Milford Oks Fair Rent Commission, But 'It Could Take a While' to Find Members

July 4, 2023 - by Nick Sambides, Staff Writer, Milford Mirror - MILFORD - City leaders narrowly beat a state deadline to establish a fair rent commission to investigate rent complaints and mediate conflicts between property owners and renters.

The Board of Aldermen voted 14-0 with one absentee during a special meeting June 27 to approve the eight-member commission — five members and three alternates — in compliance with a new state law mandating that towns with 25,000 or more residents establish a fair rent commission by July 1, chairman Phil Vetro said. The vote approved language changes in ordinances to allow the commission to form.

State legislators created the new law in response to skyrocketing average-rent costs in Connecticut through early 2022. Rents increased between 6 percent and 8 percent. That wasn't as high as the national average increase of 11.4 percent, but was scary enough, given other cost increases driven by pandemic-inspired inflation, to warrant the creation of the commission, legislators said.

By the end of 2021’s second quarter, the national average shot up to 7.2 percent. In New Haven it was 6.8 percent, Stamford saw it rise to 7.2 percent. And Hartford, ever the outlier, rose sharply by 6.2 percent itself. Rates in Connecticut have since risen by close to those same rates, but the rest of the country exploded, reaching the 11 percent mark early last year. 

The commission is supposed to act as a form of inflation control and prevent gouging, but, as a landlord himself, Vetro said he could see the commission being vexed by the difficulty in parsing legitimate expense increases from greed.

"Expenses have risen so quickly," Vetro said. "My taxes have gone up. So have my utility costs. A lot of the time there's nothing you can do about it."

Mayor Richard Smith is supposed to supply appointees for the board to approve and has received close to a dozen resumes. City Chief of Staff Justin Rosen expressed doubt that the process would be quick, given that the members need to be split between Democrats renters and landlords and Republicans from the same groups, with a third element coming from those who don't rent property.

"It could take a while," Rosen said.

A home improvement and construction contractor as well as a landlord, Vetro said he would love to be on the board himself, but couldn't be because of his being an alderman. He described the board as yet another example of an unfunded mandate from the state, with the state requiring the board but not offering to pay the legal or administrative expenses such a board is likely to incur.

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