Addressing the Housing Crisis on a Statewide Level

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public, Student Contributor

Milwaukee residents know firsthand that many cities in this country are facing an affordable housing crisis. The California legislature has recently taken major steps to address this problem. In addition to providing other protections for tenants, California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 has An apartment building in MIlwaukeelimited annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation for the next decade. This legislation was enacted on January 1, 2020, making California the second state to institute a statewide cap on rent increases.

Whether or not this is the best way to solve the affordable housing crisis is debatable. On the one hand such a restriction seems to oppose free-market ideals by limiting landlords’ incentives to invest in housing. Furthermore, although capping rent increases may provide many people with a relatively expedient solution to unaffordable housing, it does not address all the root-causes of the crisis and may even make the problem worse in the long run. In this regard, the cap may be likened to giving a person a fish rather than teaching the person how to fish.

Nonetheless, affordable housing is a basic issue that requires serious attention, and the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 has many merits. Because the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 does not affect the base rental price that landlords can set, the Act may be seen as a way of protecting tenants from price gouging, rather than a means of determining how landlords price their units. Additionally, this law may be a solution to the affordable housing crisis that does not incur additional costs on the taxpayer.

Regardless of whether this is the best way to address the housing crisis, what is interesting to me about a statewide cap on rent increases is whether this approach will be adopted by other states. California has often served as the breeding ground and testing place for new laws and policies. If this legislation proves successful, other states may adopt similar laws. Wisconsin itself is no stranger to the issue of affordable housing. It will be interesting to see if a similar approach is ever adopted in Wisconsin.

Find the full text of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB1482

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