The Underground Economy: Fun Facts!


According to the Polish Daily News, around 100,000 families in New York City live in black-market apartments.

NEXT: The Face of Anti-Immigration

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This line kills me:

    “Many Queens politicians believe that the research data shows the need for stricter regulation of the market.”

    What do you think caused the problem in the first place, you jackasses?

  2. From all of the articles I’ve read on the subject of New York city housing, it’s a good chance that the number is even higher than that.

  3. Does anyone remember the exact quote that went something like, “The most effective way to destroy a city, short of bombing, was rent control.”

  4. Because of course, we just don’t have enough criminals – so we must produce more. Apparently we think there is a supply-side recession going on with crime, so we need to spur and encourage criminal enterprises as much as possible.

    The world clearly doesn’t have enough crime or laws without deciding what private individuals can charge for their goods and services; we won’t even talk about what can and cannot legally be a good or service, of course.

  5. Not just rent control. Urban renewal money (or whatever the trendy name for it is at any given time) goes to bulldoze working class neighborhoods and affordable housing, and replace it with yuppie fern bars, clothing retailers and banks.

  6. Kevin Carson:

    If I recall correctly, wasn’t one of the main causes of the fall of Harlem (once considered “The Black Capital of the World”, before it turned into a crime-filled ghetto) something much like urban renewal, called “public housing”? In effect, they hugely increased population density in a small area (high-rise apartments and such), granted no private property rights to the tenants (so they had no direct interest in property values and keeping their property in order), and did no extra policing to combat the absolutely 100% predictable outcome of a sudden jump in crime in the area.

    As crime is one of the main factors that determines real estate value and use (with local school systems, crime hugely influences residential property values especially), as property values began to slide (which is both a cause and effect of failing businesses and widespread communal decay) businesses failed and people who could, and wished to, moved elsewhere; the decrease in demand and surge in supply of real estate, as people move away from declining neighborhoods, further depresses the value of real estate, easily leading to a total depression and destruction of an area.

    Those who could not, or did not, move away during this time were pulled down in the engulfing expanding embrace of crime and squalor, and The Black Capital of the World became known not for it’s Black Renaissance in art and culture (especially music), but for it’s crime and poverty; the renaissance was effectively brought it’s end and the treasures diluted and disseminated throughout culture, such that it’s originators and birthplace (or at least point of focus and dissimination) gained little to no credits or rewards for their advances.

    Effectively, Black Hollywood was strangled in it’s crib by may very well have been the good intentions of providing affordable housing the poor; but it all went horribly wrong, as what really happened was that the government subsidized and enforced the growth of crime, poverty, indifference, and the uncompensated diffusion of brainpower, skill, and other such treasures throughout the country, effectively killing the golden goose.

    All because the government failed to recognize or appreciate that prices and land uses are what they are for very good reasons, and are not to be trifled with. Investors, families who lived (including working) in the neighborhood, those who would find a home there according to their own choices and interests, and society as a whole (country and world) may very well have lost an irreplacable ongoingly productive treasure; the price to deal with the situation created by it’s loss may even be exponentially more than even it’s original value.

    Just one big failure to show why aggregating unchecked power is a bad idea; while the power for good is incredible, the cost of abuses are exponentially worse than anything good that can be done by central control and intervention in communities and markets in ways beyond the rightful means and responsabilities of government.

  7. Bravo, Pluto! Well done.

    One quibble: urban renewal didn’t usually dramatically increase density. Those tall buildings are usually surrounded by big lawns and parking lots, whereas the 3-8 story buildings they replaced were cheek-by-jowl. It was a bastardization of LeCorbusier’s Tower in the Park idea, and put a physical, visual, and functional barrier between the residents and the rest of the city. The destruction of “street life” and the herding of social activity into units and designated common areas was a conscious strategy during that time.

  8. Oh yeah, illegal apartments.

    It is highly unlikely that the only laws being broken are housing and building codes; ie, no second exit, no bedroom without a window, etc. Most likely, the zoning in these areas forbids the additional units entirely, or puts an unreasonable burden on homeowners seeking to get them approved. As with the drug war, the act of defining an otherwise harmless activity is what makes the activity so harmful. If the homeowners were allowed to add the units by right, they would get their building permits, add the extra doors, stairs, etc., and they would be just as safe as any other unit.

    A city has very little control over how whether or not its population grows. It can either deal forthrightly with the increase, or it can go into denial. What you get when you choose the latter is dangerous firetrap apartments.

  9. …the act of defining AS ILLEGAL…

  10. Are you the same joe that always rants about how poorly designed many towns are?

  11. I thought the big downfall of Harlem was when King Heroin came to town, back in the late 1940s.

  12. The problem with the way that growth is dealt with on a local level is that the people who set the laws have every incentive to keep new units from being built or current units from being divided:

    1. It prevents that ‘fearful and nasty’ change (dripping with sarcasm). Instead of coming out directly and saying that we don’t want x kind of people living here and creating a different environment for my family, you’ll most often see complaints about – Traffic, Property Values and Crime, usually even in that order.

    2. Increasing the overhead costs of building through overregulation, overly restrictve zoning or mere corruption and bribery serves to keep the property values artificially inflated.

    The people complaining about this are often the people who currently live in the neighborhoods.

    Who are the people who don’t get a say in the policy? Those would be the newcomers who would like to live in an area for a certain price point, but now can’t. Often, they would theoretically outnumber those who want to keep the change out.

  13. “Are you the same joe that always rants about how poorly designed many towns are?” You betcha. More specifically, I’m that joe that’s always complaining about the imposition of superhuman-scale, pedestrian-hostile urban designs on the landscape instead of the organic, walkable neighborhoods of the past. Sprawl is one function of this, old-style urban renewal is another.

    Doug, funny how the social pathologies – widespread drug addiction, rising crime, fraying social ties – happened at almost exactly the same time as urban renewal (late 40s to mid 70s), crested a decade or so later, and then reversed.

  14. EMAIL:
    DATE: 02/28/2004 11:13:44
    Self-imposed ignorance should disgust everyone.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.