HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A marathon debate occurred in Hartford Tuesday as lawmakers looked at a possible cap on rent hikes. A bill currently in the housing committee would stop landlords from raising rents by more than four percent a year.
Tuesday’s hearing at the capitol complex started late due to WiFi issues, causing the debate to continue past 11:30 p.m.
At stake is the basic need for shelter for renters and the ability to stay solvent and pay the bills for landlords. Inflation has driven up the cost of everything. Landlords say that is also driving up the market rate for rents.
Tenants have seen their rents go up much faster than their wages. The average rent hike in Connecticut over the past two years has been 20%.
This bill would cap a landlord’s ability to raise the rent at four percent, which some say is unnecessary because of America’s free market system.
“A landlord and a tenant agree to the terms in writing, and we have a process,” state Sen. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott) said. “If one or the other of them fails to live up to that agreement, they can go to court and fight over it, and in fact, the tenant has great many advantages the landlord does not have in those cases in Connecticut because of the intervention of the state policy. So I’m just what is a superior system to freedom and voluntary participation by both parties on an equal and level platform.”
Renters in Connecticut are fed up with the rising cost of rent. The Cap the Rent CT Coalition and other housing advocates voiced their frustrations in Hartford.
Renters say a cap is the only way many of them will be able to keep a roof over their heads. Landlords say a rent cap would damage the housing market and keep new housing projects from getting financing. They also say the quality of housing will suffer if rents do not go up at the same rate as inflation. Some possible solutions suggested include housing vouchers and requiring good cause for evictions.
“Inflation went up for us too,” said Greta Blau, co-founder of the Hamden Tenant Union. “There’s too much on our shoulders. We can’t do it anymore. You can raise the rent; we cannot pay it.
“I hope we get to the end, that we get to the finish line, where tenants have more stability and predictability in the rents that they have,” Sen. Gary Winfield (D) said.
Not everyone is in favor of the proposed rent cap increase. Landlords say this would limit their ability to compete in the housing market.
“This is not going to work for the long term for the state,” said Lauren Tagliatela, chief community officer for Franklin Communities. “People are not going to want to finance our projects. They’ll go to other states without rent control.”
State Representative Joe Polletta says he opposes rent caps and that there are other ways to help struggling renters. He says the focus should be on bringing more housing options into the state.
“We are trying to create a society where we can have more housing which would increase competition for rental units, which would draw the cost down,” Polletta said.
You are encouraged to submit written testimony online if you didn’t get a chance to testify at the hearing.