Rent Control vs Market Competition

Here’s an example of the failure of no competition in affordable housing, this one in St Paul, MN. The residents of St Paul last November voted to cap rent increases at 3% per year, forever, with no exceptions.

Mercatus Center [Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Urbanity project] Salim Furth compared St Paul building permits in the five months after passage of rent control with the average of the same months in the three years prior [i.e., immediately preceding the Wuhan Virus situation onset]. By that metric, St Paul’s multifamily permitting is…down 55%.


City data shows St Paul’s building permit revenue from January to May 2022 was $3.699 million, down from an average of $4.176 million from 2018 to 2021.

The claimed purpose was to protect affordable housing availability.


St Paul’s rent control creates an incentive for developers to build luxury apartments to recoup their construction costs. But builders are also opting to leave St Paul. Citing rent control, investors recently paused development on the 3,800-unit Highland Bridge project. Its builders would have set aside 20% of units for affordable housing, with 10% going to those earning 30% or less of area median income.

The only ones who wouldn’t have predicted this outcome, who don’t understand its inevitability, are those who can’t stand the thought of individuals or private businesses making their own decisions, or free markets making their own aggregated decisions, independently of the limits and requirements set by Know Betters.

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