Economics

Breaking Rent

After Katrina.

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New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas apparently wants to finish the job begun by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans, not surprisingly, is short of places to put people; nearly 142,000 houses and apartments were damaged or destroyed when the city flooded. Thomas' plan? Impose rent controls on the rental houses and apartments that remain.

As any Econ 101 student–or any longtime resident of certain parts of New York–could tell you, landlords abandon their buildings when they can no longer make enough money to repair them. New Orleans isn't immune to this phenomenon: In November rental unit owner Edward Young told National Public Radio that, with controls, it wouldn't make financial sense for him to spend the $40,000-$60,000 required to repair his building.

"There would probably never be enough apartments available for people who need them," added Young. "Some people could just take the insurance and walk, and we considered it."

There is, however, a silver lining: Rent control is one way to make sure that the wetlands New Orleans once occupied are restored.

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