We can honestly debate whether rent stabilization can help in Portland’s housing crisis (“Portland citizens group seeks referendum on rent control, other tenant protections,” May 22). On the one hand, tenants clearly need protection against unreasonable rent hikes. On the other, economists, on both the left and right, generally agree that rent stabilization ultimately restricts, rather than expands, the availability of affordable housing.

But one aspect of the proposed Portland referendum is clearly simplistic and counterproductive: pegging annual rent increases to the Consumer Price Index. Many of the factors comprising a fair rent – real estate taxes, municipal sewer and water rates, insurance costs and maintenance expenses – can have little relationship to the CPI.

This is why cities long experienced with rent stabilization typically determine fair rent adjustments through a public agency like New York’s Rent Guidelines Board, which includes tenant, landlord and general public representatives and whose deliberations are open to public scrutiny.

Tim Wallace

Portland