Bad ideas never die and Jacksonville should avoid them

Disregarding mountains of evidence, the Orange County government is seeking rent control. Eye on Jacksonville hopes that Jacksonville leaders will not make a similar mistake, given that leftwing activists occasionally suggest such a disastrous policy.

Oregon started using rent control in 2019 and it has spread to other states.

Rent control exacerbates housing shortages, causes existing buildings to deteriorate and disproportionately benefits higher-income households.

Nevertheless, the Orange County Commission voted 4-3 to put on the November ballot a rent stabilization ordinance that would affect multifamily properties with four or more units for a year, according to the Orlando Business Journal.

“Rent stabilization” apparently is an attempt to run around the fact that Florida law prohibits rent control by changing the language, a favorite liberal tactic.

The measure would cap rent increases based on the Consumer Price Index. One estimate was that 104,000 rental units would be affected, but it could be only 4,800

Median rents in Orlando stand at $1,440 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,699 for a two-bedroom unit and according to the county there’s need for as many as 26,500 housing units.

“Housing advocates” — whatever that is — support the measure, not because it would fix the issue but would be used alongside other policies. The policy and research director for Florida Rising said measures for renters like a tenants’ bill of rights also are needed.

Developers in Central Florida warned of rising costs and the potential to affect new development.

“This proposal is speculative and shortsighted and will cause more harm than good,” the president of Central Florida Commercial Association of Realtors emailed members this month. “Rent control cannot solve the affordable housing crisis we face; it only complicates the problem and does not facilitate change through comprehensive housing policies.”

Other groups, including the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando and the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, called for sensible ways to address the shortage, such as incentives for developers.

Cities governed by liberals typically heap harmful rules, taxes and regulations on housing and then, after the utterly predictable results, turn to rent control, which makes it even worse.

Florida Statue 125.0103 says no county, municipality, or other entity of local government shall adopt or maintain in effect an ordinance or a rule which has the effect of imposing price controls upon a lawful business activity which is not franchised by, owned by, or under contract with, the governmental agency, unless specifically provided by general law.

There was a bill in the Florida Legislature this year to allow rent control. It died in committee.

Berlin tried rent control in February of 2020. The Economist declared that experiment a failure. It noted, “Rents may be down, but so is the supply of homes.”

In Sweden, economist Thomas Sowell said, there were roughly 2,400 people on waiting lists for housing in 1948, but just 12 years later, the waiting list was ten times that number. During this time, Sweden was building more houses per person than any other country, but rent control made them unprofitable. So even though houses were being built, they were not being rented out, creating an artificial housing shortage.

Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck once observed wryly that rent control is the single most effective way to destroy a city “except for bombing.”

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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