The passage of the stringent new state rent regulations may seem like the end of a long saga—but it should be the beginning. Responsible lawmakers should set out to monitor the impact of the law on New York’s housing market supply and the condition of its buildings. If advocates of the law believe in evidence, not just anti-landlord ideology, they should want to know the answers to some inconvenient questions—answers which, in all likelihood, will make clear that this is a law that benefits the few at the expense of the many.
Here are some questions which the Rent Stabilization Guidelines Board, for instance, or the Independent Budget Office, might ask.
Who benefits from rent regulation? Unless one believes that rent should, unlike any other good or service, always be priced below market rate, we should want to know the answer to this question. That means tracking the incomes of residents of rent-regulated units. If those incomes are consistently higher than a municipality’s median income, the argument that property owners should settle for less in rent is questionable.
Logic and experience tell us that rent regulations create disadvantages for low-income people: If twice as many people look for apartments as there are available apartments, landlords will rent to those with the higher incomes.
Howard Husock is vice president for policy research and publications at the Manhattan Institute and author of the forthcoming book, Who Killed Civil Society: The Rise of Big Government and Decline of Bourgeois Norms.
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