occasional blog posts and opinion pieces by desrowVISUALS photographer Chris Goodwin

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"Let The Debate On Rent Control Begin" (3/27/22)

Let’s talk about rent control…again…a discussion that should have happened years ago...but didn’t really.

Back in 1981, the Renters Rights Project, which I was part of, began a petition drive to place a rent control proposal on the city ballot here in Boulder. Not long after our campaign began, a statewide landlord lobby announced a “crusade” against rent control and a compliant Republican controlled legislature passed a statewide ban which a Democrat governor signed into law, refusing to use his veto power to kill the bill.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Not only did this short circuit a local initiative process that would have given Boulder citizens a chance to debate and vote on a local rent control ordinance, it also took away an important tool that any Colorado city could have chosen to use in dealing with what has become, over the decades, a critical affordable housing crisis due to skyrocketing rents as well as the constantly increasing cost of buying a home.               

If we are going to renew the debate over rent control, and we need to, let’s make it about real issues and put aside scare tactics (like tales of crumbling apartment buildings and economic disaster) that misrepresent what rent control is, how it works, and what it’s benefits would be.                                         

The ordinance we proposed, like others around the country we based it on, not only allowed landlords to raise the rent in accordance with their cost increases, it also had a provision that guaranteed them a “reasonable rate of return on their investment”. Our initiative also exempted homeowners who might want to rent out their basement and landlords who rent out up to 3 units.                                                   

Rent Control is a practical, commonsense way of addressing Boulder’s rental crisis. Let the debate begin.                                                                             

Chris Goodwin has lived in Boulder for over 50 years. As a member of the Renters Rights Project he was one of the authors, in 1980-81, of the proposed Rent Control ballot initiative in Boulder.  He is a retired CU-Boulder staff member, former union organizer, former local union president, a retiree member of AFSCME and a freelance documentary photographer.  He can be reached at eyesee@desrowvisuals.com

(this opinion piece originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on 3/27/22 as a Letter to The Editor)

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