Feb 10, 2023 - News

Denver mayoral candidates split on rent control in first major debate

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Denver's mayoral candidates are divided on whether rent control is a solution to lowering housing costs in the city.

Driving the news: In the first major debate Thursday, six prominent candidates — Kelly Brough, Chris Hansen, Mike Johnston, Andy Rougeot, Kwame Spearman and Trinidad Rodriguez — expressed opposition to putting government-imposed price caps on rent, saying it doesn’t work.

  • "Rent control in every city it's been used in immediately stops the creation of new supply, it stops investment," said Hansen, a state senator.

Yes, but: Lisa Calderón defended the idea, saying it needs to be part of a broader "transfer of wealth system." She blamed monied-interests for the opposition and called for reducing just-cause evictions and strengthening renters' rights.

  • "As rents are going up year after year, renters don't have rights to stop that," said Calderón, executive director of Emerge, who lost a 2019 bid for mayor. "What we hear are the voices of the apartment association lobby and also the real estate lobby in trying to keep rents not regulated."
  • Debbie Ortega, Ean Thomas Tafoya and Terrance Roberts also voiced support for rent control measures during the debate. Leslie Herod didn't answer the question.

Why it matters: Rising rents are a prominent topic in a race focused on providing more affordable housing. The split on the progressive policy is helping to separate the crowded field of 17-candidates.

  • The debate comes as evictions are rising beyond pre-pandemic levels.

Context: The Democratic majority at the state Capitol is advancing a bill to allow local governments to limit rental rates on privately owned units, lifting the current ban on such policies.

  • Denver mayor Michael Hancock opposes rent control.

Of note: Other candidates offered a variety of ideas on how to create more affordable housing, and most all agreed that the city needs to reduce its permitting backlog. Many also endorsed using state and local dollars to incentivize developers to build in the city.

  • Tafoya, an activist, proposed offering vouchers for discounted housing to young people who work for the city.
  • Roberts, a former gang member and activist, suggested the city build more public housing.
  • Ortega, a city council member, endorsed a plan from a United Kingdom company to build manufactured housing on city-owned land.

ICYMI: A look at candidates who qualified for Denver's crowded mayoral race


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