George Will on the Unconstitutionality of Rent Control
Writing in The Washington Post, columnist George Will urges the Supreme Court to take up the legal challenge filed against New York City's rent control laws by property owner and landlord James D. Harmon Jr.:
Rent control is unconstitutional because it is an egregious and uncompensated physical occupation of property. The Constitution says that private property shall not "be taken for public use, without just compensation." The Harmons get no compensation for being coerced into privatized welfare: The state shows compassion to tenants — many of whom are not needy; one of the Harmons' entitled tenants owns a house on Long Island — by compelling landlords to subsidize them.
A property right in a physical thing is a right to possess, use and dispose of this thing. Because government-compelled possession of property by a third party is an unambiguous taking, the Harmons' property right has been nullified….
The Harmons' case illustrates government's steady and no longer stealthy desire to transform property from a fundamental right into an attenuated, conditional privilege. Government would like the right to be contingent on whatever agenda it has for ameliorating "emergencies" it causes.