. Empirical work has found this effect at work in some locales with rent control. Diamond, McQuade, and Qian (2018) find that San Francisco’s 1994 rent control law was directly responsible for a 5.1 percent citywide rent increase from 1995 to 2012, adding up to an extra $2.9 billion cost shared by current and future San Francisco renters.”

Other studies find some evidence of decrease: “[T]wo studies of a 1994 decontrol initiative in Cambridge, MA, find that rent control actually reduced rents in the uncontrolled sector (Autor, Palmer, and Pathak 2014; Sims 2007).”

And rent control may reduce incentives for upkeep: “In addition to the Cambridge studies discussed (Autor, Palmer, and Pathak 2014; Sims 2007), others have found evidence that rent control discourages landlords from maintaining the quality of their units (Arnott and Shevyakhova 2014; Gyourko and Linneman 1989).”

Howard Metzenberg

There is a more recent empirical study of the decontrol of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, housing market. Unlike the article by Sims, it is not behind a paywall.

“Housing Market Spillovers: Evidence from the End of Rent Control in Cambridge,
Massachusetts,” by David H. Autor, Christopher J. Palmer, and Parag A. Pathak.
Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 122, No. 3 (June 2014), pp. 661-717. Read it for free on this page at the MIT Economics Department website: https://economics.mit.edu/files/9774

Rent control in Cambridge before 1995 actually applied to a limited set of properties built before 1969. Cambridge had both a regulated and an unregulated market, and it was located near adjoining cities with unregulated housing. Thus, decontrol in Cambridge was an opportunity to test the effects of rent control on capitalization (that is, the value of the overall stock of rental housing, including both controlled and uncontrolled units).

After rent control ended in Cambridge, there was a dramatic increase in investment in housing in Cambridge, and a corresponding rise in the number of units available. The authors find that most of the effects of ending rent control were actually indirect, the result of gentrification (a word that they don’t actually use in an academic paper, of course).

The model they specify simultaneously estimates the effect of rent control on investment in both sectors of the rental housing market, and it includes estimation of spending on maintenance in both controlled and uncontrolled locations. The authors note that “since neighborhood amenities are a function of the maintenance of all units in a neighborhood and the income of residents, the supply of amenities at noncontrolled locations in neighborhoods with rent controls—as well as maintenance and rents—is also impaired by rent control. This causes lower-income residents to move into noncontrolled locations. Hence, imposition of rent control causes inefficiently low maintenance and misallocation of residents at both controlled and noncontrolled locations within a neighborhood.”

To quote the authors: “When rent control ends, there is a direct price effect due to the formerly controlled location being priced by the market. However, there is also an indirect effect as neighborhood amenities improve as a result of increases in maintenance and the income of residents, leading to higher prices.”

To put the conclusions of the paper in my own words, rent control ended in 1995, at a time when there was robust appreciation of housing prices nationwide and in surrounding communities. The end of rent control changed the entire character of the Cambridge market, and only a minor part is attributable directly to the welfare transfer between landlords and tenants caused by rent control regulations.

Howard Metzenberg

Michael, your quotation from Sims [2007] appears to be taken out of context. I did not retrieve the article itself, which is available only behind a paywall and is expensive to access, but other articles that refer to Sims [2007] draw very different conclusions from the paper.

Here is what Rebecca Diamond, Tim McQuade, and Franklin Qian write about the paper in a working paper [2019] that is posted on the Stanford University Department of Economics website (https://web.stanford.edu/~diamondr/DMQ.pdf):

“Sims (2007) uses American Housing Survey (AHS) data to show that towns in the Boston metropolitan area in which rent control was abolished saw increases in rental supply and increased housing maintenance. Sims (2007) also shows some evidence of spillover effects on non-controlled properties.”

Here is what Lisa Sturtevant writes in a 2018 position paper about Sims [2007] in what is admittedly a position paper that she authored for a Washington, DC based real estate lobbying organization (https://lsaplanning.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ImpactsofRentControl.pdf):

“Sims (2007) found that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, lower-income households were not well served by rent control programs. Specifically, he found that about a quarter (26 percent) of rent-controlled units were occupied by tenants with incomes in the bottom quartile while 30 percent of rent-controlled units were occupied by tenants in the top half of the income distribution.”

Later, in a section about maintenance, Sturtevant writes:

“Rent control was ended in Massachusetts in 1995, and the termination of rent control laws in cities in the Boston metropolitan area provided a type of natural experiment to examine the impacts of rent control. While Sims (2007) primarily focused on impacts of rent control on housing supply, the findings from this research also suggested that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, rent control in Boston was associated with modest deterioration in the quality of the rental housing stock without a counteracting tenant supplied maintenance and upkeep.

Michael Goldman

You’ll notice that Sims, 2007 even repeats the body quote I used in the abstract so you can tell it wasn’t taken out of context. Instead, it was emphasized. The abstract is available freely but I’ll quote it here, “My results suggest rent control had little effect on the construction of new housing but did encourage owners to shift units away from rental status and reduced rents substantially.”

The increase in rental supply cited by Diamond, et al., 2019 is not the same as housing construction and actually is in agreement with what Sims, 2017 states in the abstract: rent control did not depress construction, some owner-occupied units were converted to rental following decontrol. Diamond, et al. leave out the part about no impact on housing construction, which looks to me like taking that finding out of context.

And it is the suppression of construction from rent control that Anderson, above, and many others, too, cite as the reason to not support rent control.

Michael Goldman

Sorry, Sims, *2007*, not 2017

Howard Metzenberg

You have taken one sentence out of context from the middle of a paragraph and claimed that it is the conclusion of Mr. Sim’s article. I’m not sure what you are trying to prove, but you are misrepresenting the author’s conclusions.

Michael Goldman

Why do you keep saying I take it out of context? The part I quote is repeated in the abstract. The author wanted to emphasize that part. Rent control has no impact on housing construction is one of the main findings of Sims, 2007.

Howard Metzenberg

You are trying to bluff about “empirical studies” of rent control and what they actually say. Quoting one sentence out of context is exactly what you have done.

Here is the conclusion of the article itself, from the Journal of Urban Economics. (I purchased access and read the article. I claim Fair Use of Copyright in quoting it here.) This is the “Conclusion” from page 150 of Sims’ 2007 article in the print edition, for which a full citation is given above:

“The sudden end of rent control in Massachusetts in 1995 provides a natural experiment to study the effects of rent control. My results indicate that the intuition presented in simple microeconomic models is correct. Rent control decreases the quantity of rental units supplied, as well as rent and unit maintenance. It also lengthens renter stays. In addition, some evidence suggests that rent control produces small spillover effects that decrease the rent of uncontrolled units in controlled areas.

“Further work could examine longer term impacts of ending rent control as well as investigate the distribution of the surplus shifted by controls. If much of the benefit accrues to white upper income households, rent control may prove to be an ineffective transfer program as well as an inefficient one. Researchers might also focus on investigation of spillover effects from rent control policies and whether they are the result of lower maintenance levels in rent controlled areas.”

Could it possibly be more clear that Sims (2007) finds in favor of the predictions made by traditional economic models of rent control?

Michael Goldman

I see the confusion.

I think you may not have read my response very closely. If you had you would know that I make the point of distinguishing between *loss of rental units to owner-occupied units* and *suppression of new residential construction*. So does Sims.

It’s all right there in the abstract (and free!) which I keep citing but will once more: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0094119006000635

Howard Metzenberg

I’ve read your response to Anderson very closely. You are splitting hairs, and your claim that this one sentence is the “conclusion” of the paper suggests you read only the abstract, not the paper itself.

You were trying to bluff readers here (in response to Anderson) that his response somehow wasn’t supported by research or, as you wrote, “Let me know if you have heard of any empirical study to back up your claim.” You’ve been fact checked now. The Sims article clearly backs Anderson’s response.

Michael Goldman

Howard, it’s really simple. Let me lay it out for you one more time.

(I put **stars** around the relevant parts so it’s really easy for you to spot the contradiction)

Andersen: “We need more homes, and **RC will kill any desire to build more**”

Me: “Here’s the conclusion of Sims, 2007 about the effect of rent control on housing construction, the only empirically robust study on the the subject I’m aware of:

“The **results suggest that eliminating rent control has little effect on increasing construction** in the years immediately following the law change””

Howard: You’re taking it out of context. But I haven’t read the article. Here’s a bunch of articles that don’t address the issue of “desire to build more” originally raised.

Me: Read the abstract. It’s in the abstract too. I’m not taking it out of context. Here’s the abstract “My results suggest **rent control had little effect on the construction** of new housing but did encourage owners to shift units away from rental status and reduced rents substantially.”

You: [after wasting $36] I sPeNT $36 tO rEaD tHe StUdy because I can’t read the abstract (I guess?). See this part in the conclusion doesn’t say anything about new construction.

Me: Read the abstract, Howard. That’s where the most important findings go. The ones that get quoted in the media. You’ll see it’s entirely consistent with what I said. You’ll see it contradicts what Andersen and you have said. I wasn’t hiding anything. It was free all along. You didn’t need to waste your money chasing a point that had long escaped you.

Howard Metzenberg

It’s really simple, Michael. You are bluffing. You didn’t read the article itself, which is nothing but a case study of one city with little general relevance to other cities under different regulatory regimes, except that it shows how the conventional model of rent control in economics textbooks applies to Cambridge just as well as it does to every other rental market that has been studied. Rent control is safe subject for a young professor at a private religious university (BYU) in a conservative state who needs to get tenure (David Sims).

I’ll grant you that it’s a badly written abstract, which doesn’t really summarize the underlying research. The Journal of Urban Economics is, in any case, one of those minor journals where minor research goes to wither and be forgotten.

By contrast, the Journal of Political Economy is one of the oldest and most prestigious journals in the field of economics, and the Autor, Palmer, and Pathak paper of 2014 is really the major empirical study of rent controlled housing markets in this decade. Sims was a student of Autor at MIT.

Michael Goldman

Let me try this another way:

What do you think Sims, 2007 says about the effect of rent control on housing construction?

What do you think Diamond, et al., 2019 (which you cite above) say about the effect of rent control on housing construction?

P.S. I did read Sims, 2007. How do you think I was able to quote from the body?

Howard Metzenberg

You asked me two questions. Here goes:

Q: What do you think Sims, 2007 says about the effect of rent control on housing construction?

A: Nothing that applies in general. Sims is an empirical case study about what happened in one market (Cambridge, MA in 1995), linked to nearby markets, where only some older units were regulated, after rents were suddenly deregulated. You are quoting Sims out of context.

Q: What do you think Diamond, et al., 2019 (which you cite above) say about the effect of rent control on housing construction?

A: Nothing at all. Diamond (which I have read in the “working paper” format distributed by NBER* in 2018, and still available online, but not in the final published version in newest issue of American Economic Review) is an empirical case study about what happened in one market (San Francisco, in 1994) when existing rent control was extended by referendum to cover a new group of landlords and tenants in smaller buildings (1-4 units) that had previously not be regulated.

Diamond et al. do not even address the issue of new construction … in the jargon of economics, the supply of housing itself is exogenous in their model (meaning, determined outside the model). And that pretty much is how things work in San Francisco, where there is almost no new construction for market-rate rentals.

*NBER = a private, non-profit organization, the National Bureau of Economic Research, which makes research in progress in economics available freely, and also collects national income data. Many economics papers circulate freely as NBER discussion papers, often for years, before they are published in final form.

Michael Goldman

Why ignore the finding Sims, 2007 makes about rent control and housing construction?

Of course it doesn’t make a general finding. It’s an empirical study which means it has to look at real world effects and rent control laws in this country are local… or at the state level in the case of Sims study.

You keep saying I’m taking it out of context. I’m not because the abstract provides plenty of context and I’ve given that since the beginning. But I’m not sure what kind of context you want. (Except, maybe, to ignore the finding altogether because you find it inconvenient.)

Since you have the full paper you can just as easily give the context you want to his finding about rent control’s effect on housing construction.


Rachel, thanks for this. I think this gets at the basic sense of justice of it all very well. I agree the goal of Sawant’s policy accords very nicely with an outcome that seems clearly in line with justice in a very basic way. (Which isn’t to say it’s going to get us there, but that’s a different question).

What I find striking here is the degree to which you gloss over the rather crucial difference between RC and 15, which that we obviously need the state legislature to act for RC, and the state leg was a non-entity in the minimum wage fight. This difference is important, because the “why not lead with a big ask when you’re going to have to compromise to get anything passed” makes a lot more sense for the minimum wage, where you’re negotiating with 8 other CMs and a mayor and, indirectly, the interests they represent, than it does for RC, where you first have to convince at least 40% of the non-Seattle representing legislature to allow you to do anything at all.

In this case, the Sawant can hypothetically completely win over the council and mayor and all the Seattle-based reps and get absolutely nowhere without winning these people over to your cause. It seems to me there’s a very good case Sawant’s opening bid makes state legislation less likely, because the kind of nervous centrists who represent 70-80% homeowners in the suburbs who are probably going to be neutral-to-negative on the rent control question will be turned off by the perception of the threat of disruptive radicalism in Seattle. (If they conclude this would disrupt building in Seattle, that gives them a concrete, district-based reason to vote no–more pressure on their own limited housing supply.)

In light of the state leg dynamic, there’s a decent case to be made that Sawant just set back the cause of rent control, while appearing to take a firm stand for a policy that on paper would help people right now, but given the political reality *in Olympia* (where a very different electoral calculus will guide lawmakers than in Seattle), in order to try to win re-election. As long as rent control keeps not happening for reasons beyond her control, it’s a great issue for her in a cynical electoral sense.

IMO she played the fight for 15 brilliantly, which leads me to believe she understands all this perfectly well. What we’ve seen in the last week is that she’s willing to potentially harm a cause she ostensibly cares about to try to get re-elected. The political dynamic of extreme position-taking is radically different in a two-level game like this, compared to 15. The points of similarity you identify are in many ways real, but disregarding the way this difference changes the dynamic is a serious oversight that renders your assessment of the political gamesmanship here at best incomplete.


This take genuinely confuses me. The Legislature has been sitting on their rent control ban for the last forty years, and even with unified control of government, the Democrats have been unable to get a repeal bill out of committee. Passing a strong rent control bill in Seattle, effective on the date of repeal in the Legislature, would put an actual policy on the table and force the Seattle representatives to have that conversation.

From my perspective, Sawant understands that what matters less is handwringing about the urban/suburban divide, and what matters more is building mass movements of working people that demand the change they need. The initiative to raise the state minimum wage was a direct result of the 15 Now fight in Seattle, and rent control can be won similarly. She proudly uses her election campaigns to help win gains for working class people, and she has always meant what she says, so the charge of cynical electioneering doesn’t pass muster.


“Passing a strong rent control bill in Seattle, effective on the date of repeal in the Legislature, would put an actual policy on the table and force the Seattle representatives to have that conversation.”

This view requires one to be willfully obtuse about who, exactly, you need votes from, and the kind of calculus they’re likely to engage in. This imagined mass movement won’t do much for legislators whose constituents are 70-80% homeowners, whose potential financial interest this directly threatens. The Dem legislative caucus (much more so than in Oregon and California) still relies on suburban moderates who tend to be quite skeptical of stuff like this. Enabling what they’ll perceive as “Seattle radicalism” that may effect their housing markets. Sawant’s bill is an excuse to leave any repeal languishing in committee.

I don’t understand how can watch the state legislature over the last several decades, and come to the conclusion that “Seattle wants to do something big, bold, and controversial–surely that will make the state legislature more likely to pass a law to allow them to do it.” That flies against a persistent dynamic in state politics.

If the goal is to get the state leg to pass a weaker anti-gauging bill like Oregon passed state-wide, this might be a good tactic. (Macri and other Seattle area legislators are basically saying this.) If the goal is to empower Seattle to do whatever it wants this probably works in the other direction.

Howard Metzenberg

Oregon’s law isn’t really rent control, but rather rent stabilization. It doesn’t attempt to hold rents below market in the long run, although that could be an unintended consequence. It may still need some safeguards for both parties.

A better rent stabilization regime would give tenants a right to refuse a rent increase larger than a specified cap (7% or even 10%) for a specified period of time (6 months or a year) while seeking new housing. This would address the imbalance and asymmetry in negotiations between landlord and tenant on renewal of a lease, while providing better stability for tenants.

Washington legislators would do well to get avoid a zero sum game and find solutions that benefit both parties. For example, underwriting insurance of rental contracts could help landlords take on risky tenants while helping tenants who lack solid credit histories find better housing opportunities.