When rent control was put on the ballot in Columbus, Ohio, the state REALTOR® association stepped in to tackle the issue before it became a home-rule free-for-all among local jurisdictions. They used an Issues Mobilization Grant to have an expert draft the legislation, and spared the entire state from a policy that actually decreases much-needed housing.
This past spring, a statewide rent control preemption was passed in Ohio, banning the detrimental housing policy from all local jurisdictions. The legislation was spurred by the urging of the Columbus REALTORS®, crafted in just under a month by Ohio REALTORS®, and made possible with major support from an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party.
Beth Wanless, Ohio REALTORS’ Director of Government Affairs, explains that according to Ohio’s home rule authority, the state cannot prohibit local governments from enacting any law unless the issue affects the health and safety of residents. “That’s a significant burden for enacting state-wide housing legislation,” she notes; so much so, that when the REALTORS® previously worked with a state senator on banning rent control, the Legislative Service Commission, which had drafted the language, found its own draft bill to be unconstitutional under the home rule restrictions. So, when the Columbus REALTORS® alerted the state organization that a rent control initiative was to appear on the local ballot in November 2022 and requested that the issue be preempted at the state level, Wanless reached out to an attorney who had achieved rare success crafting legislation within Ohio’s home-rule strictures.
The timeframe was tight: less than a month to draft, present, and pass the bill in the current session. “NAR approved the grant very quickly, and our amazing attorney was able to draft the language in a matter of days, working late nights and over weekends,” reports Wanless. After a day of testimony in which a REALTOR® member from Columbus spoke about how her family business would be devastated by the proposed rent control laws, the legislation passed along party lines and was signed into law by the governor. It will take effect in September 2022.
Ohio is one of the nation’s most under-built states, and the need for housing is dire, says Wanless, noting that developers have indicated they will not build in rent-controlled areas. She has recorded a podcast on the issue and is working with legislators who voted against the bill to help them understand the economic reality of rent control, which may seem counter-intuitive, she admits. “Whenever anyone talks about capping rent, sure, it seems great for renters. But rent control policies actually decrease housing inventory as landlords who are unable to meet their expenses sell out and properties that were previously rentals are converted to condos. Low-income renters are the ones who bear the brunt of this, because the resulting condos tend to be high-end, and not at all affordable for those who need it most.” Study after study has shown that the implementation of rent control leads directly to a significant loss of rental housing, she notes, as well as a diminishment of property value, which means a tax loss for the jurisdiction.
“The unfortunate narrative that landlords are ‘evil’ could not be further from the truth,” she adds. “All kinds of people, including 30-40% of REALTORS® nationwide, own at least one rental unit. They do it to improve their lives and build intergenerational wealth.”
As for the legislative achievement that will protect property owners and help renters across Ohio, “There’s no way we could have done it without the Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party,” says Wanless. “The application process is so easy, and the REALTOR® Party team is so supportive, I’d encourage all associations to take advantage of these resources!”
To learn more about how Ohio REALTORS® is working to maintain and increase affordable housing throughout the state, contact Beth Wanless, Director of Government Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-327.8308.