A proposal to give local governments the ability to control rent was defeated on the New Hampshire House floor by a crushing 301-63 vote. The bill, sponsored by progressive Reps. Eric Gallager (D-Concord) and Ellen Read (D- Newmarket) was so unpopular, it lost among Democrats by a 117-62 margin.
The overwhelming vote to find HB95 “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) was greeted with praise by advocates of rental property owners who said they are a key part of solving the Granite State’s housing shortage.
“We’re very happy about today’s vote because rent control has been found again and again to be a failed policy that adversely affects the people it’s intended to benefit,” said Nick Norman with the Apartment Association of New Hampshire. “If you’re looking for a solution to New Hampshire’s housing problem and you’re not looking at creating more housing, you’re looking in the wrong place.
“And that only happens if the people who invest in housing can earn a return on that investment,” Norman said.
Republican opponents echoed that message in their opposition to the bill, which would have allowed local municipalities to limit rent increases, rather than supply and demand.
“Democrats fought openly on the floor today against the very same housing providers that we need to expand housing supply in New Hampshire,” said House Majority Floor Leader Joe Sweeney (R-Salem). “Make no mistake – the housing crisis in New Hampshire is a problem of supply that will not be solved and only worsened by efforts to institute rent control and further burdens on the housing market.”
Rep. Gallager took an entirely different view of housing in his remarks from the House floor. “Housing is a human right and ought to be treated as such, instead of a profit-making opportunity for landlords,” he said. And he rejected the idea that landlords are “housing providers.”
“Let’s get something straight: Landlords are not housing providers. The workers who built the housing are the people who provided it, not the landlords. Landlords just sit on housing and charge people rent to live in it.”
His comments inspired the “Committee to Elect House Republicans” to make a humorous video of Gallager marking his remarks, with music from the former Soviet Union playing underneath.
But bill co-sponsor Rep. Read said the defeat of the bill was no laughing matter. She suggested instead that many of the bill’s opponents had ethical conflicts and should have recused themselves.
“This was an important learning moment, because since we don’t pay our legislators, the vast majority of them are independently well off, very many of them profiting from being landlords themselves,” Read said. “They do not represent and, in many cases, don’t even understand the issues of the working class.
“And while the House Democratic Leader [Rep. Matt Wilhelm] and one other Democrat declared a conflict of interest on this bill, dozens and dozens of others who earn handsome incomes as landlords. Many of them, including among the 117 Democrats who voted against this bill, chose to participate in a vote that materially impacted their own income. This is explicitly against our House rules and our ethics standards,” Read said.
Read said she has asked the Office of Legislative Services to look into this ethics question.
Whether or not the ethics issue is real, the data on rent control and its impact on housing is very clear. As the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy reported this week, multiple recent studies have shown government interference in pricing leads to a reduction in supply.
“St. Paul, Minn., passed a rent control ordinance in 2021,” they reported, “A University of Southern California study the next year found that ‘rent control caused property values to fall by 6-7%, for an aggregate loss of $1.6 billion.’
“A 2018 study of rent control in San Francisco found that the imposition of rent controls reduced the supply of rental housing by 15%, raised rents by 5%, and fueled the conversion of lower-end rental units to higher-end condominiums.”
Democrats, however, plan to continue the push — even if that means (unintentionally) attacking other Democrats.
“It’s ‘housing providers’ over renters at the NHGOP every single time,” tweeted New Hampshire Democratic Party Comms Director Colin Booth. “Never forget it, NHPolitics.”
Asked if this also applied to the 2-to-1 majority of Democrats who voted against the bill as well, Booth declined to answer.