Issues Mobilization Grant Helps Win Against Rent Control

In Vermont, the city of Burlington is dominated by tenants, who lease 65% of the housing market. So, when a “just cause” rent control ordinance was proposed to help solve the challenge of affordable housing, Peter Tucker, Vermont Association of REALTORS® director of advocacy and public policy, knew fighting it would be an uphill battle—but one that was worthwhile for VAR to take on.

For VAR, the heart of the issue was the private property rights of housing providers to use and rent their properties as they see fit. REALTORS® have long argued that rent control has a net negative effect on rental housing supply. “In fact,” says Tucker, “it will only push landlords who can’t afford the rising cost of doing business to sell out, converting their apartments to condos”—and reducing the total number of available rentals.

I was brand new to the job, but I called the REALTOR® Party team and they were fantastic: The program is great, the delivery was there, and they gave me the advocacy research we needed to say, ‘Here’s what we think and why.

-Peter Tucker, director of advocacy and public policy, Vermont Association of REALTORS®

Rent control ad for voters in Burlington, Vermont

© Vermont Association of REALTORS®

Through an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party, VAR launched a multifaceted campaign.

At the local level: A series of mailings, digital advertising and live calls targeted voters, explaining why the big-city rent-control policies weren’t a good fit for the small state. 

At the state level: When the ordinance passed locally and went to the state legislature for approval, advocacy efforts highlighted cities like San Francisco and St. Paul, Minn., which experienced severe rental attrition and building permit drop-off in the wake of increasing rent control regulations.

Additional outreach: When it passed again, Gov. Phil Scott, who agreed with the REALTOR® position, exercised veto power. The campaign then continued outreach to representatives as the veto-proof majority prepared for an override.

The veto was upheld by a single vote. For Tucker, who got the rent-control proposal on his desk only a month after he joined association staff, “it was a case of losing some battles but winning the war.”


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