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Policy Briefs

Rent Control

In many built-out neighborhoods experiencing gentrification pressures, there may be little room for new developments. Therefore, strategies for preserving naturally occurring affordable rental units are needed to counteract displacement forces in these communities. Rent control is perhaps the most well-known strategy used to control the price of non-subsidized rental units.

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Key Findings:

  • As of February 2016, only six cities in the Bay Area had some form of rent control or stabilization in place, and no jurisdiction had passed a rent control policy (that was not repealed) since 1985. This low number has since increased with the recent passage of rent control programs in Richmond and Mountain View.
  • The cities that have this policy in place have less turnover in their renter populations, indicating that rent control can be a contributor to greater residential stability.
  • State law, primarily through the vacancy decontrol provision, limits the effectiveness of rent control policies. Rent control is most effective when paired with other tenant protections, like just cause evictions policies.

Note: This policy brief is up-to-date as of February 2016.

Inclusionary Housing

Inclusionary housing policies aim to increase the stock of affordable housing at a minimal cost to the city, concurrent with development, and in the same neighborhoods as market-rate housing. Inclusionary housing usually takes the form of a zoning requirement placed on developers of new market-rate housing. In this policy brief we discuss the basics of inclusionary housing policies, including their prevalence in the Bay Area, California, and nationally, and analyze their effectiveness.

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Key Findings:

  • Inclusionary housing policies are widespread in the Bay Area, California, and nationally.
  • The policies produce many units, but these supply only a small fraction of the total need for affordable housing.

Note: This policy brief is up-to-date as of February 2016.

Condominium Conversion

When multifamily rental housing is converted into condominiums, the reduced rental housing stock may mean the loss of units that were affordable to low-income households. For this reason, many cities have implemented controls on such conversions. This policy brief gives an overview of these policies.

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Key Findings:

  • Condominium conversions were popular in the 1970s and briefly in the 1980s, but experts say they are not as much of an issue now.
  • Policies to limit conversions may focus on helping tenants as a building converts (procedural ordinances) or on limiting how many conversions may occur (substantive ordinances).
  • Loopholes in conversion ordinances limit their effectiveness.

Note: This policy brief is up-to-date as of February 2016.