Rent control: Evidence review

Rent control was key to the birth of housing policy, but it has been a hugely contentious policy ever since. It is favoured by many politicians and pressure groups. But it is strongly disliked among economists. Much of the criticism does not question the motivation behind the policy but focuses on its negative side effects.

There is a substantial academic literature on rent control and rent stabilisation policies. This literature is reviewed at reasonably regular intervals. But these reviews come to different – and occasionally diametrically opposed – conclusions regarding the impacts of rent control, and therefore about its desirability as a policy instrument.

This project will review the rent control literature produced over the last thirty years. A core aim is to review the key empirical findings that have been produced in the literature on the economics of rent control. But the project scope is not restricted to the economics literature: it will also capture empirical findings that have been produced in other social science disciplines.

In addition, the project aims to examine broader and more fundamental questions about the construction of the evidence base and the theoretical perspectives that have been applied to the issue. It will consider how assumptions about the nature of the housing market affect our conclusions about the desirability of rent control. It will reflect upon the importance of housing market institutions in shaping the impact of rent control policies and, relatedly, the domain of applicability of empirical findings.

Timeline: January 2020 – June 2020

Team: Professor Ken Gibb, Professor Alex Marsh (Co-Investigators), Dr Adriana Mihaela Soaita (Research Associate), Dr Gareth James and Dr Chris Foye (Knowledge Exchange)

Theme: Governance