City Council begins discussions to examine feasibility of rent control in Philadelphia

Philadelphia row homes
Photo credit Getty Images

PHILADLELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — City Council’s committee on housing, neighborhood development, and the homeless held public hearings on Wednesday, headed by Councilmember Kendra Brooks, to explore the potential of introducing rent control in Philadelphia.

The discussion centered around whether imposing a 3.4% cap on annual rent increases would be appropriate and feasible in the city. Brooks acknowledged that other factors impact rent, but she said rent control should be part of the conversation.

“Wages is not something I can control at a city level, but what I can try to control is affordability for constituents here in the city,” Brooks said.

Tenant William Dennis Scott said new development is causing rents to skyrocket to prices that renters like himself can’t afford.

“They are pushing out people of color and people that do not have high wages that they're earning," Scott said. "I'm retired. And I don't think in another couple of years if it keeps going like it is that I'll be able to stay up here.”

All who were asked to testify are in favor of rent control. Those who oppose it, who  were left to testify in the public comment portion of the hearing, criticized Brooks for what they called an unbalanced discussion.

“I'm not opposed to listening to both sides of the story,” said Brooks, “but the problem is, too often in politics, the loudest voices are the voices with the most money are the ones that get listened to the most.”

But retiree Pauline Rosenberg says she’s among the 50% of Philadelphia landlords who own just a few properties. She says rent control measures could have unintended consequences of lessening the housing stock if landlords like herself are forced to sell:

“I can’t stand to lose income. I mean, I barely make it with the the houses that I have and Social Security.”

Councilmember Brooks says housing affordability needs to be a priority — “and, you know, landlords shouldn't be able to raise rents as high as 50% in one year.”

Landlord Mike Lynch, who said he owns five buildings, countered that, when the city assesses his property taxes, they don’t cap the increase at a certain percentage.

“My taxes in one of them … went from $5,000 to $7,000 this year, after going up about five years ago, as well. So they're continuing to grow up.”

Richard Moore, a Philadelphia housing provider for 43 years, says imposing a blanket cap on rent increases doesn’t take the landlord’s expenses into account.

He enumerated his concerns: “Real estate taxes in some cases increased as much as 500%, to insurance rates that have tripled due to crime and increasing construction costs, the maintenance costs have doubled, and COVID, which has allowed tenants to stay in units without paying rent for as long as 10 months.”

Opponents asked for a task force to be created and a financial feasibility study to be done before any bills are presented.

“This is just the beginning step,” Brooks said. “I took notes on all the suggestions that they offer, and I would love for them to send a listing of all of these suggestions, so we can have a balanced conversation and plan it out

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images