House bill would give way to rent control in Illinois

House bill would give way to rent control in Illinois

Illinois has prohibited local rent control ordinances since 1997. A bill in the Illinois House would establish six regional rent control bureaucracies across the state.

A bill in the Illinois House of Representatives would reverse the state’s decades-long ban on rent control and create a new state bureaucracy to dictate rent rates.

Many policymakers recognize rent control plays well politically, but evidence points to harsh and unintended consequences.

House Bill 2192 would repeal the Rent Control Preemption Act, which outlawed local rent control ordinances in 1997, and replace it with the Rent Control Act, creating a patchwork of regulatory bodies that would regulate rent control regionally across the state.

Six rent control boards, each composed of seven elected members, would oversee and enforce rent control regulations within jurisdictions, divided between six areas of the state. The regions would roughly cover Cook County and the collar counties, northern Illinois, east central, west central, southwestern and southern Illinois.

In August 2018, then-candidate J.B. Pritzker expressed support for repealing the state’s rent control ban. If Pritzker signed HB 2192 into law, Illinois would be one of just six states with a statewide rent control law.

Like other measures pushed by the General Assembly this year, rent control often harms those it’s intended to help. The National Bureau for Economic Research most recently showed this in a 2018 working paper, which found rent control in fact limits access to affordable rental housing.

The likelihood that a renter will leave his or her address decreases by 20 percent when a unit is rent controlled, the paper found, and the overall supply of those units decreases by 15 percent. In other words, while those who already inhabit rent-controlled units may benefit, options for those in search of affordable housing diminish. Moreover, the decrease in supply of housing that occurs in rent-controlled districts causes a spike in rents in neighboring areas, further disadvantaging vulnerable community members. The study found rent control causes a 5 percent spike in rents citywide.

The most notable examples of rent control failures are in New York City and San Francisco.

Illinois rent control advocates often highlight rising rents in some Chicago neighborhoods as the primary reason to enact rent control. While housing affordability is a real concern, capping rent increases rather than targeting the cause only creates new problems. Lawmakers must address residents’ daunting property taxes and restrictive zoning laws, both of which exacerbate housing costs. The control Chicago aldermen exercise over the zoning in their wards through “aldermanic privilege” make the city a national outlier.

Rent control’s unintended consequences often far outweigh its limited benefits. While the intentions behind rent control are usually good, the outcomes are the opposite.

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