Long-Term Rental Contracts

A blog about business and economics.
June 19 2012 11:31 AM

Long-Term Rental Contracts

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 15: A large 'rent' banner is posted on the side of an apartment building on June 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This is a tangential thought, but I do think those people who think that a) we do too much to encourage homeownership and b) even after the crash perhaps more people own homes than is ideal, really need to think seriously about heresies such as rent control. A big reason people buy is that it allows to lock in a rent and have worry free (absent banksters stealing your home, of course) stability in a neighborhood long term. Especially for people wanting to put their kids through the local schools, that stability is a big draw. Protections for long term tenants, including limits on rent increases, would make renting a more attractive proposition for people.
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This sounds less like a call for "rent control" as traditionally practiced in cities I'm familiar with (though obviously a whole bunch of different schemes could exist) than it does like a call for long-term contracts. In New York, where renting is extremely common, my understanding is that these kind of long-term leases are also reasonably widely available for people who want them. But in most of the United States renting is, though not exactly rare, sort of at the margins of life. As long as home ownership is considered normative behavior, we tend not to develop rentals on the kind of terms that suit stability-seeking families.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.