Editors note: This letter is in response to Michael Mazenko’s article “The rent is too high” in The Villager 2-8-24 edition.

Housing affordability is more complicated than, “It’s the landlords’ fault”

A recent column in this publication concerning inflation and the state of our local economies repeatedly blamed housing providers, aka landlords, for the current state of affairs. While this perspective may resonate with those grappling with soaring housing costs, it oversimplifies the intricate web of economic forces at play.

The assertion that landlords are the primary drivers of inflation overlooks key factors identified by economic research. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, rising commodity prices and supply chain disruptions have been identified as significant triggers of inflation. As these initial triggers subside, tight labor markets and wage pressures become the main drivers of price increases. While landlords undoubtedly play a role in the housing market, attributing inflation solely to their actions ignores the broader economic context.

The notion that housing providers are raising rents independently of market demand fails to align with the data. According to the latest 2023 Vacancy & Rent Report for Metro Denver compiled by Apartment Insights, rental rates have remained relatively stable over the last two years, despite rising costs in other areas such as taxes and utilities. This suggests that housing providers are responding to market dynamics rather than engaging in arbitrary rent hikes.

Additionally, the idea that housing providers benefit from pushing out residents overlooks the fundamental principles of property management. Vacancies are detrimental to landlords as they disrupt cash flow and reduce profitability. Housing providers rely on a steady stream of tenants to maintain a successful rental business, making it contradictory for them to engage in practices that drive residents away. Often, landlords absorb the brunt of inflationary pressures to offer stability to their tenants—a testament to the symbiotic nature of the tenant-landlord relationship.

Contrary to the adversarial depiction often painted, the landscape of tenant-landlord relations is overwhelmingly positive. This symbiosis is not merely transactional but foundational to the livelihood of both parties—tenants secure a place to call home, while landlords ensure the sustainability of their business and, by extension, their ability to meet their own financial obligations.

In times of economic strife, the allure of finding a scapegoat is understandable. Yet, simplifying complex issues like housing affordability to singular causes does little to foster understanding or drive meaningful change. A nuanced approach recognizes the interplay of supply and demand, broader economic currents, and the collective responsibility of all stakeholders in navigating these challenges.

Bottom line: while landlords certainly wield influence in the rental market, attributing inflation and economic woes solely to their actions overlooks the broader economic landscape. By considering the full spectrum of factors at play, we can develop more effective strategies to address housing affordability and promote economic prosperity for all. With over 700,000 Coloradans finding homes through our members, the role of housing providers is undeniably central to the housing market’s ecosystem. As projections hint at an increasing supply over the next 12-18 months, embracing market dynamics offers a beacon of hope for easing costs and fostering prosperity for all.

Destiny Bossert

Government Affairs Manager for the Colorado Apartment Association