Unintended Consequences

Great Moments in Unintended Consequences: Rent Control, Arizona Alt Fuel, Ballot Access (Vol. 8)

Good intentions, bad results.


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"Great moments in unintended consequences"—when something that sounds like a great idea goes horribly wrong. Watch the whole series here.

Part One: Housing Costs

The year: 2021

The problem: Rent is expensive in St. Paul, Minnesota!

The solution: Limit residential rent increases to 3 percent a year, even if there is a change in occupancy.

Sounds like a great idea, with the best of intentions. What could possibly go wrong?

The initiative did not account for inflation. And unlike most rent control initiatives, the new law also applies to new apartment buildings, discouraging housing construction and investment. Which is why multi-family building permits are down over 80 percent in St. Paul, while ramping up in the rest of the state.

Which explains why St. Paul is the patron saint of tent makers.

Part Two: Arizona Alt Fuel

The year: 2000

The problem: Not enough alternative fuel is being used in Arizona.

The solution: Generous tax credits for new vehicles to incentivize buyers to add an alternative fuel tank.

The subsidy allowed tens of thousands to buy fully loaded luxury SUVs at a nearly 50 percent discount, as long as they were converted to add a secondary one-gallon alternative fuel tank that would likely never be filled up. The plan wound up costing the state hundreds of millions and actually increased gasoline consumption.

Tanks for nothing!

Part Three: Georgia Ballot Access

The year: 1940

The problem: Communists.

The solution: Bar communists from appearing on ballots.

Sounds…pretty unconstitutional, with questionable intentions. What could possibly go wrong?

Restrictive ballot access measures were codified in 1943, requiring signatures from 5 percent of a congressional district's voters. Later, more requirements were added, including forcing signatures to be notarized and the imposition of qualifying fees. It's now been over 60 years since a third-party candidate has muscled through the restrictions to appear on the ballot for any congressional race in Georgia.

Written and produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg; narrated by Austin Bragg