The Housing Committee ended its last scheduled meeting of the session Tuesday without voting on a bill that would have capped annual rent increases — a measure that drew hundreds of people to a public hearing that lasted overnight.
The rent cap bill would have set maximum annual rent increases at 4% plus the consumer price index, a measure that advocates said would have offered relief to tenants who say they can’t keep up with rising rents, in some cases higher than 20%.
Instead, the committee passed a bill that creates task forces to study the effects of evictions on landlords and rent stabilization policies. The lack of a vote on rent caps and switch to studying rent stabilization likely squashed the chance to check rent rises this session.
More than 200 municipalities and two states — California and Oregon — have rent caps in place. Connecticut is one of 31 states that prohibit towns from establishing their own rent caps, according to a report from the Office of Legislative Research.
“The decision not to advance HB 6588 out of the Housing Committee leaves our communities in a crisis that will only continue to deepen,” said Cap the Rent, the group pushing for the bill, in a statement. “It is difficult to find a corner of this state that is not impacted by inflated rents, no-cause evictions, and poor housing conditions.”
Connecticut lacks tens of thousands of housing units that are available and affordable to its lowest income residents. The state also has a vacancy rate of about 2%, meaning most of the apartments in the state are occupied.
These factors, paired with other economic considerations, mean that the rental market is tight in Connecticut, and thousands of renter households pay more than a third of their income to housing costs.
The measure faced opposition from landlord groups who said landlords might have to bear the burden of inflation and increased costs of doing business that exceed the rent cap. They also argued that it would disincentivize people from keeping or expanding their number of rental units.
“Without the ability to increase rents to keep up with rising costs, landlords have little incentive to improve the property, and builders are discouraged from creating new housing stock,” John Souza, president of the Connecticut Coalition of Property Owners, wrote in his public testimony.
Housing co-chair Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, acknowledged Tuesday that many might be disappointed that the rent cap didn’t get a vote.
“We need to really take a deep dive into this to make sure we are doing something that’s fair and equitable on both sides,” Moore said during the meeting.
The Housing Committee has tackled many high-profile issues this session, including eviction protections, measures to address the growing population of people experiencing homelessness, fair housing and statewide zoning policy.
Twenty-five bills made it out of committee, Moore said Tuesday.
Still, rent cap advocates are disappointed that the bill didn’t get a vote despite widespread support from tenants. Their statement about the lack of a vote Tuesday said their fight doesn’t end with the legislative session.
Victoria Ramos, a member of the Hartford Tenants Union and Make the Road CT, said she and her neighbors had faced hefty rent increases recently and spoke in support of a rent cap during a public hearing last month.
“Put yourself in the shoes of the working people of CT who do not earn much,” Ramos said in her public testimony. “Every year tenants and residents pay so many taxes to have to live without housing stability due to the high costs of rent while big corporations get too many tax breaks and benefits from the state.
“Where are our housing rights? I do not see them.”