Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek threw red meat to her Portland constituents by proposing legislation to create rent control. Portland rents have escalated as the city has become one of the nation’s most desirable locations. Kotek extended her rent control proposal beyond Portland’s boundaries, to all Oregon communities.

Rent control is now prohibited in Oregon statute.

America’s on-again, off-again experience with rent control began during World War II housing shortages. With almost 70 years of history in various cities such as New York, rent control has generated enormous economic study and literature.

Of rent control, one can say two things: it will generate a huge bureaucracy and it is fraught with unintended consequences that are not what hard-pressed tenants hope for.

South of us, in San Francisco, lies one of the most unfortunate conundrums, born of rent control. Writing in Willamette Week last June, Aaron Mesh explored the San Francisco example. “Many landlords either evict tenants or keep apartments empty,” wrote Mesh. “Roughly one in 12 housing units in San Francisco sit vacant, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Of San Francisco, Tim Duy of the University of Oregon economics department asked: “Has that really been effective at solving their problems? No. You think you’re helping people, but you are constraining the stock of affordable housing.”

For Speaker Kotek to propose rent control for all Oregon communities is an especially ridiculous concept.

Asking the Oregon Legislature to embark on consideration of rent control is a fool’s bargain. If this comes to serious legislative committee discussion, we hope that economists from Oregon’s universities will enlighten the statehouse.

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