On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Housing Committee of the Connecticut State House of Representatives held a public hearing regarding HB 6588, a proposed bill that included what is known as a rent cap, a limit on the percentage of rent landlords are allowed to increase annually.
The committee was initially delayed by five hours due to technological issues regarding an internet outage, but this did not deter petitioners, who testified through the night until 5:30 a.m. the next morning. As stated in a press release authored by Cap the Rent CT Coalition, 134 activists, tenants and working people testified in person “five times more than the opposition,” and over 300 people submitted written testimonies in favor of the bill and proposed amendments.
A separate hearing was held on Tuesday, Feb. 28, which ran until 3:30 a.m. and covered a similar bill proposed in the Connecticut State Senate, SB 4. The hearing over SB 4 was not without its own problems. As reported in the Yale Daily News, despite precedent indicating that legislative text should not be changed in a five-day window before a hearing, SB 4 was edited to remove the rent cap portion of the legislation, drawing significant ire from proponents in attendance.
To gather further information on the debate over rent controls in Connecticut and the potential impact of HB 6588 and SB 4, The Daily Campus spoke with Madison Schettler, a member of the coalition and student at UConn Law School.
Schettler makes the goals of the coalition clear.
“We’re asking for a 2.5% cap,” she said, “a winter eviction moratorium, caps on application fees and late fees… our main goal is to create housing stability.”
Schettler corroborates the incident regarding SB 4’s exclusion of the rent cap as well, commenting on the new language put into the bill.
“For the Tuesday hearing for SB 4, they put new languages in the morning of and the night before,” Schettler said. “The morning of the committee, one of the housing committee chairs announced they wouldn’t be hearing any testimony on rent caps.”
Schettler recalls that rent caps still became a core topic of the hearing regardless of the announcement. A discussion on it was expected not only by supporters, but the measure’s opponents as well.
The current drafts of HB 6588 and SB 4 cap annual rent at 4% plus the rate of inflation, determined by the Consumer Price Index. The CPI is a collection of the prices of common goods and services that tracks inflation and deflation in our economy. As such, legislators designed the bill to keep any needed rent raises consistent with the rate of inflation.
The coalition, while in favor of the spirit of HB 6588, has offered amendments that would formalize a stronger cap of “no more than 3% annually” and protect tenants from no-cause evictions. According to CT Mirror, no-cause evictions have more than doubled since the coronavirus pandemic, and the effects of the pandemic on the housing market have certainly not diminished yet.
“72% of Connecticut voters support that,” remarks Schettler, citing a survey on affordable housing released by Growing Together Connecticut, a consortium of organizations that advocates for affordable housing across the state.
56% support a Good Cause Eviction law that would strengthen protections for tenants facing eviction, another key part of the coalition’s platform which Schettler believes goes hand in hand with rent controls.
Schettler believes the massive turnouts at both public hearings, “exceeding 12 hours both times,” lend further credence to the movement for housing equality in the state of Connecticut.
Despite popular support, many politicians, business groups and landlords themselves are still skeptical of the proposed measures. Schettler, however, is undisturbed.
“No matter what happens with the legislation… there are so many ways to help tenants,” she says, “The important thing about this campaign is that we’re changing the conversation.”
Connecticut’s proposed bill has the potential of setting a precedent for the United States at large.
The Biden administration’s Renter’s Bill of Rights, announced in 2023, demonstrates a commitment from the White House to many of the same principles held by the Cap the Rent coalition.
As the White House promises to curb egregious rent hikes and renew many of President Biden’s administration’s initial protections for tenants, it is clear that not only Connecticut’s conversation around tenant’s rights is changing, but that of the United States as a whole.
Asking for a 2.5% cap when inflation is 6.5% year over year is delusional.