© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rent control may help ease the financial strain on rent burdened residents in Milwaukee

Chris Krco and Magaret Kaplan explain how rent control could assist Milwaukee renters
Stock Adobe
Chris Krco and Magaret Kaplan explain how rent control could assist Milwaukee renters

Housing rates are expensive and continue to increase across the country. More and more American renters are seeing their monthly rent increasing, and are now becoming rent-burdened. This means that many tenants are spending 30% or more of their overall income on rent alone.

In Milwaukee County, about half of the renting population are currently rent burdened. Chris Krco, a Milwaukee-area housing rights advocate, recommends rent control in Milwaukee as a potential solution.

"The way to start this conversation is to point out that the best rental housing systems in the world use rent controls. Rent controls are extremely common worldwide," says Krco. He explains that most of the countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have a form of rent control.

Krco emphasizes, "The United States really is an outlier in how unregulated our rental housing system is."

Rent control is not common in the Midwest. In our neighboring state, St. Paul, Minnesota is the only Midwest city that has an established rent control ordinance. Preemptive laws restricted rent control action in the state of Minnesota. However, there was an exception in the law that stated that cities could bypass the restriction with a ballot measure.

St. Paul residents ultimately voted to pass rent control ordinance in 2021. The rent control ordinance officially went into effect in May 2022.

Margaret Kaplan is the president of theHousing Justice Centerin St. Paul, Minnesota. Kaplan describes the impact of the rent control ordinance, "It has been a very powerful tool for making sure that people aren't pushed out of their housing because of rapidly increasing prices. It has created a greater sense of stability for our renters here in the city of Saint Paul."

Consistent with national trends and similar to Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin, St. Paul has a noticeable homeownership disparity where most renters are disproportionately Black, Indigenous and people of color. This adds another dynamic to the importance of prioritizing renters. "So, as we think about this issue of rent stabilization, it's an economic justice issue, but it's also a racial justice issue as well too," she notes.

Rent control does not stop landlords from raising rent beyond the designated limit, but it does require landlords to go through a process of proving why the rent increase is necessary.

According to Krco, rent control is not an end-all-be-all solution. "There is no such thing as a simple solution to a complex problem. And while rent control is an essential pillar of good housing policy, it really can't solve all of our problems." Rent control is not likely to improve aspects of the widespread issue around health and building safety.

Currently, Wisconsin has a preemption law that prevents local governments in enacting rent control. According to Krco, there needs to be statewide legislation to change the law before rent control can be a reality in Milwaukee.


Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
Related Content