The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Sky-High Rent:
Because of Computers, or Capitalism?

Jan 23, 2023

Landlords controlling hundreds of thousands of apartments across the country use a computer program to decide how high to raise rents. Software sold by private-equity-owned RealPage is apparently now used to set rents in the vast majority of apartment buildings in the U.S. The software is able to learn how much nearby landlords charge, and it uses that information to calculate similar rent—usually on the high side. The company boasts that its algorithm helps landlords "outperform the market by up to 5%" and raise the rent "year over year, between 5% to 12% in every market."

Rents around the country shot up 20% in the last two years, even after many tenants saw rents rise by a third between 2014 and 2020. More than five million apartments that used to rent for under $1,000 a month now cost much more.

Senate Democrats proposed a law to stop landlords from using the software. But this will not stop landlords from raising rents. The owners of big apartment buildings are in business to make profit. The software is one tool which gives them an excuse to raise rents. But even without this tool, they would still raise rents, just as they did for generations before the software existed.

To have housing we all can afford, we need a society that is not based on the accumulation and maximization of profit. Housing is a human right.