Rent control — barred in Illinois since the 1997 Rent Control Preemption Act became law — is once again in vogue. Two repeal and replace bills have been proposed in the state legislature, including one that calls for the election of a half-dozen “regional rent control boards” across the state. It’s an understandable but deeply misguided bureaucratic temptation that legislators should resist.
Demands for rent control typically increase when rents spike, which is happening in and around Chicago, where the average apartment rent is now $1,998 — a full 6% higher than a year ago. But good intentions aside, proponents of rent control often overlook the root causes of skyrocketing rents, which generally have more to do with policy failures than a property owner’s unbridled greed.
New York City is a classic example of such policy failures. In the Big Apple, where more than a million housing units are rent-regulated, the perceived need for tenant protection reflects restrictive zoning laws and artificially high labor costs that make it impossible for new development to keep up with demand.
Howard Husock is vice president for research and publications at the Manhattan Institute.
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