Back in the late 1970s, I was couch-surfing with a doctor friend who had an apartment in the North Bronx. I rode the subway every day past hundreds of abandoned apartment buildings to my job in mid-town Manhattan. The city government had installed and painted thousands of fake windows in the tenements so that we commuters evidently wouldn't be too depressed by viewing the devastation. Neutron bombs could not have emptied and destroyed the Bronx more effectively than did rent control.
Now the economic loons who inhabit New York City's Rent Guidelines Board voted 7 to 2 to freeze one-year rents on the more than one million apartments it regulates. From the New York Times:
It also was the first decision on rent levels by a nine-member board appointed in its entirety by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The board, one of the few tools the mayor has to directly influence the cost of housing in the city, also voted to increase rents on two-year leases by 2 percent, a historic low.
The mayor refrained from publicly calling for a rent freeze as he had done last year. But his housing plan aims at building new affordable housing while staving off the loss of existing affordable units — either through rent increases or the removal of stabilized apartments from regulation.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, praised the decision: "We know tenants have been forced to make painful choices that pitted ever-rising rent against necessities like groceries, child care and medical bills. Today's decision means relief."
The crowd at the Great Hall at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan erupted in loud cheers and chanting. Many tenants and their advocates were thrilled, even though they had earlier said they hoped for rent reductions. …
Joseph Strasburg, the president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords, called the rent freeze an "unconscionable, politically driven decision to carry out de Blasio's campaign promise of two years ago."
"A rent freeze on the surface may sound pro-tenant," he said, "but the reality is landlords will now have to forgo repairing, maintaining and preserving their apartments, which will trigger the deterioration of quality, affordable housing de Blasio pretends to care about."
The operative word is "pretends."
A 2009 review of 140 economics studies on rent control in the Economics Journal Watch found that economists overwhelmingly agreed that "A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available."
From the abstract:
I find that the preponderance of the literature points toward the conclusion that rent control introduces inefficiencies in housing markets. Moreover, the literature on the whole does not sustain any plausible redemption in terms of redistribution. The literature on the whole may be fairly said to show that rent control is bad, yet as of 2001, about 140 jurisdictions persist in some form of the intervention.
Rent control: A slow, but incredibly effective way to dismantle an entire city brick by brick.