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Collaboration, not rent control, best way to address affordable housing issues

“It’s not that simple.” We’ve all heard that response when discussing what turns out to be a simplistic yet ineffective way to address a complicated problem.

Many government-driven efforts to address affordable housing issues fall into this category.

While they may be well-intentioned, overly simplistic ideas like rent control and other forms of governmental regulation going in that direction don’t solve the problem they’re trying to prevent. In fact, when it comes to rent control regulations, such efforts can be counterproductive.

Consider the recent comments from Greg Brown, senior vice president for government affairs for the National Apartment Association. As he said during an industry panel discussion that was summarized in an Oct. 30 article in the industry media outlet GlobeSt.com, “Rent control is a failed policy.”

Brown discussed rent control regulations, such as those enacted in California, which recently passed a statewide rent control measure, purportedly to address the very real affordable housing challenges facing that state.

“Forty years of research has proven that rent control is the wrong answer,” he said. “It is a failed policy. Full stop.”

As the GlobeSt.com story pointed out, state and local lawmakers around the country – including in Washington, Minnesota and even in traditionally conservative Arizona – have been advocating for some form of rent control.

Such measures were briefly discussed in the 2019 session of the Nevada Legislature, though they thankfully didn’t get very far – at least not this time. If successful, they would join California, New York and Oregon in enacting such misguided policies.

Instead of trying to cap or control rents, policymakers should work with those of us in the community and in the housing industry to come up with more productive ways to keep the supply and cost of housing in Nevada more available and affordable.

For starters, we should be working together to do all we can to increase the supply of housing, from apartments to homes. Streamlining the ever-increasing amount of government regulation affecting our industry would also help, since every new regulation and requirement eventually increases housing costs.

For example, our members of the Nevada State Apartment Association are eager to continue working with Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, who is taking such a collaborative approach in launching her recent initiative aimed at incentivizing local developers to start building at least 1,000 new homes in Reno in 120 days.

To encourage developers to build more housing in the rapidly growing Reno area, she proposed a plan that defers many of the fees collected by the city — such as sewer, road and other infrastructure impact fees — to the back end of the development process.

Such measures are a good start and a step in the right direction.

They are a far better approach than some form of rent control, which is inherently counterproductive since it discourages developers from building more apartments and homes in places that put arbitrary restrictions on what they can charge residents.

Susy Vasquez is the executive director of the Nevada State Apartment Association. The nonprofit organization provides a variety of services to its 894 community, property management and business partner members statewide, including legislative support, education and community outreach. NVSAA is committed to promoting and supporting the diversity, integrity and success of its members and their industry. For more information, visit NVSAA.org.

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