August 22, 2019
Over the last 10 years, the multifamily sector has had an impressive run, with asset prices increasing over 100 percent and cap rates falling nearly 2 percentage points. As multifamily investors evaluate when the current growth cycle for the sector may close, they have another concern beyond the market: rent control initiatives.
Over the last 10 years, the multifamily sector has had an impressive run, with asset prices increasing over 100 percent and cap rates falling nearly 2 percentage points.
Source: Real Capital Analytics. Data as of 4.30.2019. CPPI: Commercial Property Price Index.
Oregon recently became the first state to mandate statewide rent control, capping owners’ ability to increase rents annually at inflation plus 7 percent. California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia all mandate some level of state or local rent restrictions, and industry experts predict that other jurisdictions will follow suit. Although many states have laws that prohibit municipalities from controlling rents (see map, bottom right), there is increasing pressure to address the demand for more affordable housing by restricting investors’ ability to increase market rents.
Although many states have laws that prohibit municipalities from controlling rents, there is increasing pressure to address the demand for more affordable housing by restricting investors’ ability to increase market rents.
Source: National Multifamily Housing Council. Data as of 3.13.2019.
In addition to restrictions on increasing rents, some jurisdictions such as New York, which recently made its sweeping rent control provisions permanent, are closing loopholes. In the past, these loopholes allowed a multifamily property owner to bring rents up to market rents when a unit became vacant (vacancy de-control) when the owner invested equity to make improvements to the property, or when a tenant’s income rose to a designated “high-income” level. With these changes, the Real Estate Board of New York predicts that owners will no longer have an incentive to invest in rent-regulated units. With uncertainty around how the new restrictions will impact property values, S&P Global Market Intelligence noted that multifamily loan originations in New York declined by nearly 30 percent year-over-year in early 2019. Access to affordable rental housing has become a rallying cry for a number of the 2020 presidential hopefuls, thus rent control is expected to remain a risk factor for multifamily investors. It is also a mandate that is unlikely to solve the fundamental market disconnect when the demand for housing exceeds the existing supply.
—Jennifer A. Marler, Senior Managing Director; William Bennett, Managing Director; Ted Jung, Director
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