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The Origins of Rent Control: From Ancient Rome to Paris Commune

Politikberatung kompakt 183, II, 19 S.

Konstantin A. Kholodilin


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Urban areas are confronted with a chronic shortage of housing, especially in the low-rent segment. This precarious situation is further exacerbated by major chal-lenges, like the destruction of housing by wars and natural catastrophes, rapid increase of demand, or a pandemic cutting incomes. In response, the authorities take advantage of rent control that slows down rent increases or even freezes rents. The hope is to guarantee the affordability of rental housing at least in the short run, until supply can expand and satisfy the demand for housing. Rent con-trol became ubiquitous and has been used at a large scale since World War I. However, its roots lie in a far more remote past, the first documented examples stemming from the Ancient Rome. Despite social and technological differences between then and now, the solutions found more than 2000 years ago bear a striking similarity with modern policies. Rapidly rising housing costs, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Ukrainian war pushed rent control back to the top of the political agenda. Therefore, diving into its origins can be a very instructive en-deavor from the viewpoint of the current socioeconomic policy.

Konstantin A. Kholodilin

Research Associate in the Macroeconomics Department

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