Improving Rental Housing Quality Through Effective Regulation

Zoning Practice — October 2019

By Alan Mallach


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In the decade since the foreclosure crisis and the Great Recession, the number of renter households has grown by eight million, or nearly 25 percent. Cities and states have been dealing with housing problems since the tenement laws of the late 1800s, and every city or town of any size in the United States has housing, health, and property maintenance codes on their books. It has become increasingly clear, though, that merely having codes on the books is not an adequate way to maintain or improve rental housing quality.

This edition of Zoning Practice summarizes five distinct types of rental regulations and makes a case for adopting performance-based rental licensing, which combines periodic rental inspections with incentives for good landlord practices.


Page Count
Date Published
Oct. 1, 2019
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Alan Mallach
Alan Mallach FAICP, a senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress in Washington DC, has over 50 years of experience in planning, community and economic development, and urban revitalization. Author of Bringing Buildings Back: From Vacant Properties to Community Assets and co-editor of the 2019 book Vacant and Problem Properties: A Guide to Legal Strategies and Remedies, he is a nationally-recognized authority on problem property reuse, affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization. He served as Director of Housing and Economic Development for Trenton, New Jersey, was a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and teaches in the graduate city planning program at Pratt Institute in New York. His book, The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America appeared in June 2018, and has already been widely recognized as a major contribution to the literature on America's changing cities.