In response to Joel Bamford’s letter “Rent control won’t solve South Portland housing woes,” I agree rent control is not a panacea for economic inequality and lack of affordable housing. The recession gave birth to Generation Rent, a class so numerous we have surpassed the housing supply, and our stable but stagnant incomes cannot meet prices dictated by scarcity.
Bamford says “with rents forcibly kept artificially low more people will move to South Portland and the housing crunch could actually get worse.” Let’s talk about what we mean by artificial. Someone making $30,000 can reasonably afford $765 per month for rent, while a two-bedroom in South Portland rents for $1,350 per month on average. If consumers cannot afford the going rate, then prices are artificially high, and market regulation would bring them back within affordable reach.
Bamford also suggests “owners of rent-controlled units are often forced to find other ways to reduce expenses: less maintenance, less upkeep and services.” This thinly veiled threat is intended to keep tenants powerless. It presumes landlords are entitled to the highest possible profits, and unaccountable for the safety of their units. Threatening to neglect maintenance if renters demand affordable rates is a prime example of why we need regulation. Market forces will protect property owners’ profit margins while burdening residents; market regulation will safeguard a space in the community for those with less economic power. Rent control alone won’t solve the problem, but can be part of a concerted, systemic investment in people and communities.