Editor: In your Jan. 3 edition, you ran a letter from Sachi Cooper [“Consider Short-Term Rent Control For The County”], which advocates for temporary rent-control measures in Arlington in response to Amazon’s arrival.
Two big questions about rent control: would it be desirable, and would the state government let us do it? I think the answers are clearly “no” and “probably not.”
The economist Assar Lindbeck said that “next to bombing, rent control seems in many cases to be the most efficient technique so far known for destroying cities.” The stupider forms of rent control give landlords an incentive to destroy their buildings, and less heavy-handed laws still damage the ability of landlords to maintain their buildings while lessening the incentive to build new units.
Rent control, historically, generally has been enacted with the claim that it is a temporary crisis response, but after it’s in place, the people it benefits fight hard to keep it, and it lasts for years or decades.
Rent control is not currently permitted by the state government. Is this likely to change? Hard to know, as there is a lot of turnover in the House of Delegates recently, but the national experience with rent control has been so disastrous, and local landlord interests would fight so hard against it, I doubt it would be successful.
A better approach would be to shift this housing demand to adjacent jurisdictions, where vacant land is more available to support housing construction, and to think how to enable easier and quicker commutes into Arlington.
Some possibilities: Enabling commuters to take bus-rapid transit up Richmond Highway from south of Alexandria; tolling Interstate 95 and Route 50 to shift workers from single-occupant vehicles to carpools, vanpools and commuter buses; and providing better transit out Columbia Pike to and from the Annandale area.
Dave Schutz, Arlington