A 68-page academic report urges governments not to adopt hard controls that simply freeze rents - even though it acknowledges that such policies can be popular with politicians, fast-acting and are easy to implement.
The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence has looked at 82 applications of rent controls around the world, and says that there is overall a lack of understanding of what it calls “landlord supply structure, how segments of rental markets function and operate with different degrees of interdependence, and the extent to which local markets are volatile and subject to external shocks.”
The report outlines three approaches that most governments - in the UK and overseas - have adopted if they chose to interfere with market rents.
The first is a rent freeze, which the academics acknowledge has an appeal because it satisfies some vested interests and can be applied without additional public funds.
The second is to exercise variable measures to ‘smooth out’ rental inflation - these can include some caps on future rises, and should also include a so-called ‘sunset clause’ when the measures would end and market forces resume.
The third - which it calls tenancy rent control - is when rents remain static during a tenancy but are changed between tenancies, with or without upper caps on the increases.
The report - which you can see in full here - urges an end to what it says is a passionate and sometimes ill-informed political and interest group debate over rent controls, and instead calls for a wider public conversation based on much more evidence as to the effects of such measures.
The evidence should look at the rental sector as a whole, and not just rents - this means looking at how the controls can affect supply, should landlords choose to quit the sector.
If the report itself is too hefty, the executive summary is here.