Rent Control reduces the Amount of Affordable Housing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 15th, 2014

Week in Review

Living in New York City is expensive.  High taxes.  And high property values.  But people want to live in the city.  And will pay very high rents to do so.  Which landlords can charge because there are people willing to pay them.  It’s the basic law of supply and demand.  It’s the same reason why beachfront property is so expensive.  There’s so little of it and so many people want to live there.  So the property goes to the highest bidder.  Which is why some of the richest movie and television stars own the best of these properties.  Because they are willing to pay the highest price.

Of course that’s all right for the rich.  But what about the poor and middle class?  Who can’t afford to live like rich movie and television stars?  Well, there has long been a cry for affordable housing for the less affluent.  And price controls.  To keep rents affordable for those of more modest means.  There have been various forms of rent control in New York City.  To make housing more available to the less affluent.  Which actually reduced the number of apartments available to them.  How, you may ask.  Well, when it comes to rent there are two parties.  A buyer and a seller.  We know why buyers are buying.  They want a place to live.  But why do sellers want to rent out apartments?  To make a profit.  And because rent control made it more difficult to make a profit landlords went elsewhere to make a profit.  Thus reducing the number of rental units available.

New York City still has rent-controlled apartments.  And people desperately want to live in them because rent everywhere else (at market prices) is so expensive.  So there are often battles between rent-control tenants and landlords who want to rent at market prices.  Like this (see Brooklyn landlords illegally harassed, targeted rent-stabilized tenants: suit by Erik Badia, Ginger Adams Otis posted 4/15/2014 on the Daily News).

The landlords targeted longstanding black tenants who lived in rent-stabilized apartments, the suit contends.

The plaintiffs pay anywhere from $600 to $1,400 a month for 52 three-bedroom units in the three buildings, according to the lawsuit…

The group claims the landlords, who bought the buildings in 2009, have neglected to do repairs in black-occupied units…

Approximately 15 new tenants have moved in since then, paying market rents as a high as $2,500, the plaintiffs claim…

Pilgrim, who pays a stabilized $950 rent for his apartment, said he has talked to new tenants who had told him they are paying more than double that rate…

“How can you go from paying $687 a month to $2,500 a month? They’re also taking advantage of these young kids,” Bell said.

The tenant sees the landlord as being greedy.  While the landlord sees that apartment being rented 72.5% below what it could be renting for.  If the roles were reversed the tenant would probably do the same thing.  Because people want to make money.  And people want to be rich.  That’s why they buy lotto tickets.  And try to make it in movies and television.  To be rich and famous.  They don’t buy properties to see how little money they can make with them.  They buy them to see how much money they can make with them.  Movie stars would never put their mansions up for sale at 72.5% below what other rich people would pay for them.  Just as a middle class homeowner would never sell her home for 72.5% below what someone would pay for it.

The law of supply and demand bring buyers and sellers together at a price they both agree on.  Making both parties happy.  When laws interfere with market prices (such as rent control) both parties are seldom happy.  Buyers tend to be happier.  But because sellers are so unhappy they stop selling.  Thus reducing the number of apartments available to rent.  Which is why rent control doesn’t work.  It actually reduces the amount of affordable housing.  So that only a very lucky few can enjoy life in a rent-control apartment.

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