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Dave

Dave is a part-time blogger that writes about whatever suits him at the time.

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293 Responses

  1. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    Along with high yield bombing rent control is an excellent way to diminish housing supplies in a city.

    But outcomes don’t matter, I guess, so long as our hearts are in the right places. The poor, the minorities and the unconnected can console themselves with our Liberal good intentions as they sleep under an overpass or commute four hours in and out of the city.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to North
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      says:

      Speaking from experience, I’d say it’s closer to three hours.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to North
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      says:

      Sadly I don’t think anyone would build affordable housing units without mandates or incentives. The affordable housing building always seems just around the corner. NY has been building luxury condo after luxury condo for ten years now. Maybe more.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        code’s too stringent to build affordable housing units.
        You have to build luxury and wait for luxury to decay…Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        “Luxury” is really just a marketing term for market rate. Whether the market rate is affordable or not depends on individual circumstances. And that makes sense. Location is a consumption good.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        I few posts back I left links to a news article about a Portland, OR developer who was building low income housing & trying very hard to avoid the Portland mandates etc. because they made the units too expensive.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        Why would they build unaffordable housing units? They need to be able to rent them.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        I could almost see that complaint if we were talking about short shelf-life goods (all the truffles those guys harvest go to the rich, every year!), but housing is very durable. In general, building a unit of additional housing means that there’s more housing for years and years. It’s adding to a pool. The people who are excluded from that pool are best off when that pool expands and excludes fewer people.

        If demand for housing grows, the number of excluded people will grow unless the number of available units grow as fast or faster. There’s really no way around that. If it doesn’t happen, the only thing we really quibble about is how sympathetic we are toward the new people who are being excluded.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        NY has been rent controlled and regulated up to the nines for over a century. Why in God(ess?)’s name would any developer leap through all those hoops and sacrifice their first born son to build anything but the highest margin units they can sell (aka the highest end ones)?Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        What @north said. Presumably, if there were a bit more free reign and rents could move freely, there would be places like Stuy Town getting built. But why risk getting all that capital locked up when you can build luxury high-rises for Chinese and Russian oligarchs that aren’t going to lobby city hall for a rent freeze?Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        Is “affordabale” a liberal code word for non-market rate? Why would anyone make an investment that they wouldn’t make a decent reutrn on?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul DeGraw
        Ignored
        says:

        jr,
        oh, no, not around here. Luxury means about 3x the market rate (market rate being set by students, and luxury rate being set by out-of-towners).Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Saul DeGraw
        Ignored
        says:

        “NY has been rent controlled and regulated up to the nines for over a century.”

        And yet, despite over a century of enacting anti-market policies which have been proven, in theory after theory, to destroy the economy and lead to serfdom, the New York City economy stubbornly refuses to collapse.

        In fact, deluded people and finance firms insist, for some bizarre reason, to flock to the city in such numbers as to create a shortage of housing and office space.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        “the New York City economy stubbornly refuses to collapse.”

        That’s why the famous headline was FORD TO CITY: HAVE A NICE DAY.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Saul DeGraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @lwa

        In fact, deluded people and finance firms insist, for some bizarre reason, to flock to the city in such numbers as to create a shortage of housing and office space.

        I’m sure the reason for this is beneath you so I’m not going to waste my time explaining it to you.

        And yet, despite over a century of enacting anti-market policies which have been proven, in theory after theory, to destroy the economy and lead to serfdom, the New York City economy stubbornly refuses to collapse.

        You know, for the number of times I’ve watch Hanley hand your ass to you on a silver platter every time you try to distort arguments, I’m surprised you have the cajones to keep doing it.

        I’d ask you which one of us claims that these anti-market theories “destroy the economy” but I really don’t care about your opinion on these matters, especially if this is the way you carry yourself.

        For crying out loud get a grip.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Saul DeGraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @lwa Don’t you mean, “Despite rent control advocates insistence that those policies would make housing affordable, the market has resisted”? Because the prediction that rent control would lead to higher rents and housing shortages has come true.Report

      • Avatar LWC (Liberal With Cojones) in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        Truth be told, I actually oppose rent control, for some of the same reasons libertarians do.

        But aren’t NYC and SF routinely held up as examples of liberal horrors? High taxes, check; nanny state regulation, check; large welfare populations, check, check, check.

        Or am I mistaken, do conservatives and libertarians hold these cities up as paradigms of how to recruit and attract high tech and financial firms?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        @lwa

        You’ve got libertarian tourette’s. No matter the issue, all you can say is, “but libertarians!”

        It seems to be beyond your comprehension that libertarians might actually be saying something other than “regulation will completely destroy the economy.” But that phrasing is so simplistic, it’s no wonder that’s what you latch onto–nothing more sophisticated or subtle seems to be within your cognitive capacities. I ought to be surprised that after I repeatedly demonstrated your abysmal ignorance about libertarianism last week that you’d come right back and demonstrate that abysmal ignorance again.

        They say you learn a lot from failure, but it seems not to be true with you. Despite a long series of failures to understand libertarianism, you seem unable to resist publicly displaying your ignorance time and time again.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        “libertarians might actually be saying something other than “regulation will completely destroy the economy.”

        Hey, I’m sure that some libertarians actually do accept reasonable regulation and taxes. I know Roger has said so, and so have you at times.

        But there are plenty, like Damon on the Sticky Words thread, and others on the BHL site, who state openly that anything less than absolute ownership over oneself = slavery, and yes, there are plenty who regularly hold that taxes= theft, and that voting=coercion and regulation=fascism, or slavery, or serfdom, or something or other.

        Look, these people who call themselves libertarians, actually do say these things- I don’t have to make it up.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        @lwa

        So in this comment you have a false dichotomy, you cherrypick comments to define a general ideology, and you show that you’re ignorant of James Madison’s, John Adams’, Alexis de Tocqueville’s, and Max Weber’s understanding of government.

        Capital job. It’s not everyone who can pack so much error into a single comment.Report

      • Avatar LWC (Liberal With Cojones) in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        Man, I don’t even know what your point is here.

        I started by pointing out that conservatives and libertarians hold up NYC as an example of a failed statist regime- are you arguing that?

        Next I pointed out how many libertarians make wild absolutist statements- is that your point of disagreement?

        Or are you saying I am nutpicking? Like there is there a form of intellectual nuance to “Taxes= Slavery!” that I am unfairly leaving out?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        Of course you don’t understand. You’ve consistently done a good job of making that clear.Report

      • Avatar LWC (Liberal With Cojones) in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        You should probably talk to these guys
        who consistently portray libertarians as poorly socialized, self-absorbed man-children.

        Even I think those guys really are vicious.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul DeGraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @lwc-liberal-with-cojones

        At least they’re not so stupid as to think democracy isn’t coercion. After you’ve talked to someone who believes that, everybody else looks smart in comparison.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        So you get angry at being portrayed as a caricature, and your notion of dispelling that image is to say “Democracy is coercion”?Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        This goes no further.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North
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      says:

      There are people that still stubornly believe in rent control despite all evidence that it reduces the amount of housing available. Its a sweet deal if you can get it but it isn’t an unrestricted good thing because it reduces the amount of available rental units and retards the constrution of new rental units.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        E.g., Jimmy E. McMillan III? That guy is awesome. Wrong, but awesome.

        I would have thought that the truth of this proposition was by now undeniable even by the most lefty of all liberals, backed up as it is by a body of 50+ years of accumulated experience in large cities. The question has seemed to me to be at least since law school, “How shall we strike a balance between ensuring affordable housing and sufficient profitability as to attract responsible landlords to the market to prevent the creation of slums?” And there turns out to be no actual answer to that one other than “gentrification,” which sort of defeats the objective of affordability.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        American conservatives still cling to their belief in market-based healthcare despite all evidence despite all evidence to the contrary so I don’t see why its so surprising that for than a few liberals hold on to the belief in rent-control.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        The towering irony of liberal rent control supporters essentially creating a new landed class in those markets after liberalism arose to throw down the landed classes always bothers me.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith in reply to North
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      says:

      @north But outcomes don’t matter, I guess, so long as our hearts are in the right places. The poor, the minorities and the unconnected can console themselves with our Liberal good intentions

      This was your most brilliant comment yet. There are /several/ very good reasons so-called conservatives don’t exactly relish the thought of handing the keys to liberals drunk with power who want to drive – everything – wherever they damn well please. But their hearts are indeed (or so they say) in the right places. What’s truly impressive about this statement of yours that I will cherish always is that you’re a liberal! I’m now truly in awe of you.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    If we, as a society, want more of a particular thing, the best way to get that thing is to make it easier for “someone else” to provide that particular thing.

    Or, at least, we can pretend to stop being surprised when there are fewer and fewer someone elses showing up after we make it more difficult enough times.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      There are statements of principle and then there is the Manhattan residential real estate market. This is just another front in the never ending battle.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      This is what grinds my gears about the whole rent control thing. I’m a liberal guy who doesn’t mind generous social programs, but “we” as a society should pony up and pay for them. Saying to one person “Hey, you. This guy needs cheap rent, so you’re going to pay for all of it,” is not really the same thing. If “we” don’t care enough to pay taxes and subsidize the poor for housing by distributing the burden very broadly, it’s very hard to justify dumping 100% of the burden on their landlords. It’s very cynical behavior, and it creates the worst possible set of incentives.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        @troublesome-frog
        a liberal guy who doesn’t mind generous social programs, but “we” as a society should pony up and pay for them. Saying to one person “Hey, you. This guy needs cheap rent, so you’re going to pay for all of it,” is not really the same thing.

        This. Very much this. Free riding is not a good basis for public policy.Report

  3. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    Therefore, the rent regulated tenants are getting two things for free: 1) use of an amenity and 2) the legal right to fight for a rent reduction and/or reinstatement of the service in the event that a landlord decides to remove an amenity without the permission from the DHCR.

    3) half of their rent.Report

  4. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
    Ignored
    says:

    I have zero problem with this. I wouldn’t feel bad or lose sleep preventing rent control beneficiaries from accessing amenities. I would, if there was not some regulatory/legal reason not to, allow rent control tenants to pay for access as a separate service.

    Want to use the awesome heated rooftop pool with a skyline view? $1000/year (or whatever the cost would be) & you get a key.Report

  5. Avatar j r
    Ignored
    says:

    What is the basis for the idea that all tenants ought to have equal access to all amenities regardless of how much they pay for those amenities? If I walk into Smith and Wollensky and order a small salad, am I going to complain that the guy next to me is eating an aged piece of filet? If I buy an economy class ticket on an airplane, do I complain that the guy in first class has seat that reclines fully horizontal while I’m stuck in an uncomfortable chair. If I pay rent on a studio apartment, am I going to complain that the guy paying for the penthouse has more space and a private roof deck? I suppose that I could do all of those things, but almost no one would take those complaints seriously.

    Being a tenant of a building is not like being a citizen of that building. It is a commercial relationship. You have no pre-existing claim on the amenities in that building. You get what you pay for.

    The best option would be to allow the rent-controlled tenants to buy into the amenities, but it appears that would create the same regulatory issue if, for some reason, the landlord had to discontinue the amenity.Report

  6. Avatar Saul DeGraw
    Ignored
    says:

    I think it depends on the amenity.

    1. I am fine with not letting rent reduced tenants use the gym/spa or having to buy a membership. I am fine with giving parking spaces to market-rate tenants first or making rent-reduced apartments somewhat less fancy.

    2. Laundry room access should be universal especially because most if not all of the time the laundry machines are still coin operated.

    3. Use of the doorman/concierge should also be universal.

    4. Entrances/exists to the building should be universal. The previous story I heard was for a complex that asked rent reduced tenants to enter the building through back doors.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul DeGraw
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      says:

      Why should the doorman be universal?

      Disagree about laundry, but do understand that one kinda.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        The doorman is probably unavoidable. Maybe he doesn’t provide services like hailing a cab or signing for mail for a rent-reduced tenant, but the security and prestige that he provides necessarily accrues to every resident of the building.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Because it is a bare minimum service and not really one that is a new extra perk like gyms. Adding fancy gyms to buildings is relatively new. There are plenty of older doorman buildings in NYC that are not otherwise equipped with amenities.

        It just seems petty to deny doorman services and doesn’t add too much extra costs for the doorman to take UPS and FedEx packages for rent reduced residents. Denying it seems like a sadistic extra burden for everyone. When I lived in a doorman building, I had a mail slot and if a package was received I got a little slip.
        So say UPS is delivering ten packages to the building and three are for residents with rent reductions. Are you going to have the doorman tell the UPS guy he can’t accept those packages and have UPS write a “sorry we missed you slip?”

        That seems massively spiteful.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Agreeing with Saul and Burt:
        The rent-reduced folks should expect to pay, however, if they’re getting a package held at the door. (Make it tipping if you must, though I’d prefer a flat fee).Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        If market rate tenants are also paying a buck fifty a wash and a buck twenty five a dry, why does it matter if rent reduced tenants are also paying the same amount?

        Though I’ve discovered that no apartments knows how many units are needed for a proper laundry room.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        @kim

        I was paying below market rate when in a doorman building because I was subletting a co-op from a family friend and they were generous in charging a below market rate.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        I have never had a doorman at any apartment complex I have lived in, so the alleged indispensability of them is kind of lost on me…

        With laundry, the reason to restrict it is to reduce wait times and increase availability for market-rate customers. Which makes sense to me.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        @will-truman

        I generally think of a doorman building as being a very NYC especially a Manhattan thing. Some newer condos in Brooklyn have concierge/front desks but not someone who just is on guard 24/7 (not the same guy or gal obviously).

        Really what they are great for is being able to have packages delivered to your apartment and not worry about missing UPS or FedEx and also not needing to have things delivered to work and then you have to shlep it home.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Saul,
        Subletting not illegal where you were?

        I was simply envisioning it as a two-tiered system.

        Rent-reduced, by which we mean the gov’t subsidizes the basics, and you pay for everything else ala carte.
        Market-rate, in which case, most of the frills and fripperies are thrown in for the base price.

        This has the added benefit that most people seem to like “everything included” plans even if they don’t use everything. And it has the additional benefit that the poorest folks (those who are on rent-reduced rates), can choose where to spend their limited funds.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Oh, I understand why having a doorman would be cool. But they’re not indispensable. Without them, you have it sent to work, pick it up after work, or take your chances with theft. But that’s pretty much what I always did.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Will, not every building in New York has a doorman or coincierge but many do. In buildings with doorman, I can’t see how you can logically restrict it to only people market rent just for logistical reasons. It seems much easier to have it as a universal service.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        It’s lost on me, Will, but everyone I know living in New York seems to consider having a doorman and not having a doorman the same way as you and I might think of having covered parking versus not. Or having laundry in unit vs. not having it anywhere.
        Perhaps packages get instantly swiped if they are left on doorsteps in New York.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Lee,
        Some stuff is universal (like security). Holding packages could be done “alacarte” though ($5 a package seems fair).Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        @vikram-bath

        Probably the packages would not be left and the resident would need to haul over wherever a pick-up place is located and it might not be anywhere convenient.

        NYCers really don’t drive or own cars so the doorman is the perk that can be bragged about along with not living on a 4th floor walk-upReport

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        I survived for years without a doorman or laundry in my building in New York and I paid market rates. Just because it’s annoying doesn’t mean it’s critical.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        I had a doorman in NYC. I appreciated it but wouldn’t have paid extra for it*. Most of my friends in the city don’t have doormen. Those that do have always talked about it as a perk. The only ones who seemed to think it was a necessity were spoiled brats from out of town (i.e., my ex-girlfriend). Some woman value it more because there is an added element of safety — or at least the perception thereof (I don’t know if there is any research/data on the matter, but people certainly feel safer in a doorman building and piece of mind does have value).

        We also had a doorman when we lived in Yonkers, though this was in a new, luxury, amenity-laden building. A doorman was part of their brand. We lived in a similar complex in the DC suburbs and our particular building didn’t have a doorman but there was a concierge service available in the centralized clubhouse. This was a similar luxury brand complex.

        I liked having a doorman. I was always friendly with them and I liked the small chat on the way in and out. Package and dry cleaning service were also really nice. And they could help you out in a pinch (e.g., locked out of apartment, few bucks short to tip the delivery guy). But they were far from a necessity, at least for me.

        * I lived in an apartment building owned by an independent school in the city. They made their units available to independent school teachers at below market rates. I paid $1000/month for an apartment that probably could have gone for upwards of $1800 (this for 200 square feet on the UWS… location, location, location). If they would have given it to me for $900 or $950 without the doorman, I would have taken it. But I didn’t really have another option.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        As for differentiating his service for full-pay and reduced-pay tenants, I don’t think it’d be that hard.

        He shouldn’t have to take packages or perform lockout services. He should have to ring up all visitors — regardless of what tenant they are visiting — because the doorman is often in place of other security systems.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        @kim

        It was a co-op building. She was able to sublet something like two years out of every five. Condo owners are also allowed to sublet.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Because [a doorman] is a bare minimum service

        I want to say that’s the epitome of a first world problem, but, christ, most apartment dwellers in the first world don’t even have a doorman. From my perspective seeing a doorman as “bare minimum service” puts you among the rarified elite. It seems other-worldly to me, like a big name Hollywood actor complaining that the limousine taking him to the Oscars had the wrong brand of champagne.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        But @james-hanley , surely you can’t expect people to open their own door? You show me someone who can open their own door and I’ll show you someone whose Hermes bag isn’t big enough. And then we’ll really be talking about crimes against humanity.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul DeGraw
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      says:

      2) If tenants are not supposed to have washers or dryers in the unit.

      3 & 4) Agreed, particularly because the cost is likely minimal (unless there is something very special about such things I am unaware of).Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Saul DeGraw
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      says:

      Isn’t a kinda a common occurrence to have exclusive entrances for the very highest (literally and/or figuratively) units in a building?Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        In some buildings but not all and not most from my observations. Buildings in Manhattan are of all forms. Former bosses lived in an apartment building on CWP that had two elevator banks east and west wings). Each floor had two large apartments on it and the elevators were operated by doormen and the doormen would also leave your mail on a small table outside your apartment door.

        My old building did not have separate elevators for the penthouses and I don’t think Lee’s building does. You also picked up your mail from the lobby. It wasn’t brought to you.

        I’ve also been in buildings where the elevators let out into the apartments themselves. These are super luxury buildings but small ones with fewer apartments.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        @kolohe

        I used to deliver pizzas. It wasn’t in NYC but was in an area rich with high rises, some of them rather luxurious (Jay Z lived in one). I never saw any with a separate entrance but have seen different elevator banks for higher floors than lower floors. I don’t think this is so much about exclusivity as it is about efficiency and convenience. You often see this in very tall office buildings as well. One bank will serve floors 1-30 and the other 31-60.

        I think exclusive entrances would pose problems for a number of reasons, not all of them related to equity or whathaveyou. You’d have to make sure both access points were ADA compliant, which can be a real issue if you are talking about retrofitting an older building (though you could get around this by allowing those with disabilities to enter/exit through the “gold star” entrance, but that could also get weird). I wonder what potential liability there would be if a resident was harmed during an emergency evacuation because he wrongly assumed he couldn’t utilize an exit path through the exclusive access point and instead took a longer route. If one point is doormanned and the other isn’t, you’d need to install the requisite security system in the undoormanned point and make sure all apartments can be served by it in the event the status of any of them change.

        Ultimately, it seems the cost incurred would outweigh the benefits. When I last lived in a high rise, I rarely used the main doorman entrance; I either parked in and entered through the garage or I came in via the side door, which was usually the first door I came upon and which was closer to my bank of elevators. Basically, I voluntarily took the less exclusive entrance because it was preferable for other reasons. Even if it wasn’t so, even if it was a few feet out of the way, I still probably would go that way for a break on the rent. So I doubt access points are the sort of thing that are going to incentivize people to give up rent control and pay market value.

        I should note that, as an able-bodied man, my interaction with access points is somewhat different than it might be for women or others who are at greater risk of violence. My wife also usually came in through the side door, but I wouldn’t fault her for wanting assured access to the door manned entrance if she felt unsafe with the people around her as she approached the building.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw @kazzy

        Ok, thanks. Maybe I’m thinking of (mostly based on Hollywood) all those penthouses, etc where the elevator takes you directly into the suite. (vice a hallway).

        Hi-rises are virtually non-existent in the DC area, and those in Honolulu have all been built in the 60s or later, so some sort of electronic lock (vice a doorman or security person at a desk) is more the norm.Report

  7. Avatar Patrick
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    says:

    Basically, if you consider an amenity an amenity, then yes, I’d say it’s probably completely okay to charge for it.

    I’d make some exceptions, though. If you’re doing a major renovation of your facility that inconveniences your entire renter community for an extended period of time, that renovation should be accessible to everyone when it is done. If you make it a pain in the ass to get into and out of the building while the first and second floors are demo’d and the elevator is out for three weeks and people have to put up with plumbing or power outages because you’re taking out the two first floors of residences to put in a gym and a spa and a meditation chamber, then yeah, it’s kinda on you to give access to all of that to everyone that paid the opportunity cost while construction was going on. Or, alternatively, you could have some sort of negotiated break. “I want to add X so that I can sell N units in this building at a higher price. It’s going to be a much higher price. But I want to limit X so that the N folks will really be willing to pay for it. So I’ll drop the rent by $Z for all your rent controlled folks during construction, but you don’t get access to the X.” I imagine most folks would take that deal.

    The idea of rent control isn’t entirely bad, if you work on the assumptions involved that come with it. But it’s clearly the case that it comes with consequences, and figuring out the balance involved there is an ongoing process.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Patrick
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      says:

      I’d be fascinated to hear you lay out what aspect of rent control can be spun as not entirely bad?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        (tells a story about a grandmother who can afford to live on the street where she grew up thanks to wonderful happy rent control, but she’s worried because Evil Republicans want to change that so that the nasty landlord can kick her out to go die in the snow)Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        Rent control laws tend to get passed in places where a majority of voters are tenants. If you are in fact a tenant, it would seem to be in your interest.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        @vikram-bath

        San Francisco’s rent control law was passed in the late 1970s when one big landlord. There was a theory that Prop 13 would lower rents because landlords would pass their property taxes savings off to their tenants. They did not. In SF, a landlord named Angelo Sangiacomo raised rents by 25 to 65 percent on all of his housing units. Old-timers told me that guns were used to enforce the rent increases.
        Diane Feinstein ordered a 60-day rent increase to ward off a leftier opponent in the mayoral election. This was also right after the murders of Milk and Mascone so SF was reeling.

        http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/14/sf-housing/Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        When Prop 13 passed I was a student at Berkeley, sharing a studio with a fellow student. We’d been given the same “It’ll lower rent” story. What actually happened is that we got a note from our landlord saying that the rent reduction formula (I don’t know if it was state or city-wide) would actually let him raise it 20%, but he’d be a nice guy and keep it the same.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        The sick reality, Jim, is that people don’t necessarily stay in the same economic straits. That granny is sunning herself on a beach in FL while raking in two grand a month by subletting her rent controlled unit at market rates and slum lord conditions. Rent control, creating layers of Rentier classes since 1935.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        @north

        I think there are far more elderly people trying to stay as residents in their rent-controlled apartments than sunning it up in Florida. Cite your sources please to prove otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        @north

        Your fantasy sounded practically Republican by the way. I’d expect Paul Ryan to say something like that.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        Harumph! That’s below the belt Saul. If we’re slinging that kind of name calling about I’d observe that the rent control mantra of “We’re just trying to enable the right kind of people live in this community” has been a cannon part of the Jim Crow hymnal for decades.Report

  8. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    Yah, I generally got no issue with this…

    Once when I went to renew our lease, I got into a convo with the leasing agent about “market” rates and the apartments they had reserved for subsidization. Subsidized apts were ONLY on the first floor of the apt community. I presume this was because it was “less desirable” than the other floors.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      I rented a ground floor apartment on the north shore of Chicago. It was definitely cheaper than the upper floors, though not subsidized AFAIK.

      Two reasons come to mind: the view, and security. Ground floor apartments could actually be broken into via a window, something that would be problematic for anyone other than Spiderman on the upper floors.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        We lived in a ground floor apartment one winter, and discovered another drawback. It was impossible to keep warm because the underground parking lot sucked all the heat out of it.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        the underground parking lot sucked all the heat out of it.

        In retrospect, moving into Deep Throat Apartments was not as advantageous as it might have seemed at first blush.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        The garage was so cold & the insulation so poor that you actually got heat to move down?

        I’m betting there is a building code violation in there somewhere.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        Newton’s law of cooling, right? The more you heat one part, the faster the heat travels to the cold part. Heat rising pales compared to that.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling

        I know, but that means there was effectively zero insulation aside from structure (which would probably be conducting heat rather well) between you & the garage. Hence my comment about a code violation somewhere.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        You’re right about no insulation. Not sure about the code violation. We were there only a few months, they screwed us on the cleaning deposit, and I’ve done my best since not to think about the place.Report

  9. Avatar Vikram Bath
    Ignored
    says:

    >I can’t say I support what the landlords are doing because, in principle

    Why not? If I go to a Honda dealer and pay for a Fit, I do expect a Fit, but I can hardly complain that they didn’t give me an Accord.

    I would guess that the landlords would be happy to provide the amenities universally if the tenants agreed to adjust their rents accordingly.Report

  10. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    I have no problem with this. Its unfair to the people paying market rate prices if people paying bellow market rate prices have access to the same amenities. Like Saul and Burt, I do think that some services like the doorman and laundry should be universal but others not so.Report

  11. Avatar Burt Likko
    Ignored
    says:

    BTW, the title of this post is indeed appropos. I’ve heard of plenty of landlords who have turned off the water, turned off the electricity, and so on in an effort to “encourage” unwanted tenants to move out. Then they seem shocked and confused to find out that this sort of thing is actually contrary to law. Indeed, a small number of them persist in this sort of conduct after their lawyers advise them in clear, certain, and decisive terms that they must not act in this way even if it seems unfair to them.

    I’m not saying that any of my clients do these sorts of things, of course, just, y’know, some landlords I’ve heard of.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      I take it you don’t deal with slumlords much?
      They’re the type to have the heat at 60 degrees midwinter,
      have an actual fire in the refrigerator…
      and expect to keep tenants!Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        In NYC they will keep the tenants.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        The vast, vast majority of my clients aren’t even remotely slumlords. They’re middle-class people who kept their starter homes as income properties after buying nicer places for themselves in a different neighborhood. If they have faults as landlords, those faults substantially tend to result from naïveté rather than the cocktail of callous disregard for human welfare and naked cupidity you describe.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        This is an important point. People who think they’re sticking it to some faceless rich person or deep pocketed corporation loaded with “free money” forget that a lot of rental units are just old property that an average family moved out of and kept as an income property. It’s one of the few capital-intensive businesses that a regular middle-class family would tend to get into, and it’s a good thing for renters that they do. Those amateur landlords can’t really afford to get poked in the eye too many times before they throw their hands up and give up on the whole idea.

        At first glance, I wouldn’t mind owning a rental property as an investment if it was nearby and easy for me to keep an eye on. But I know just enough about what a regulatory bear trap I might be sticking my head into that it’s not worth it. I’d almost certainly sell the property to a buyer who would live in it and invest my money in stocks. I’d do it with 100% certainty if it was an area that was rent controlled. We’re down one rental property every time somebody makes that decision.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        @troublesome-frog

        Only a monster would deprive the world of a rental property so that he could invest in stocks.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        tf,
        Pittsburgh has one hell of a competitive advantage because it’s housing is so cheap. Because it’s housing is so cheap, we don’t have many renters.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      Burt,

      Several years ago at my last job, one of the deals I worked on was a disposition of a portfolio of over 2,200 rent-stabilized/rent control apartment units in over 30 buildings. This was in Queens so you didn’t have any market rate units in those (nor the incentive to push too hard to get to market).

      There were a few buildings in that portfolio that had a fair number of rent control units. More than a few jokes were made about not being allowed to poison the water so the tenants would get carried out feet first allowing the landlords to raise the rent.

      It appeared that the maintenance costs on a per unit basis were lowest in those buildings.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      Yeah, no self-help.

      There have been stories lately about disruptive landlords trying to make units inhabitable. There also also a landlord that was kidnapped and murdered. The landlord was Haredi and the suspects decidedly not so there are all sorts of interesting angles in the case.Report

  12. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    Just read the article. Those people complaining about not getting enough amenities with their rent-controlled apartments need to check their privilege.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      That’s what they did. They said “I don’t have enough.”Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s amazing. People who are receiving $10K or more per year in free rent are complaining that they don’t get access to the same gym.

      Let’s play a game: You can either have free gym access or $10K per year tax free. I’ll wait while you think about it.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        Bear in mind that the danger is not when it’s an either-or choice between “a) $10,000 of annual rent subsidy or b) gym access.” Of course we’d tell such a person “The gym down the street will be happy to take care of you.”

        The danger is that this is a step down a slippery slop to a choice between “a) $10,000 of annual rent subsidy or b) a toilet that actually flushes.” I certainly hope that we’d all agree that everyone but a squatter deserves a place to live that is at least habitable. If you aren’t paying the rent, then yes, you deserve to get evicted from it, but even that doesn’t mean the law should turn a blind eye to slumlording. (And this is coming from a landlord’s attorney.)

        The solution, it seems obvious enough to me, is to permit annual rent increases so as to over time ratchet up the rent control rate to something that gets closer to the market rate. Right now, NYC appears to be too stingy with the rate hikes, leading to all of the problems we correctly indicate flow from aggressive, durable rent control. Politically, you probably can’t get to repealing rent control altogether. So instead, make the rent control less aggressive, less durable, so that the quality of currently substandard housing can increase.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        But the playroom for my kid! (how many public parks does NYC have?)

        And the nice storage space! (because NYC has no public storage facilities anywhere)

        I kind of agree with @patrick with regard to places where construction of amenities has caused hardship for current tenants, either through the hassle of the construction itself, or the loss of access to areas where access was once open. The owner should find a way to include the existing tenants.

        But the newer buildings, where the amenities were installed during construction. Sorry, no sympathy.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko

        But wouldn’t the flushing toilet be covered in the basic lease agreement? If the lease agreement doesn’t say anything about access to a gym, then you can’t assume access to a gym. If the basic lease agreement doesn’t say anything about access to a flushing toilet… well, I wouldn’t object to a law that mandates certain criteria for inclusion in the basic lease agreement.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        The danger is that this is a step down a slippery slop to a choice between “a) $10,000 of annual rent subsidy or b) a toilet that actually flushes.”

        I’m okay with that. Worst case (from the RC-privileged tenants’ point of view; best case from everyone else’s) is that it gets bad enough that tenants move out of their rent-controlled apartments, effectively ending rent control.

        That said, I don’t think this is a legitimately slippery slope, for the reasons Kazzy stated.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        Most states already have such laws, @kazzy . And consequently, most leases are silent about things like working toilets, hot and cold running water, functional heating, freedom from vermin and filth, plumbing without leaks, access to refuse disposal services, and working electrical outlets.

        Obviously, we aren’t at the point yet where there’s rampant lease-breaking going on as a matter of the prevailing and expected condition of the marketplace notwithstanding the de jure law. For a picture of what a prevailing and expected condition contrary to the de jure law looks like, hop on the interstate. In most places, the prevailing and expected behavior of drivers is to exceed the speed limit if it is physically possible to do so. Observe the erosion of respect for the law that this engenders in people who consider themselves law abiding: “I got a citation for six miles over! What a chickenshit ticket! Doesn’t that cop have anything better to do?” I’d rather that the attitude of both landlords and tenants towards the law regulating rental property did not erode to that point, whether in New York, my neck of the woods, or anywhere else. In New York, the OP describes a step towards that attitude of treating the law as an obstacle to be circumvented rather than an expression of generally-shared cultural values.

        And, there’s quite a lot of lease-breaking that happens now. Tenants promise in the lease to pay the rent — and then some of them don’t. I can’t tell you how much existential confusion this causes some of my clients. And conversely, landlords promise to provide the tenants a decent place to live — and then some of them don’t.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko

        I’m a bit confused. Are the leases silent on those matters because the laws address them (e.g., “We don’t have to mention toilets because the law already mandates a functioning toilet.”)? If there is black-letter law that can be pointed to, I don’t see how the scenario you described becomes a reality.

        If I’m misunderstanding, please do correct me. I do understand your broader point, wherein shifting the line (e.g., “You’re not speeding unless you’re at least 10 over the limit.”) is problematic. I’m just not sure that this shifts the line.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        How does this erode respect for the law if it isn’t illegal and isn’t a breach of contract? There’s a pretty clear bright line here between things landlords are required to provide and things they aren’t.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        Incidentally, rent control is de rigueur in India. When I was a kid I talked to someone who was renting out part of their building at some ridiculously low rate. They tried to do a whole bunch of stuff to get them to leave and nothing would take. Eventually they hired someone to go beat them up. They left.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        The danger is that this is a step down a slippery slop to a choice between “a) $10,000 of annual rent subsidy or b) a toilet that actually flushes.”

        I guess my position is that as long as the renter is getting the greater of (1) whatever the minimum habitable dwelling the law describes or (2) a dwelling with amenities comparable to what their rent-controlled price would get them on an open market, they don’t really have much to complain about.

        If they’re getting something that’s below the legal bar for habitability and they don’t have anywhere else to go, they’re probably in pretty bad financial shape and we (society as a whole, not just the unlucky landlord) should be willing to help them out. And if they’re getting a habitable place but not getting their money’s worth (that is, they’re not getting the amenities that their monthly payment would get them on the open market), they can always leave their rent-controlled unit and upgrade. Until then, they’re getting a sweet deal.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        Both @kazzy and @brandon-berg seem to be addressing the same concern here — how do we get from the two-tier treatment of rent control tenants versus market rate tenants described in the OP to the point that landlords allow rent control units to devolve into slums? My answer to that is that not all landlords, and not all tenants, approach the landlord-tenant relationship with good faith, mutual respect, and a desire to meaningfully fulfill their respective responsibilities. Indeed, the lens through which I have acquired experience in landlord-tenant relations has been in the course of approximately 2,500 eviction cases I’ve taken to trial in the past eight years. And that experience teaches me that the world of landlord-tenant relations is well-populated with lying, self-righteous thieves acting upon a moral code which would impel an alleycat in heat to shrink away in suspicion and disgust. So the law has to keep those sorts of people in mind because when landlords and tenants treat one another in good faith, courts tend to be unnecessary. And it’s not sufficient to say “Well, I just wouldn’t ever do business with such a person” because quite a lot of people, in the words of my psychologist friends, “present well,” so when you begin your relationship everyone seems trustworthy, honest, professional, sympathetic, and friendly.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko

        I understand that. So wouldn’t a law saying, “Apartments must include functioning toilets, water, heat, etc. They must not include gym access, parking, or doormen; these are offered and paid for at the discretion of the landlord and tenant,” or something along those lines address that?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        But the things you’re concerned about are already illegal. If landlords do those things, they can be sued. I’m just not seeing a slippery slope here. It’s like saying that if we let people pick up pennies off the street, the next thing you know we’ll be having an epidemic of bank robberies.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        Actually, I’m not sure what your broader point here is. I don’t think you’ve endorsed the proposition that this should be illegal. Are you just saying that this is something someone should keep an eye on?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        @brandon-berg yes. This points in a direction that has an endpoint I would be uncomfortable with. But I’m not uncomfortable with saying people who don’t pay full freight don’t get all the amenities. (If it’s a subsidy, like section 8, rather than outright rent control, that’s a bit different. But we’re not talking about section 8 here.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko

        I’m with @brandon-berg in that I don’t necessarily see the two scenarios as on the same spectrum. I agree with you that the hypothetical you describe is a problem. But I don’t know anyone who will be more sympathetic to a landlord saying, “Hey, he’s paying below market rate. Why should he get a toilet?” because another landlord successfully said, “Hey, he’s paying below market rate. Why should he get a private gym?” We can legally define what an “apartment” or “dwelling” is and hold people to that definition. It should include toilets; it need not include treadmills.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        So, should an apartment include both hot and cold running water? Should it include doors that lock, or should the tenant have to provide his own locks? What about a stove? Ought a landlord be obligated to have working telephone jacks (even in this era of cell phones)? How about a refrigerator? (In greater Los Angeles, only about 50% of apartments come with refrigerators.) Power garage door openers? (Particularly when renting a single-family home with a garage door that can be opened by hand.) Double-pane windows to keep heating and cooling costs down — should they be mandatory? What about a garbage disposal and a dishwasher? (These are not required by law in California, which does not stop tenants from complaining about them in court). Or air conditioning? What about cable TV or high-speed internet? Or a doorman? Or the private gym?

        And, bear in mind that it is understood, if not explicit, in most leases that in multi-unit dwellings like duplexes and apartment houses, that all tenants have equal rights to access “common areas.” That could be modified by an explicit carve-out in a lease, but without it, it’s typically understood that any tenant has a contractual right to access and use common areas.

        As you can see, there’s a spectrum of amenities that a landlord might provide. The landlord might very well wish to provide them, in exchange for an appropriate amount of money from the tenant. At what point do we cross the line from “necessity” to “luxury”? This is probably location-variable, among other things — as we’ve seen upthread, doormen are common in New York but unheard of in many places; air conditioning is really important in a city like Phoenix or Albuquerque but probably less so in Minneapolis or Boston. The phone jack issue used to be considered very important but now is less so.

        So once we start saying that some “common areas” are off limits to disfavored tenants, we need to draw a line somewhere. What common areas are necessities appurtenant to a residence, and which are premiums? Same thing for amenities brought in to the dwelling, like internet service. This is always going to be a moving target, and it’s difficult to account in law for variances between areas.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        I hasten to add: couple the above concept with my previous assertion that when it comes to housing issues, there is a category of people who will behave in the most atrocious manner imaginable (think “sex for rent” or “perjury”*) given the slightest opportunity to do so. It oughtn’t to take much imagination to envision a drag race to the bottom.

        * The first time I saw a tenant come in to court with a Mason jar full of dead cockroaches, I was as grossed out as anyone. The second time, I thought it was odd that another tenant had bothered to collect cockroaches and put them in the same kind of clear Mason jar. But I noticed a dent in the lid. The third time, I noticed what appeared to be a very similar dent. And some of the roaches were not just dead, but dessicated. And all three had the same lawyer. No tenant other than a client of this lawyer has ever come in to court with a clear Mason jar full of dead-and-dessicated cockroaches with a dented lid. Is this the same Mason jar with the same mummified cockroaches every time? I have no proof and I’m not about to accuse another lawyer of such a thing without it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t suspect so.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        So, should an apartment include both hot and cold running water?

        Hot, cold, and bourbon!

        (I should give a prize to anyone who recognizes that one. No Googling. And no immediate family members.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        Back home, it was a matter of law that apartment complexes had a working AC certain months of the year. Not enough months of the year, but the protections were there in a particularly conservative state.

        When I moved to Deseret, it was the opposite. There was a requirement to provide for heating. Turns out, not just to require a heater but one that wasn’t a fire hazard. Our first apartment came with a heater but we were told not to use it. I later found out that this wasn’t kosher and there were no more 40-degree nights (not an exaggeration) for us.

        Seems to me that these things should be addressed apart from rent control status.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Troublesome Frog
        Ignored
        says:

        Burt,
        ” rampant lease-breaking going on as a matter of the prevailing and expected condition of the marketplace notwithstanding the de jure law.”

        No, far from it. However, there are American cities where all the leases in town are illegal (most landlords use the standard, and that has “everything we think we can point to and make someone do because ‘it’s in the lease’ regardless of legality”).Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Something to consider is how many people abuse the rent control system. I have numerous friends who are in rent control apartments with none of the original tenants still in place. They simply sublet and sublet and sublet. Those folks, I have no sympathy for.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      And lemme guess: they sublet to people they know, in their own class. Right?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        Generally. The story I usually here is, “So-and-so’s grandma died/moved away but so-and-so can claim the apartment because they’re family but he lives in a much nicer building so he’s renting it to me and my college roommate. Awesome!”

        That. Or Craig’s List.

        It flies in the face of everything that I understand rent control is actually supposed to be about.

        I wouldn’t be opposed to putting certain protections in place for tenants. For instance, I would say that rent increases over X% required 6 months notice instead of the usual 60 days or whathaveyou. That would seem like a reasonable rule to put in place. Or even graduated protections: people who’ve lived in a unit for 10 years get more protections than someone who just moved in. This risk running afoul of some things @vikram-bath discussed in his piece on Spike Lee and gentrification, but I think the rules could be crafted such that they don’t entrench too much privilege simply as a function of having been there a while. Just a little extra nod toward people who have established themselves in a space. But no handing off of the privileges.Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Why don’t the buildings charge separately for the various amenities and institute some sort of pricing structure where full-pay tenants get a discount on their amenity fees?

    Ya know, sorta like offering a tax break for people who have health insurance instead of a fine for people who don’t. Wait a minute…Report

  15. Avatar Saul DeGraw
    Ignored
    says:

    Some questions for the housing policy wonks.

    I often hear that home ownership is not that great a deal economically and is potentially something we should not encourage. From what I most of Europe rents and does not own. I could be wrong on this though.

    Home ownership does seem to be a social good. At the very least, it seems to decrease the chances of being evicted when elderly and having no where to go. There are lots of stories in SF and NYC about elderly people who cannot work who ended up getting priced out and having no where to go. We can surely agree that it is not the sign of a healthy society that evicts people in their 70s or older. Not everyone has a family and some people sadly die after everyone they ever cared for his gone from this world. Maybe I am just being a bleeding heart but it seems like a decent society would have a way to help the elderly in these situations even if it means going against market forces.

    How do other nations deal with rising rents and the elderly who cannot work? Or encouraging long-term stability with a renting population. It is one thing for a hale and healthy 20-something to move every year (as some in major cities do). It is another thing for families and the elderly to do the same.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul DeGraw
      Ignored
      says:

      Do they really have no place else to go? If they can afford the previous rent, why can’t they find an apartment elsewhere in their price range? I wouldn’t be opposed to offering assistance to them in this regard. But why does a 70-year-old retiree need to live in downtown Manhattan? Why can’t they live out in the ‘burbs somewhere?Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Because it is where they lived for their entire life and I generally think that it is cruel and callous to tell people that “Sorry you have to move-market forces” after they lived in an area for their entire life. People are people, not economic cogs. All their contacts and doctors might be in Manhattan including people who can get to them quickly in case of an emergency. Maybe they have a younger neighbor who watches out for them. Said older people might not know how to drive (especially if they lived in NYC in their entire life) and the suburbs would be unnavigable for them.

        As people get older, they might not be able to afford to hire movers or able to pack up their apartments themselves, etc.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        There is also a problem with elderly people in the suburbs who live alone and drive for much longer than they should and end up causing accidents because of their poor reflexes/driving skills. Yet if they didn’t drive, they would be stranded in their houses because the suburbs lack walkability and such.Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul:

        So once you’ve lived in a certain place long enough you have the right to stay there no matter what you can actually afford? Who is going to pay for this new right?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Kazzy, looking for a new apartment requires times, energy, and dedication. If your a senior citizen, particularly at an advanced age, and don’t have younger relatives or friends to rely on than the task of simply finding a new place to live could be near impossible. A lot of landlords aren’t going to want to rent somebody that might just die any minute and leave them to take care of what follows. Even if they find a new and better place to live, they still have to move or pay somebody to help them move.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul, I’m afraid the brutal truth may be that the demographic you’re talking about is too small to plan for on a policy scale the size of a cities housing laws.
        An elderly person who has no children (or is estranged from them), did no economic planning or saving when they were younger, and now in their twilight years wish to live in the urban core on a pensioners income? That’s pretty specific and specialized. I agree it tugs the heart strings but is that a basis to impose a scheme that both:
        A) impoverishes the housing market and forces innumerable poor and unconnected newcomer families into the periphery of the city and
        B) causes enormous numbers of the original beneficiaries to exploit the system for their personal enormous gain? For ever poor old lady managing to stay in her fifty year apartment there’s another one* relaxing in her Florida bungalow raking in twenty grand a year by subletting her rent controlled unit at market rates and slum conditions.

        This is without even talking about the development that we prevent from occurring and the terrible incentives we put into place with regards to zoning. NIMBY’s have enough incentive to try and impose stasis on urban neighborhoods already without adding raw financial rent seeking through rent control to the mix. As far as I’m aware rent control has been a pretty thorough debacle everywhere it’s been imposed and its watered down versions have primarily been used as palliative attempts to help fix the problems it originally caused.

        I mean every policy good and bad ever made has its sympathetic beneficiaries. At some point, though, some cold blooded green eyeshade person has to ask “is this policy helping more people than it’s hurting?” I mean sure, it’s sad that a person who makes no plans for their future may end up being priced out of their apartment in a dense urban area. But with Social Security they’re not being set adrift on the ice floe or doomed to starve, they just have to move to a duplex in the burbs.

        *And I suspect I’m being generous assuming a 1 to 1 ratio.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        I’d like to second North, but say it less well. Not all policies can or should be centered around the concern that there are 70-year-olds who might be hurt. If you want, you can carve out exceptions in policy for such people, and that is something that is done with regularity. In this case, the concerns of the theoretical grandma are being used to motivate special treatment for a bunch of real people who have none of the same problems.

        (Also see “we can’t have estate taxes because someone might lose their farm that has been in their family for generations.”)Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @north @vikram-bath

        Again the same points and questions to Brandon Berg below. How much can a person save and plan for? Especially because pensions have been replaced with confusing and underfunded and not very practical 401(k)s? Seriously, can or should a person plan on living to 98? How can someone predict that they will live to that long. Also North, again talking about personal responsibility is a great GOP dog whisper and a lie. The overwhelming majority of people including those who go on and on about personal responsibility cannot plan for all things that can or potentially will go wrong. We need to have a society that recognizes this and has laws the protect people for those moments when it seems like they fall through every hall without fault of their own.

        How is an evicted 80 year old (or older) person supposed to navigate for an apartment in the modern world especially with social services scrapped to nothing.

        I shall always follow Hubert Humphrey’s creed of liberalism and how societies should be judged:

        “It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped,”

        And he is damned right that this what we should judge societies on, not their adherence to an orthodox free market ideology. There is also the great Ghandian creed of no economy without morality.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw Why are we granting owner rights to people who do not own? Why not extend rent control to businesses? I would love it if the old sub shop I love could have afforded the new, higher rents as the neighborhood gentrified, but they couldn’t and aren’t as telegenic as a little old lady. It sounds pretty harsh, but the advantage of owning is certainty in price, but less mobility. All the downside risk is held by the landlord, if the neighborhood goes to pot, they can’t force their residents to stay put and pay above market rates to stay. There’s no need for rent control in Detroit because market prices are fine, there’s only a problem in places that get nicer.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @mo

        I am asking questions for which no one is giving me any answers and I find that telling.

        If home ownership is a poor economic decision, how do you balance that with the social good of stability it provides?

        I’m rather tired of conservatives who call themselves pro-community but exhibit nothing of the when it comes to policies that keep families and communities together.

        I don’t think that property rights trump all and I never will.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw I think your last sentence largely answers why you’re not getting answers to your questions. Property rights uber alles is the name of the game.Report

      • Avatar Wardsmith in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw I answered you and your Basic premise that purchasing a house is a bad economic decision is demonstrably false unless you do not plan on living somewhere very long. Bad economic decisions run the gamut, home ownership or not is only a single facet. To put this in Aesop terms you believe the grasshopper should evict the ant?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        “If home ownership is a poor economic decision,”

        sez who?

        It’s not the greatest ‘investment’ vehicle as such, but it is a great savings vehicle and a very good hedge against inflation.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw I’m a conservative now? That’s a new one. You’re stealing home by saying that home ownership is a bad economic decision. If you plan on living somewhere for over 4-5 years, it’s a great financial decision because it creates a form of forced savings through equity. Combined with the fact that physical mobility is way down across the country, the flexibility of renting that you pay for largely goes away. A $0 mortgage payment. Things like rent control reduce the social good of ownership because it takes away the benefits of ownership without providing any sort of compensation. And what’s better than having to pay rent 40 years out?

        If we’re going to take ideological potshots, I find it odd that a liberal would want to encourage a society where capital is even more concentrated and people are left at the whim of a handful of property owners rather than creating policies that enable people to be the masters of their own destiny. If you want society to subsidize the rents, have society subsidize them through vouchers, don’t force individuals to bear the brunt of the costs. That way you kill things like passing a rent controlled apartment through multiple generations or college students taking advantage of grandma’s old apartment in the East Village.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        I find it odd that you equate the conservative position with opposition to home ownership. Skepticism towards ownership is not exactly a conservative position. Nor is it a particularly liberal one.

        I’m not sure who, other than Josh Barro who isn’t here, is saying that home ownership is generally bad. I do hear a lot of talk about how our institutions put too much emphasis on home ownership, but that’s not exactly the same thing.

        If home ownership is a poor economic decision, how do you balance that with the social good of stability it provides?

        The trade-offs between the social and economic factors is ultimately a personal matter. At least, when it comes to your own decision to buy or not to buy. When it comes to what society should encourage, I suppose it’s a different matter but one primarily of philosophy.

        You bring up examples of where home ownership is of great personal benefit. It’s not hard to find examples of where home ownership turned out to be a very bad decision. It’s largely circumstantial. I’m not sure who here is saying otherwise.

        For my own part, we will ultimately want to buy once we are settling down somewhere. I can’t imagine not buying. But if you want to be mobile, or you live in a place where it’s easier to rent than to purchase, the calculations change. Our mobility has been the past hindrance. We’re unlikely to live in a place where renting is the best thing.

        On a policy level, I used to be big into ownership. Then the housing bubble burst, the economy tanked, and the downsides to ownership became much more apparent. Now I favor institutional incentives that encourage home ownership less than the current incentives do. Which isn’t the same thing as wanting to discourage home ownership.

        As mentioned, though, this isn’t a particularly partisan issue. It’s often liberals that are most upset about encouraging home ownership because (a) it tends to encourage sprawl, and (b) they are more likely to themselves rent and get frustrated with the scales being tipped towards buyers. But ownership-over-renting policy is nonetheless supported pretty strongly by R and D alive, in spirit and in policy.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @mo

        Section 8 vouchers are great and we need more of them or more rent vouchers in general. The problem is that landlord’s still go after Section 8 tenants in favor of those who can go for a higher market rate.

        http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Section-8-evictions-in-S-F-hit-home-5472656.php#page-1

        Section 8 landlords are still able to evict tenants for “business or economic reasons.”

        I have to agree with Jesse. It is revealing that the one form of regulatory capture that drives neoliberals and libertarians batty is rent control. And it seems to drive them batty above all else.

        I would also like to see proof that the majority of rent controlled apartments in the East Village are occupied by grandchildren who currently attend college. Cite please. This is a second time I’ve seen a wild accusation.

        I have no problem with encouraging home ownership or subisdizing it but the post-WWII home ownership programs were horribly racist and many minorities are still discriminated against when it comes to getting decent loans and decent housing.
        This needs to changed but I don’t see that happening in the current regime. Decent housing is going to need to happen at the municipality and state level and the things states and cities can do include rent stablization and/or rent control, and in California ending the Ellis Act.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @will-truman

        I think it was the Bush II/Rove push for the “ownership” society but you are right that people on all sides of the aisle love the 30 year fixed mortgage even though most economists hate it and the program is not going away. The problem is not that we subsidize or help ownership. The problem is that the programs were designed in a horribly racist and discriminatory era and nothing has been done to rectify those structural inequalities. There are plenty of liberals and Democratic voters who own houses or apartments. I don’t think you will see a huge partisan divide in home ownership rates but maybe I am wrong.

        I do think government needs to address the difference between social and economic goods of ownership v. non-ownership because people are living longer and we might soon have a huge number of people who are too old to work, outlived their relatives, and/or don’t live near relatives, and lived longer than expected and outlived their savings.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        I almost mentioned Bush and the Ownership Society. It’s an example, of which there are many across the political spectrum. Home ownership (and the ownership of lands) runs pretty deep in our national psyche.

        There are plenty of liberals and Democratic voters who own houses or apartments. I don’t think you will see a huge partisan divide in home ownership rates but maybe I am wrong.

        I’m pretty certain that there is a divide to some non-negligible degree. The Democratic Party has a much larger proportion of its voter base that are:

        (a) Young
        (b) Single and/or childless
        (c) Wealth poor
        (d) Income poor
        (e) Living in more dense and expensive parts of the country

        That doesn’t mean that Democrats and liberals don’t own homes, but I would bet that they do so at a notably lower rate.

        Putting race issues aside, there are a whole lot of people who would argue that favoring home ownership over renters is bad public policy. Putting race back into it, even a race-neutral policy would likely have disparate impact. It’s a gift to people with (at least some, maybe a lot of) money, and it’s really hard to make it otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @will-truman

        Another interesting issue is that cities did not get condo laws until fairly late in the game. The concept of owning an apartment is relatively new. NYC did not get a condo law until sometime in the 1960s. The big old fancy apartment buildings on the Upper West Side including on Central Park were rentals until the 1980s. My bosses said they were only able to get in because it was the early 80s and no one knew what they were doing. Now the co-op boards (if it is a co-op)* are very tough with their protocols and interview procedures. Condos are better than co-ops. If cities tend Democratic, the chances for home ownership are still very new.

        *Co-Ops are strange in that you own stock in the building and it corresponds to a unit. They tend to be cheaper than condos but hard to get into because you need board approval. If one person defaults, the rest of the building needs to chip in for the defaulter. This can be an unexpected drain on finances so co-op boards look really hard for people who are unlikely to default. In San Francisco, we have Tenants in Common (TICS) which are similar. I saw a two bedroom for 640,000 dollars because it was TIC. The apartment itself was small but came with three parking spaces and a washer/dryer of you own (not in unit. There was a laundry room and every unit was assigned a washer/dryer in that room. Strange design.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @saul-degraw In San Francisco, upper income residents (>$107K) of rent controlled apartments outnumber low income (<$35K) residents. Hard stats for analysis of the market get blocked by rent control advocates because they'll make rent control look bad.

        https://www.baycitizen.org/columns/scott-james/how-rent-control-subsidizes-super-rich/Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul, people could have chosen to invest their earnings in buying a property in a place they wished to live in. The elderly property owner who rents out part of their home to pay their taxes and lives on their pension in the rest of it is an enormously common trope in movies and literature. It is not that complicated.

        If you wish for me to google about rent control fraud or behavior that violates the spirit of rent control I can but the fact remains that it happens and it’s enormously common. There’s the professor you yourself cited being granted a sweetheart rent control deal and then these for a start:
        http://gothamist.com/2012/03/18/is_this_55-a-month_soho_rent-contro.php#.
        http://ask.metafilter.com/216448/Being-overcharged-in-an-illegal-sublet-in-a-rentcontrolled-apartment-No-lease-What-do
        https://www.baycitizen.org/columns/scott-james/how-rent-control-subsidizes-super-rich/
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_B._Rangel#2008.E2.80.932010:_Ethics_issues_and_censure

        Also since we’re asking questions back and forth Saul, how many people (the poor, the unconnected and the minorities usually) is it okay to lock out of the city so we cab keep these sympathetic elderly people in their apartments? How many homes is it okay to disincent the building of to prevent the absolute travesty of an elderly person having to live somewhere other than the urban core? How is it that rent control advocates talk about the rich endlessly when the rich effortlessly get around rent control issues simply by virtue of their money? The rich will always be able to get a home in a popular urban area; they’re rich; they just throw money at the problem. How does a liberal like you justify creating a landed class of aristocracy (people who were in place when rent control was rolled out and their heirs) when liberalism is all about getting rid of that kind of arbitrary classism?

        But what it boils down to, since we’re picking sympathetic examples, is a basic question: how many poor black immigrants is it fair to banish to Jersey so that your elderly neighbor can pay 1940’s rates on his apartment (and then leave it to his grandson)? Since you support rent control I gather the number is considerably higher than one even though I don’t think even one is defensible.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Trapped in moderation.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Lee,
        Dammit, that’s what the government is for! they will FIND you an affordable house, before you’re reduced to eating catfood to pay the rent. (why yes, I do know someone who worked in the biz).Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul,
        If I was to say that homeownership was a bad idea, I’d have to do it by denying the very social goods that you are finding.

        Mobility of labor is a very good thing, particularly when capital is quite mobile (sometimes even the factories are on wheels).

        So to the extent that settling down is a stupid idea, homeownership is a bad idea. But so are dual-income families.

        Lost in the shuffle: homeownership (and the mortgage deduction for the wealthy) are methods that we use to continue to enshrine previous racism in law. The wealth disparity between blacks and whites didn’t happen by accident. And it’s not going to go away by accident either.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Trapped in moderation.

        I call it “centrism” and I say the hell with it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        “I’d like to second North, but say it less well.”

        This why I love you, @vikram-bath .Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw ,
        There are multiple ways to get around the helpless grandmother (HG) problem other than rent control for all residents. In no particular order,

        1. Only offer rent control for HGs.
        2. Offer housing relocation assistance for HGs.
        3. Mandate that residents buy insurance policies that pay out the difference between market rate and the rate they can pay. (Yes, such products do not exist now, but they would if you required them to be bought.)
        4. Mandate that landlords buy insurance policies that pay them the difference between market rates and what they get from HGs.

        I’m not endorsing any of these in particular, but I think it is enough to show that rent control for all residents isn’t the only viable solution.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Vick,
        3 is unworkable, for the same reason that flood insurance will become unworkable as soon as the rates catch up, in a lot of places. That is: if it costs too much to HG, she won’t pay it and will have to move.

        4 is not insurance. Insurance covers low risk things, with a premium that “everyone” (a large risk pool) pays. What you describe is not insurance, and is very much not profitable for the company providing such monies.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul DeGraw
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      says:

      I have no major issue with rent control being granted on a case by case basis, e.g. grandma who has been renting her place for 40 years gets rent control, or perhaps other low income persons who have been at a given rate for an extended time who are facing a steep increase and have poor relocation options. Such persons could apply for rent control as soon as they get notice that the rent is going up, and then enjoy the control for as long as they live there (assuming it is granted).

      I would absolutely do away with sublets or inheriting rent controlled places.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t have a problem with us taking pity on an old person who can’t easily move and needs our help. I do have a problem with arbitrarily dumping the whole problem off on their current landlord, effectively saying, “We’ve decided that this person needs to be taken care of, so now he’s your ward until he dies. Bad call on your part for taking him in in the first place.”

        The way we do rent control is an embarrassing example of the liberal “other peoples’ money” problem.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        I would note that if a city government did this with any degree of frequency then we’d soon be talking about the epidemic of landlords who always seem to find someone, (a young couple, a stoner, a local bum, their nephew, their wife, their dog) to rent their apartments to instead of electing to rent to an elderly tenant.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        And if I was the landlord and knew there was a 40 year rule, I’m kicking out all residents after 39 years.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        North,
        Um. Pittsburgh does this. They have a different scale of taxes for homesteaders, and if you’re retired, the taxes are lower — if you still live there.

        Seems to work fine at keeping people in their homes a bit longer.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Above comment made with the understanding that I find rent control to be bad policy.

        Section 8 is better, although that has it’s own problems as well*.

        *I had a really bad experience with a section 8 renter living next to me. I actually worked with the city to get them evicted, and the city rep told us that most section 8 recipients are decent, but that minority of troublemakers can burn through their time & budget like nothing else & having neighbors come together to offer statements & assistance is a godsend.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Kimmie, the thing you’re describing doesn’t sound like the thing we’re talking about. Tax credit for not doing an action =/= being fordden by force of law from doing an action.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Saul DeGraw
      Ignored
      says:

      @saul-degraw I can’t speak for every nation, but recently was in Taiwan and also know a ton of Chinese from the mainland. One of the primary purposes of a house (or condo) in Asian society is as a bulwark against exactly what you’ve mentioned below, a place to continue to live in your old age. You can imagine that Communism (and the inability to own property) put a big kink in that. Once they opened up for land ownership in China, things literally exploded. Considering that they are a corrupt kleptocracy, there have been numerous instances of illegal and immoral transgressions but on balance the Chinese prefer the present to the past. In Taiwan the real estate market is exploding partially because so many mainland Chinese are purchasing property at /any/ price, because they feel the mainland won’t steal it as easily as back home.

      The downside to home ownership in is twofold. One is the expense ratio versus renting. Homes simply cost too much most places where there is enough economic vitality to make a living. Second is the lack of liquidity in a home. If you’re renting you can quite easily pick up and move to where there /is/ more economic vitality, but if you’re stuck under a mortgage in an illiquid market (exacerbated by illiquid banks not financing mortgages) you’re really stuck. Then you might find yourself (as have friends of mine) reluctant landlords on property thousands of miles from where you’re now living.

      On the other hand, every dollar paid in rent for an apt is a dollar lost. Even if you only recovered 90% of your home’s purchase price, you’ve recovered /something/, whereas if you rented for 10 years that is 10x your monthly rent down the toilet, and zero recovery when you move and no equity when you stay. Other factors such as maintenance are not usually too big a deal unless you purposely bought a fixer-upper, in which case you should have seen those expenses coming and paid a purchase price commensurate with the future expenses.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        On the other hand, every dollar paid in rent for an apt is a dollar lost. Even if you only recovered 90% of your home’s purchase price, you’ve recovered /something/, whereas if you rented for 10 years that is 10x your monthly rent down the toilet, and zero recovery when you move and no equity when you stay.

        This is a fallacy. Yes, rent is money you’ll never see again, but so is the interest you pay on your mortgage. If renting a home is cheaper than what your mortgage payment would be if you bought it, then you can save the remainder and earn interest on that. If renting a home is the same or more expensive, then yes, you’re throwing money away, but I believe that in general it should be cheaper.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        The other problem with home ownership is that it kind of ties you to a particular place and that could screw you over. When Saul and I were eleven, our parents purchased a new house. The previous owners really loved the house and did a lot of work on it. Than one of their employers decided to relocate to Florida. The person that worked for this particular employer was given the option of moving to Florida with the job. That person looked for a comparable job in New York but couldn’t find one. The couple and their kids basically had to move down to Florida and the couple sold the house that they loved and put a lot of investment in.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        Having recently become a homeowner, what Brandon said times 100. I knew going in that owning a home would be much more expensive than people would like me to believe, but even then I underestimated.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        @brandon-berg and @vikram-bath

        Plus all the other expenses. Need the lawn cut? $ Need snow removal? $ Roof springs a leak? $ Anything happens? $$$Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        Not to mention the taxes. Yes, technically, you pay taxes on a rental unit because the building owner is going to fold the taxes into the rent. But it is a fraction of what you pay for a house. We pay $1000/month in taxes. I used to pay $1000/month for my apartment. Ugh…Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to wardsmith
        Ignored
        says:

        @vikram-bath

        I believe McArdle called home ownership a forced savings regime because of all the costs. So it seems like home ownership is costly and prohibitive until a person becomes to old to work and then it is a life-saver from raising rents. This is quite a perdicamentReport

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        Seriously? $1,000 a month in property taxes alone? Have you considered moving to a state that isn’t governed by brigands?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        Well, the other option is to exercise a bit of discipline and save without being forced.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to wardsmith
        Ignored
        says:

        @brandon-berg

        I agree that people should save and show fiscal restraint but can anyone really plan or predict that they are going to live to 98? Can anyone predict or plan that they are going to get hit by a drunk driver and be rendered a quadapalegic? No. The answer is no. We can not plan or save for every disaster and I see no problem with having the law reflect this.

        How is a 98 year old supposed to have the energy to go apartment hunting in the age of craigslist? How is she supposed to pack up and move?Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        @brandon-berg Here’s a housing calculator You’ll note it also has advanced features that are pretty interesting including investing the difference. Unfortunately as your bank statements will show you, there is no interest to be earned right now while savers are punished by the Fed to support the rest of the gov’t/Fed duopoly.

        The other issue with houses is people buying /way/ more house than they should. I’m always amazed that someone who was quite content to rent a 800 sq foot apt suddenly /requires/ a 4000 sq’ house. Not really apples and apples and much of the housing problems can be attributed to overpurchase and underaffordment (two made-up words same low price).Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        @leeesq Yes ownership has downside risk, but if you don’t sell or move, you still have a roof over your head, albeit one you paid too much. OTOH, if the price goes up, you get to pay the old mortgage rate. That’s the risk reward calculation. OTOH, when you rent, you can enjoy low rents if things go bad, but you get slammed if the area gets nicer. Do we want to discourage people from owning and setting down roots by only having ownership be subject to risk?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        Saul,
        you are completely misreading McArdle. the PRINCIPAL is savings.
        One thing ward/Brandon haven’t mentioned:
        Getting a mortgage is essentially fixing your housing payments for the future. In a rising market (50/50 chance), you would have to pay more and more for rent, as taxes/other people’s buying power increases. So even if today you aren’t making money, you may be 5 years in the future.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        Saul,
        Again, that’s what the government is for. The government will find her an apartment, help her call the movers, help her sell the house. Explain to her why she can’t keep the house.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        As a side note on property taxes, I live in one of those states with bizarre residential property tax “features”. My property taxes are only marginally higher than they were when we bought the place 26 years ago — certainly they have increased much less than the value of the property has increased.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        @kim The odds of a rising market are closer to 80-20 because housing, on average, appreciates on a real basis and inflation will make rents rise even in a flat market.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        @brandon-berg

        We are in a unique place because of some very special circumstances in my town and county. The Satmar community — with its record high rates of poverty and public assistance — drive up property taxes. But what really gets us is the school taxes. The Satmars have a disproportionate number of students who qualify for special education (I’ve heard it is upwards of 40%). These students are sent to the public school. The rest are sent to the private school. This dramatically skews our school taxes.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        Mo,
        beg pardon, we’re both right. Of course housing values will appreciate. On average, they will appreciate just as much as inflation. Making them a spectacularly poor investment.Report

      • Avatar Wardsmith in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        And speaking of Chinese distorting foreign real estate markets in the New Yorker no lessReport

      • Avatar Roger in reply to wardsmith
        Ignored
        says:

        For the record, by a country mile, the highest property taxes I ever paid were in Texas. Bastards.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Saul DeGraw
      Ignored
      says:

      @saul-degraw

      Maybe I am just being a bleeding heart but it seems like a decent society would have a way to help the elderly in these situations even if it means going against market forces.

      Isn’t this exactly what social safety nets should address? There is no market solution here if only because I can’t envision lenders being willing to lend to the kind of people I understand you to be describing.

      I’m not sure how this applies to renters in NYC because rent increases are pursuant to law and evicting tenants from rent stabilized and rent controlled units is a deliberately long and difficult process. By my understanding, the laws in NYC are tenant friendly.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @dave I have no doubt that both I and @saul-degraw would prefer massive decent public housing to be built like they’ve done in various Western European and Asian countries. However, that’s not going to happen, especially in places like NY and San Francisco, as long as the land is as valuable as it is, short of some old school land grabs by the government.

        So, we have to figure out other ways and frankly, rent control is one of the least bad alternatives. I’d also be OK with heavily expanding Section 8 to help those in rent controlled apartments pay something closer to market rate, but again, that’s not likely to happen, even if we get a liberal Congress and President.

        Now, if you believe the market it will sort itself out and if the market decides urban cores should only consist of upper-middle-class and rich people, then the abolition of rent control really isn’t a problem for you. Because, no matter what @North or anybody else says, if rent control was abolished tomorrow, that poor black family in New Jersey ain’t taking up residence in the formerly rent controlled apartment and he knows it.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @jesse-ewiak Government housing what could possibly go wrong?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        @jesse-ewiak

        Of course, NYC & NY are not averse to old fashioned land grabs, but typically it’s done to displace poor residents so a University or developer can expand or make a mint. Seems the liberal city council & mayor is quite happy to continue to forcing a small class of citizens to bear the brunt of a welfare program while they hand off valuable real estate to moneyed & connected interests.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @wardsmith – What could possibly go right? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemeindebau) @mad-rocket-scientist Considering NYC has it’s first actual liberal mayor since 1989 and it’s first liberal mayor with any room to actually shift things since probably the 70’s, if not even earlier, can we let DeBlasio actually give land away to a university before blaming him for the sins of past Mayors?Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist @north @dave

        I generally agree with what Jesse said. I would love public housing as exists when does right in the US and an expansion of Section 8 plus rules that forbid landlords from kicking out Section 8 tenants for business and economic reasons.

        I also think of NYC as one big market and don’t think there is a special right for Manhattan. I would be happy with more middle class housing in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island. I provided a link in my Tale of Two Brooklyns essay that showed in many places in Brooklyn, rent is stagnant and/or lowering. These are not great neighboroods sometimes but we can increase public transport and encourage the building of truly middle class housing there. Planned communities like Sunnyside, Queens.

        @north, I also agree with Jesse that I don’t think your story is going to happen and the magic of the market and ending rent control is going to bring people priced out of Manhattan back. I am hopeful and supportive of De Blasio’s plan.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Um, @wardsmith, you realize that’s an article critical of the UK copying the US, right? But yes, largely because all the European countries don’t have one major party committed to the destruction of the ability of the central government to do anything well, their social welfare policies tend to actually work, because when the conservative party gets in power, they don’t destroy said policies.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @jesse-ewiak You realize the Democratic party held uninterrupted Congressional power from the 30’s through the 80’s don’t you? And in that time created boondoggles across the country. Don’t take my word for it, look for yourself

        This is the fundamental problem with liberals (or I can use the new term neoliberals). With the best intentions in the world, paving a highway to hell. When things fail, well that’s because “we” just needed a “little” more power, a “little” more money, a “little” more time, a “little” less commentary from our opponents telling us we’re doing it wrong. It never enters into the equation that the solution proffered was braindead to begin with. The “projects” are an unmitigated disaster and the book I linked goes into detail about how and why that has occurred. The tragedy of the commons in the projects could not be more clear. Next post I’ll talk about the specific German situation.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @jesse-ewiak @saul-degraw

        have no doubt that both I and@Saul DeGraw would prefer massive decent public housing to be built like they’ve done in various Western European and Asian countries.

        I noticed that you didn’t mention the United States, and it would make me a lot more sympathetic to your position if you could point to example here where it’s worked. Cabrini Green meets Pleasantville would be nice, but there’s no track record of it.

        So, we have to figure out other ways and frankly, rent control is one of the least bad alternatives.

        I’ll throw out an idea – public-private partnerships with senior housing operators. I’m not saying I’m 100% sold on this idea, but if we assume for the moment that I would support a policy that involves some form of government assistance putting seniors into homes, why not follow a senior housing model?

        Just a thought…Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @dave – The reason why it didn’t work in the US when public housing was first built was because the process was controlled by big city mayors, who despite being (mostly) Democrat’s werent’ that liberal and more worried about sending black people to that public housing and a Congress, which Ward’s ideas to the contrary, was controlled by a ‘conservative coalition’ of Southern Democrat’s and Republican’s in all reality for major periods between the end of the New Deal and the rise of the Reagan Revolution, with a few years of actual decent policy thrown in there after beloved President’s get shot.

        As for your private-public partnership idea, aside from the fact as why everything has to be a public-private partnership instead of just public, in theory, great. Allowing the fact we’ve come to the conclusion that the right of landlords to make more money is more important than a tenant who has been in the same apartment since the 60’s.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        @jesse-ewiak

        @Dave– The reason why it didn’t work in the US when public housing was first built was because the process was controlled by big city mayors, who despite being (mostly) Democrat’s werent’ that liberal…

        So your argument is that “real” liberals can make this work? I don’t know how else to interpret what you’re saying.

        As for your private-public partnership idea, aside from the fact as why everything has to be a public-private partnership instead of just public, in theory, great.

        I should be more critical about the idea since idiot extraordinaire Elizabeth Warren suggested that the private sector banks partner with the Post Office and offer credit services like low-interest short term loans. Whoa nelly!!!!

        Kidding aside, I think my suggestion is a good one. If public policy was going to lean towards providing housing for seniors, the kind of housing that would also offer levels of care akin to what one can find in assisted living, memory care, independent living or skilled nursing, how is the government going to pick up that expertise without reaching out in some way to the private sector operators that are doing it? Last I checked, government is not in that business.

        If you want to hippie punch public private partnerships, I’m working on a post that I’m sure will give you plenty of opportunities to do so. Hell, you may even have a few valid points when it’s all said and done.

        Allowing the fact we’ve come to the conclusion that the right of landlords to make more money is more important than a tenant who has been in the same apartment since the 60?s.

        I don’t recall ever making that argument.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        @jesse-ewiak

        Wait, Bloomberg wasn’t a liberal? I mean, I know he initially ran under the GOP, then became an independent, but to my eyes, he was pretty darn liberal!Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        @dave – “So your argument is that “real” liberals can make this work? I don’t know how else to interpret what you’re saying.”

        Well, yeah. Because ‘real’ liberals or hell, even conservatives made it work in various countries in other parts of the world. The problem was that public housing became something local politicians could use to shuttle away the poor and non-desirable people (ie. non-white) to somewhere else and at least back in the 60’s, that was a bipartisan consensus.

        Of course, there was also the issue that much of this was federally funded, but locally controlled, but that’d get into an argument over why federalism is kind of terrible…

        “I should be more critical about the idea since idiot extraordinaire Elizabeth Warren suggested that the private sector banks partner with the Post Office and offer credit services like low-interest short term loans. Whoa nelly!!!!”

        Well, I’d guess Warren, much like myself, would prefer postal banking, as they have it in places like Japan, where the post office itself controls the money and such, but that her idea actually has half a chance of passing in reality.

        “Kidding aside, I think my suggestion is a good one. If public policy was going to lean towards providing housing for seniors, the kind of housing that would also offer levels of care akin to what one can find in assisted living, memory care, independent living or skilled nursing, how is the government going to pick up that expertise without reaching out in some way to the private sector operators that are doing it? Last I checked, government is not in that business.”

        If the idea is the city, state, or federal government owns the building/land, but contracts out to various elderly care companies to run the building, that could probably work. It’s just that when it comes to the private-public partnerships that involve the private part having an ownership stake, it seems the public gets all the costs and the private side ends up with all the profits way too much.

        “I don’t recall ever making that argument.”

        If you’re in favor of ending rent control and all units being subject to ‘market rates’, then yes, you think a building owner getting a market rate for all his units is more important than one of his tenants staying in the apartment he or she likely can’t afford anymore.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist When it comes to the areas of smoking and soft drink regulations and I think, gay marriage and abortion, Bloomberg’s a liberal. On any other economic issue and crime issues, he’s a center-right technocrat at best. There’s a reason why DeBlaiso was able to win the primary and it’s because there has been two decades of building unrest among the liberal base in the city, particularly on issues of housing, crime, income inequality, and so on.Report

  16. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    My ideal solution to our housing problems is

    Since we are in America the result is most likely going to be

    That means the best possible solution in the United States is to encourage and allow for dense construction of housing and to subsidize rents and ownership in an indirect way.Report

  17. Avatar Jesse Ewiak
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    says:

    I do find it amusing that rent control, whatever it issues, is something that drives neoliberals and libertarians batty. It seems like one of the top things, before almost any other form of regulatory capture/rent seeking/etc. they’d would go after, and it just so happens to be one of the few bits of the rent seeking that actually helps out a segment of poor and middle class people.

    Most rent seeking just helps out the rich and only the rich, so it makes sense, that of course, the bit of rent seeking that might help out some people in the middle and lower classes must be dealt with before we go after the bits of rent seeking that help out billionaires and millionaires.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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      says:

      Jesse, that’s nonsense on stilts. Rent control directly and indirectly harms the prospects of the poor, especially those who have poor command of English (ie immigrants) since navigating a rent control regime requires a good command of English and also connections to people already in the system. Rent control crushes housing supplies so all housing except for the rent controlled units skyrocket in price. The rent controlled units, meanwhile, become highly sought after assets and people are significantly loathe to leave them so they get stuck in them. This also strongly incents landlords to skimp on maintenance to encourage tenants to leave promoting slums. As if that isn’t enough the administration of rent control creates terrible distortions and then politicians try and address those distortions by adding new layers to the rent control regime creating a sprawling administrative apparatus.

      The most significant beneficiaries of rent control are a subset of middle and upper middle income people. The rent controlled tenants, of course, wish to keep the gravy train going and by massively depressing building pressure in urban areas it also greatly increases the ability of low density housing owners to keep their neighborhoods the way they were when they moved in. A comfortable upper middle class liberal staunchly supports rent control “for the poor” then contentedly returns to their brownstone while the poor board the trains for their hours long commute out to Jersey. It bears repeating over and over that the wealthy (where they don’t easily use their money and influence to co-opt the rent control regime directly) are indifferent to rent control. They’ll always have the resources to work around the controlled units or build their own housing. The people locked out, again, are the poor, the new and the unconnected.

      I can’t speak for libertarians but as a neoliberalism person I despise rent control because it doesn’t achieve the objectives it seeks to promote and on top of that actively works against the housing interests of the poor and damages the health of the urban areas it’s inflicted on. It is a terrible illiberal policy. It promotes a perverse class of connected legacy unit owners who are privileged by incumbency so it is inegalitarian. It discourages urban density and development thus promoting sprawl so it is environmentally harmful. The housing distortions it causes fall disproportionately on the backs of the poor and the newcomers who are typically immigrants so it is racist. Rent control persists because of the vested interests of the incumbents and because so many liberals insist on telling themselves fairy tales about it while refusing to acknowledge the dreadful costs it imposes. Rent control is to liberals what agricultural subsidies are to conservatives.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to North
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        says:

        There’s also a lot of discrimination by landlords for rent controlled units. They’re far more likely to rent to the young and transient than the elderly, immigrant families or anyone else that looks like they may stick around.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to North
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        says:

        @north

        This. Nicely put.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to North
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        says:

        See, I see fairly simple (though likely kind of expensive) policies to fix some of these issues. Landlords trying to push rent controlled renters out? OK. Actually enforce coding and such strictly so the price of fixing the problems in those apartments is less than the fines and other penalties.

        Same thing with subletting. I have no issues with saying, fund the correct regulatory agency so that if we find out you’ve been subletting your rent controlled apartment, say goodbye to your rent control. Same thing with it being passed down family to family. I have no problem with eliminating that as well.

        But again, like I just said upthread, none of this is going to really allow a whole bunch of middle or lower middle class families to move to New York. Most likely, instead of lowering rents to market rates, what will landlords actually do when those rent controlled apartments say goodbye to this Earth? Jack up the rates to match the rest of the building, not lower other peoples rents because now they have an additional lot to sell at the “correct” rate.

        As for the rest of your argument, it’s simply false. Ya’ know what the market will decide? The market will decide that the middle class family gets to stay in Jersey, because there’s plenty of rich people around the world and in the US who want a second or third apartment or house that’s located in New York and they’ll be able to pay more than the people in Jersey. If you want a lack of rent control because you think it distorts the market, fine. But, don’t throw out stories that simply aren’t going to come true.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to North
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        says:

        @jesse-ewiak

        Landlords trying to push rent controlled renters out? OK. Actually enforce coding and such strictly so the price of fixing the problems in those apartments is less than the fines and other penalties.

        Congratulations, you’ve just made it cheaper for the building’s owner to have no tenants at all.

        I have no issues with saying, fund the correct regulatory agency so that if we find out you’ve been subletting your rent controlled apartment, say goodbye to your rent control.

        I thought that the people who are able to get rent controlled apartments are poor people. If that’s the case, why are we depriving them of a source of income? Or maybe rent control really doesn’t benefit poor people?

        Same thing with it being passed down family to family. I have no problem with eliminating that as well.

        Congratulations, you’ve just put a low income family on the streets because their matriarch died. Heartless bastard.

        The fact of the matter is that the only way to keep privately owned housing affordable over the long run is to ensure that there’s enough supply. And rent control actively prevents that from happening.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to North
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        says:

        “Actually enforce coding and such strictly so the price of fixing the problems in those apartments is less than the fines and other penalties. ”

        So the solution to regulations making maintenance unprofitable is to make sure that it’s merely the least unprofitable alternative?

        Hey, how come nobody wants to invest in our city anymore? Come one you guys, we’re the most desirable real estate in the country! And what’s with all these people trying to cheat all the time?Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        @mark-thompson

        “Congratulations, you’ve just made it cheaper for the building’s owner to have no tenants at all.”

        Yes, yes, and if we ever increase the minimum wage, people will close their businesses. If you can’t “afford” to pay your employees a decent wage, make sure their aren’t rats in the kitchen of your restaurant, or make sure your apartment building doesn’t look like it’s still 1931, then yeah, OK, give up the building. The city will find a use for it.

        “I thought that the people who are able to get rent controlled apartments are poor people. If that’s the case, why are we depriving them of a source of income? Or maybe rent control really doesn’t benefit poor people?”

        @north assumed there’s a bunch of widows in Florida making a whole bunch of money off of subletting apartments. I’ve got no issue going after that segment of the population using rent control.

        “Congratulations, you’ve just put a low income family on the streets because their matriarch died. Heartless bastard.”

        Rules can be passed to help out families that have been living there. But, for the most part, yeah, we can eliminate the inheritance of rent control, just like we could pass heavy inheritance taxes, without injuring the vast majority of people.

        “The fact of the matter is that the only way to keep privately owned housing affordable over the long run is to ensure that there’s enough supply. And rent control actively prevents that from happening.”

        Actually, the solution is public housing + guaranteed low/middle income units within luxury housing, at least in markets like New York, San Francisco, and other places where no matter how much supply is built, there will be enough rich and upper middle class people to push out the lower classes to the suburbs.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to North
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        says:

        @jim-heffman Well, I suppose if you’re going to prevent an increase in supply, then reducing demand is the only other way to go.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to North
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        says:

        @jesse-ewiak Why do you think that a handful of middle- and lower-class families should be privileged with below-market rent in the most sought-after residential areas in the country? And given that you do, how do you think they should be selected from the ranks of the many, many people who would like to live there at that price? Essay contest?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        “If you can’t “afford” to pay your employees a decent wage, make sure their aren’t rats in the kitchen of your restaurant, or make sure your apartment building doesn’t look like it’s still 1931…”

        The difference is that if I pay my employees a decent wage and make sure there aren’t rats in the kitchen, the government does not then say “it’s important that low-income people be able to eat at your restaurant, therefore you can’t raise prices to pay for those improvements”.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to North
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        says:

        Yes, yes, and if we ever increase the minimum wage, people will close their businesses. If you can’t “afford” to pay your employees a decent wage, make sure their aren’t rats in the kitchen of your restaurant, or make sure your apartment building doesn’t look like it’s still 1931, then yeah, OK, give up the building.

        This makes it sounds like landowners are always making fat margins and can afford to deal with whatever is dumped on them. But we’re not talking about a small bump in the minimum wage of an operation that is mostly equipment spending or a twenty basis point bump in sales tax. In a lot of cases, we’re talking about units where the landlord is already taking a 50% or more haircut on the income it should be providing. At some point, there simply isn’t enough money coming from that unit to cover any reasonable costs.

        If we’re so interested in making this happen, maybe squeezing all of the residents of the city for some extra tax money is the way to go, rather than squeezing the same landowner over and over for it and then turning up the heat when we start to see diminished returns from the squeezing. As it is, I don’t see how anybody would ever want to be a landlord in a city that sees them as the sole cash cow for an expensive social engineering program.

        …places where no matter how much supply is built, there will be enough rich and upper middle class people to push out the lower classes to the suburbs.

        The price for those places isn’t at infinity. At the current level of availability, we know how much money people are willing to pay for those units. The notion that there’s an infinite supply of rich renters who will pay unlimited amounts of cash to soak up any new units is silly. And the flip side of that notion is equally silly–that actually *reducing* the number of units doesn’t jack the price up higher. It does.

        We know that the number of people who want to live there rises every year and will continue to rise for as long as the world’s population grows and New York remains a desirable place to live. So you need to get new rental property online every year just to break even. “There’s not enough land for us to build our way to a low-rent utopia, so we might as well let the number of available units crater while demand grows,” is a losing strategy.

        Can you build enough housing that an unemployed person with no savings can live there by recycling cans he fished out of the trash? Probably not. But limited supply means that not everybody who wants to gets to live in the mots desirable locations in the world, and we have to come to terms with that.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to North
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        says:

        yeah, OK, give up the building. The city will find a use for it.

        NYC has literally thousands of abandoned buildings, many abandoned fir decades. Nothing says mindless faith in government like glibly assuming the government of NYC will find a use for them.Report

  18. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    Huh. From the title, I thought this would be about fracking.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      I suppose you’re one of the fortunate ones to not deal with landlords that joke about poisoning the water so the rent control tenants can die and give up their units. That’s a good thing.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Privilege.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        Back in the day, we had a basement apartment in a Back Bay (Boston) building being renovated into condos. The rest of the building was empty, except for one apartment rented by a woman who was 1) an attorney and 2) an officer for a non-profit group that represented renters interests in court; she knew her rights, and would not move out.

        So twice during the summer we lived here, the owner set fire to the building in an effort to ‘encourage’ her to move. I guess he forgot we, with our short-term lease, also lived there.

        We moved, breaking our lease, as soon as we were able, leaving her behind to her treasured apartment in a construction zone that suffered frequent fires.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @kazzy

        You better check that sir!!!!

        Zic,

        Your story sounds like some of the stories I’ve heard out of New York. There’s nothing like a bad building with a good insurance policy.Report

  19. Avatar j r
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    says:

    After re-reading the article, I have to say that there really is very little basis for either the title of this post or the overall tone of the article. Yes, sometimes landlords do terrible things to tenants, but I do not see any actual evidence that this is an example of such a thing. There are lots of reasons why landlords and developers would want to supply amenities to their market-rate tenants that has nothing to do with punishing or harassing the rent-controlled tenants. In many of these apartments, the number of rent-controlled units is likely fixed, so there isn’t even any point in harassing rent-controlled tenets.

    Unfortunately, this sort of article is very typical of the NY Times and of the whole present conversation about inequality. There are reasons why these things happen, reasons related to the characteristics of the real estate market and reasons related to the regulatory regime in place. Instead of actually diving in an attempting to give some real perspective, the Times is happy to shoehorn this into a pre-determined narrative.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to j r
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      says:

      @j-r

      Respectfully, for those of us that have gotten our hands dirty in the real estate business and know of landlords that would like nothing more than to see all of their rent control tenants drop dead, the title is very appropriate. It doesn’t seem like you have the same context I do, but that’s fine.

      I think there is a profound misunderstanding happening here:

      In many of these apartments, the number of rent-controlled units is likely fixed, so there isn’t even any point in harassing rent-controlled tenets.

      Actually, in NYC, when rent control tenants vacate, the unit is no longer subject to rent control. It will either go to market, a possibility in Manhattan given rent levels, or it will be subject to the rules governing rent stabilized units (rent stabilized and rent control are different in NYC).

      Either way, it’s a substantial rent increase but if a unit goes from rent control to market, you go from, say, getting $800 a month to over $3000 plus. The potential upside is enormous. Tishman Speyer knew this when it bought Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village for $5.4 billion in 2006 and pushed to get as many units as possible converted to market rate. Unfortunately, that blew up for a number of reasons.

      Unfortunately, this sort of article is very typical of the NY Times and of the whole present conversation about inequality.

      As harsh as this sounds, I’m going to be blunt here – anyone investing in NYC real estate where there is upside potential in getting as many units to market as quickly as possible doesn’t give a flying fish about the tenants that are there. I may not like the NYTimes perspective on this (which is why I wrote a brief post with my opinion), but I see where it’s coming from.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Dave
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        says:

        Respectfully, for those of us that have gotten our hands dirty in the real estate business and know of landlords that would like nothing more than to see all of their rent control tenants drop dead, the title is very appropriate. It doesn’t seem like you have the same context I do, but that’s fine.

        A young man walking down a dark street once tried to mug me; therefore all young men on all dark streets are probably trying to mug me as well. If you question that assumption, then you must not have my context. That seems like the sort of logic you are applying.

        Yes, landlords generally want rent-controlled tenants out. That fact in itself is not proof that everything landlords do is directly aimed at getting rent-controlled tenants out. I am assuming that there is a whole side of the landlord business that is just about attracting and servicing market-rate tenants. So, the question is: are landlords increasing amenities to attract market-rate tenants or are they doing it to screw the rent controlled tenants? I am seeing a lot of assumptions that it is the latter, but not much actual proof.

        I don’t doubt that the relationship between landlords and tenants in New York is a largely adversarial role. However, how much of that is owing to cartoonishly evil landlords and how much is owing to the ridiculous set of regulations that landlords and developers face? That is what I want to know. I want a story that digs into the meat and exposes what is actually going on here. I can apply my own narrative once I have the facts.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave
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        says:

        @j-r

        I think the word I should have used was perspective as opposed to context. It wasn’t meant to be an insult or something that you wouldn’t be able to get. The title was inspired by something a landlord once said to me. Nothing more. I’m sorry if you took it the wrong way. It wasn’t meant to be as condenscending as I now read it to be.

        I am assuming that there is a whole side of the landlord business that is just about attracting and servicing market-rate tenants.

        In theory and partially in practice, yes. However, when you have tenants in buildings that are not subject to market rent regulations, a history of strained tenant-landlord relationships amongst non-market rent tenants especially in Manhattan, a messed up regulatory regime and tenants rights activists that jump all over landlords for any and every reason (some good, some not so much), then it complicates matters greatly.

        Of course I don’t think that developers are adding amenities to screw over their existing tenants as they need them to attract new ones. I also think the reasons not to offer these services to existing tenants is primarily regulatory. However, when you hear about large-scale development projects where the affordable units are either built in separate buildings or have “poor door” entrances in the same buildings, that signals that the developers believe that the tenants they need to attract to their buildings do not want to share entrances and services with the non-market rate tenants. People that pay $7,000 per month for a unit don’t want to intermingle with people that pay 10% of that. I hear this kind of thing all the time.

        However, how much of that is owing to cartoonishly evil landlords and how much is owing to the ridiculous set of regulations that landlords and developers face?

        You’ll probably want to do some research if this subject interests you, but I’m going to summarize a very high profile from memory…

        I think the poster child story to start with is Tishman Speyer’s acquisition of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in 2006. Tishman bought the property for $5.4 billion thinking that it could turn a $150 million annual income into an over $400 million annual income by converting the rent stabilized units to market in a very short period of time. There was only one way for that to happen – turning over a substantially large number of units in as short a time as possible.

        Even if the rental market didn’t go sour during the downtown post-2008, the deal was in trouble. Tishman couldn’t turn over the units fast enough and then they suffered a major defeat in court that effectively disallowed the deregulation of units since the property had been receiving a certain kind of tax benefit.

        Was the landlord cartoonishly evil? Well, if they weren’t, tenants rights activists were savvy enough to paint them that way given how aggressive Tishman was acting in order to get people out of the units. Understandably, they were trying to get “illegal” tenants out of the units but unfortunately, they were sending notices to tenants that were in fact legally in their spaces.

        Was it the regulatory environment? Yes and no. Yes, it is a heavily regulated business but if an investor willingly comes into it trying to turn a profit, why should we blame the regulations for their bad decisions? If everyone and their mother knows that an investor is coming into a property with the intent of deregulating as many units as possible and you’re in one of the rent stabilized, do you expect anything but an adversarial relationship?

        I hope this helps to clarify and continue the conversation. I apologize for the poor wording on my part in my previous comment.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        @dave

        I am not doubting your perspective. I am just asking if it is the only one and if it’s the relevant one to this amenities issue. It may well be. I took slight umbrage to the title of the post, but honestly, my real objection is to the Times article. I actually thought that your post made an effort to suss out some of the other factors at work.

        The problem I still have is that I don’t see a different level of amenities as some form of de facto harassment. Are the people in coach being harassed or unduly pressured because they don’t get the same level of service as the people in first class?

        Part of the problem is that it is easy to think of amenity as having no marginal costs when in fact they do. A roof deck shared among 100 people has less value than a roof deck shared among 50 people. Excluding the 50 people who pay significantly less than the market rate tenants may look like it serves no purpose but to slight the rent control tenants, but it does serve a purpose. It is completely legitimate to give people different levels of goods and services based on what thy pay.

        However, when you hear about large-scale development projects where the affordable units are either built in separate buildings or have “poor door” entrances in the same buildings

        Doesn’t this counter what you said above about affordable units reverting to market rate once the original tenants leave? My understanding is that there is rent control, which does revert and affordable housing units, which are fixed for at least a certain number of years. If that is the case, then the landlords who have a certain percentage of affordable units don’t have much of an incentive to harass those tenants, because any new tenant is still paying the affordable rent. Is my understanding mistaken?Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        @j-r

        The problem I still have is that I don’t see a different level of amenities as some form of de facto harassment. Are the people in coach being harassed or unduly pressured because they don’t get the same level of service as the people in first class?

        I 100% agree with this position. The complaint about this from a tenant rights perspective is that it’s a human dignity issue because landlords are treating the tenants of different socio-economic classes in a different manner.

        A roof deck shared among 100 people has less value than a roof deck shared among 50 people. Excluding the 50 people who pay significantly less than the market rate tenants may look like it serves no purpose but to slight the rent control tenants, but it does serve a purpose. It is completely legitimate to give people different levels of goods and services based on what thy pay.

        Not only that, but there’s the harsh reality that the people paying $5,000 a month plus for a unit have no interest in sharing space with the rent control tenants and landlords do what they can to make that happen (the best example is the so called “poor doors” – separate building entrances for affordable housing/rent regulated tenants).

        Doesn’t this counter what you said above about affordable units reverting to market rate once the original tenants leave? My understanding is that there is rent control, which does revert and affordable housing units, which are fixed for at least a certain number of years. If that is the case, then the landlords who have a certain percentage of affordable units don’t have much of an incentive to harass those tenants, because any new tenant is still paying the affordable rent. Is my understanding mistaken?

        I would have to go back and review the regulations, but I think the difference lies between buying existing buildings where you may have a combination of market rate and rent regulated tenants that can be rolled to market and new buildings where affordable housing has to be built to the extent the development requires subsidies.

        In other words, you aren’t subject to the affordable housing regulations if you’re only investing in buildings as opposed to developing. I’d have to check that though.Report

  20. Avatar Jim Heffman
    Ignored
    says:

    One of the major drivers of services like AirBnB are landlords in rent-controlled areas who take their properties off the rental market by declaring them “personal residences” and then find tenants through AirBnB.Report

  21. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ll insert a mildly trollish comment here….

    “grinding oppression of the masses is the only policy that pays dividends”Report

  22. Avatar Saul DeGraw
    Ignored
    says:

    @dave

    We seem to have our different sympathies but what does it take to have decent housing available for people with modest incomes. I am not talking about fancy stuff, just decent. Working heat and AC, decent insulation, okay but not fancy appliances (though in Germany, renters bring in their own applicances and I could be okay with that but from what I heard the presumption in Germany is that you will be in the city for the long haul and in the same place.)

    All of our presumptions are still that cities are either temporary dwelling places for young people out of college or for people who can’t afford the suburbs even as reurbanization happens. We also have unhealthy social/cultural projects which causes a good deal of sneering at cities even as suburban poverty is increasing, There is a lot of us v. them that prevents developing decent urban policy and I think that ending rent control is just going to have our current suburban policy which favors white people and a market-rate urban policy which favors white people.

    No one here has proven to me how ending rent control is going to make cities more affordable for immigrants and minorities. Everyone says housing regulations need to go but no one is saying how much. The answer in silence seems to be a return to the slums that Jacob Riis photographed.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul DeGraw
      Ignored
      says:

      No one here has proven to me how ending rent control is going to make cities more affordable for immigrants and minorities.

      Could we point to the affordability of housing in cities with it and compare to the affordability of housing in cities without it or would that prove nothing?Report

      • Avatar StevetheCat in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        You could compare the affordability of cities like Boston and Chicago that ended rent control to San Fran. and NY.
        You could post graphs and figures showing rental rates of San Fran. and NY rising at astronomical rates compared to those other cities.
        You could write and write and write and write and write………
        But this is about Ideology, so engagement seems rather futile and a waste of time.
        p.s. zoning is also important.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        The other arguments that come into play are

        1. New York and San Francisco are global cities in ways that Boston and Chicago are not. Boston/Cambridge/Sommerville are great and I would probably love Chicago but they are not simply in the popular imagination in the way that NYC and Boston are. Do rich international or national types buy ped a tiers for those cities at the same rate/at all?

        2. NY and SF are homes to different industries that are currently able to pay much more than other local industries. These being Wall Street and Tech 2.0 respectively.

        3. Boston and Chicago can sprawl in ways that NYC and SF cannot.

        Rent Control could be part of the story but not all of it.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        @stevethecat, San Francisco’s housing crunch is more about zoning and NIMBYism than rent control at this moment. The different municipalities in the Bay area aren’t working together and basically dumping all the problems on San Francisco and to a lesser extent Berkeley and Oakland. Google’s main office is located in a suburban city called Mountain View. Nearly all the residential property in Mountain View consists of single-family homes. The single people that work at Google would love to live closer to work according to polls but don’t want or need single-family homes but Mountain View and other suburbs aren’t allowing the building of more appropriate housing because of NIMBYism. This is forcing San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley to absorb the techies. Rinse, wash, and repeat for other tech companies.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Saul DeGraw
      Ignored
      says:

      You do have a point that ending rent control is probably not going to make the average rent go down. It’s just that we’ll see fewer situations where a new building with absolutely impossible rent is sitting right next to a moldering dump whose tenants are paying the same price they did in 1962.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        The solution to that problem is make the landlord fix the problems via heavy fines and/or other solutions, not throw the people who have rent control out in the street because you can find somebody who can pay more for that apartment.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        @jesse-ewiak

        The solution to that problem is make the landlord fix the problems via heavy fines and/or other solutions

        Like apply for reduced rent based on the condition of the building or a lack of services? I believe tenants can already do this.

        not throw the people who have rent control out in the street because you can find somebody who can pay more for that apartment.

        By law, this can’t happen in NYC.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Dave
          Ignored
          says:

          Again, given that we can’t get to nirvana from here but instead need to make incremental changes to the existing system, I suspect that the actual answer (at least given what’s been described here as the prevailing regulatory regime in NYC) will be to issue guidelines permitting both tenants to apply for reductions in rent based on substantial defects in the premises (if any there be and are proven) and for landlords to apply for incremental increases in rent to over time allow them to keep the place up in a reasonable fashion, the end goal being an apartment block with some rent-reduced units operating at break-even levels, and other units paying market rates and generating profit for the owner.

          This will require a balanced view of the landlord-tenant relationship on the part of the regulators, interest and resources to determine with reasonable accuracy what these rates really are, integrity on the part of the landlords submitting their books and records, and an understanding on the part of the voting public and in particular the rent-controlled tenants that the status quo is unsustainable and a gradual changeover to the end state described in the previous paragraph is necessary to prevent the slummification of their home. So that’s already a really tall order.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        “The solution to that problem is make the landlord fix the problems via heavy fines”

        Landlord declares bankruptcy; someone else buys the property; that party hadn’t signed any agreements or leases with the existing tenants and are allowed to set rents at market rate.

        Your move.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        @jesse-ewiak
        The solution to that problem is make the landlord fix the problems via heavy fines and/or other solutions, not throw the people who have rent control out in the street because you can find somebody who can pay more for that apartment.

        Sophomoric. If rents aren’t providing enough revenue to be able to provide maintenance and make a return, how will charging heavy fines, further reducing the landlord’s return in investment, going to help? If they’re forced to reduce their net returns too much, they may try to sell, but they’ll have a hard time getting a buyer, because potential buyers won’t be able to get a satisfactory ROZo, either. So as likely as not, they’ll just walk away, stop paying taxes on the property, and leave it abandoned. This is why NYC literally had thousands of abandoned apartment buildings.

        Shallow people think command and control regulations like this will force people to act as society demands. But people aren’t so simplstic that they always respond as we want them to, especially if doing do will be more costly than non-compliance.

        This isn’t about being sympathetic to landlords. Fuck them. It’s about recognizing that whatevet hopeful wishes we have about housing policy, they will act in their own best interests. It’s about recognizing that policies that produce decaying and abandoned apartment buildings don’t do anyone any good, particularly the poorer renters we’re trying to help.

        Rent control policies are symbolically nice, but substsantively destructive of our ends. Commitment to ideology, though, often leads people to turn a blind eye to ugly realities. It’s a weakness, though. It shows a lack of courage: the unwillingnes to look closely at the costs of one’s preferred policies is intellectual cowardice.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Careful James, you are supposed to be “good cop.”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        James,
        such a well crafted argument! I bow to your wisdom, and I believe I would find myself agreeing even if I didn’t want to.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Saul DeGraw
      Ignored
      says:

      @saul-degraw

      There is a lot of us v. them that prevents developing decent urban policy and I think that ending rent control is just going to have our current suburban policy which favors white people and a market-rate urban policy which favors white people.

      No one here has proven to me how ending rent control is going to make cities more affordable for immigrants and minorities. Everyone says housing regulations need to go but no one is saying how much. The answer in silence seems to be a return to the slums that Jacob Riis photographed.

      I think the first bolded part of your comment assumes something that is in dispute. The anti-rent-control argument is that it hurts the poor in general and enriches some people who have an “in” to the system, and that over time, those who have an “in” either skew in favor of more affluent people. If ending rent control increases the amount of housing and increases such housing’s affordability, then doing so will benefit poorer people.

      The second bolded part of your comment seems to conflate something that ought not be conflated. Opposition to rent control doesn’t mean opposition to “housing regulations” in general. I think it’s possible to try to ensure that housing meets a minimum amount of safety and perhaps comfort while avoiding the worst of what Riis photographed. But even given what Riis photographed, would those tenement dwellers have been better off if there were even fewer tenements?

      Finally, one issue I have a hard problem resolving is even if someone, like me, is against rent control, “how” we end it is important, and I’m not sure how to do it. I think it would be unfair and cruel to end it right away, and I’m not sure how to do it gradually in a way that’s fair to the tenants who for a long time have operated under rent control rules.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        When we have discussed housing before, I’ve expressed my doubts about whether developers would ever build affordable housing for families in the city because it seems like what is being built is luxury condo building after luxury condo building and at a seemingly (but not actually) infinite pace. The neo-liberal/libertarian argument is that the building regulations are too much and no one wants to build moderate priced housing. No one says what or why the current regulations are too much. Nor does anyone say how bad housing needs to be for it to be affordable. Microapartments are hot but again basically for single people and usually young single people at that.

        What kind of housing should exist for a teacher or a social worker? What should it have/not have?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw

        building regulations are too much

        I wish I could answer this, but I think it would require the knowledge of someone who has experience with getting something built in NYC.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        What kind of housing should exist for a teacher or a social worker? What should it have/not have?

        It looks like the median household income in NYC is about $51K, so it looks like there’s some form of housing there already. Unless they’re all living in rent-controlled units, I don’t think I agree with the picture that some people are painting that the big cities only have luxury apartments where rich people live and semi-luxury apartments that rich people own and vacation in. I think there’s very real housing there.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        @saul-degraw The problem with this argument is that, even if it’s true that new construction is almost entirely high-density luxury construction, it still eases supply in the market on aggregate, and thus places downward pressure on average rents overall. In order for this not to be true, then you’d have to be able to show that every new luxury unit added to the housing supply in a market resulted in one or more new persons looking to move into the market from elsewhere.

        That kind of a conclusion is simply and utterly implausible and absurd – indeed, if that were the case, places with declining population problems would have an easy fix: just build luxury condos, and the rich people will come and save your tax base.

        People want to move into a particular city or town because of pretty basic factors: jobs, convenience, quality of schools, recreation, etc.

        The reason that housing prices in SF are going up despite the existence of new luxury buildings is that there isn’t enough new construction to keep up with demand. In fact, look at this: http://www.bayareacensus.ca.gov/counties/SanFranciscoCounty.htm

        In ten years, the number of housing units in SF increased by only about 10 percent. And even this modest increase was offset by the fact that the number of vacant units just about doubled (thanks in no small part to rent control, by the way). This during a period of time when the nearby tech boom was ensuring that demand for housing in SF would skyrocket. When you combine a fairly minimal increase in supply with a significant increase in demand, you get rising prices.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw

        The neo-liberal/libertarian argument is that the building regulations are too much and no one wants to build moderate priced housing

        I think the first part of that statement–“the building regulations are too much”–is probably true but an oversimplification. It’s as much a question of which regulations are called for–i.e., which ones truly help promote safety–and which are imposed for less essential purposes, such a aesthetics.

        Also:

        What kind of housing should exist for a teacher or a social worker? What should it have/not have?

        The first question is perhaps not the best one to ask. My understanding is that teachers and social workers are generally underpaid for the work they do, but they are not among the poor. Just because someone is a teacher or a social workers doesn’t mean, in my opinion, that they *deserve* a certain standard.

        My answer to your second question, assuming we’re talking about what “adequate” housing should have and not “adequate for a teacher and social worker”:

        1. Relatively good insulation
        2. Good heat
        3. Good a/c if it’s a climate that can be hot. At any rate, good ventilation
        4. Running water and toilets
        5. Stove and oven and fridge
        6. Safely wired electrical service for lighting.
        7. Free of rodents

        I’m probably missing some things, and some might object, for example, that some things above, such as “a/c” are not necessities or that “rodents” aren’t bad if we’re talking only about an errant mouse and not a colony of rats. But that’s all generally what I think an “adequate” housing should have.

        Finally and back to the Riis example: it truly is vexing that people lived in the types of slums Riis documented. I feel bad for those people and any people today who have to live in such conditions. However, for someone in such a situation, sometimes some housing is better than none. As someone who has always had the privilege to live in better than adequate housing by my or most others’ standards, I feel a bit inconsiderate and glib saying that. But I think there’s a lot of truth to it.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        Mark,
        Glad to hear you consider London completely implausible.
        Care to hear what kind of taxes Bloomberg pays on his mansion there?
        He isn’t exactly living there, you know?
        [London’s housing is functioning as a reserve currency right now…]Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        Gabriel,
        Any place with large holes in the roof and black widow spiders ought not to be presumed better than “nothing at all” (where nothing at all might mean a shelter).Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        “Nothing at all” to me means fishing a dirty blanket out of a dumpster so as to sleep below a viaduct in case it rains. Actual homelessness, not a home that really sucks.

        Now, bear in mind that I agree that an apartment with broken windows and vermin is not acceptable housing. But it’s still better than “camping” underneath a freeway. We’re talking varying degrees of bad here, not bad versus good.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        Burt,
        of course they’re varying degrees of bad.
        Naturally, a blanket under a freeway also varies from locale to locale.
        (around here we have a major initiative that has reduced limb amputations
        via the simple distribution of wool socks).Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw I’ll ask you the same question I asked @jesse-ewiak, who has declined to answer: Why do you think that a handful of middle- and lower-class families should be privileged with below-market rent in the most sought-after residential areas in the country? And given that you do, how do you think they should be selected from the ranks of the many, many people who would like to live there at that price?

        The available housing stock can only hold so many people, and it’s fewer than want to live there. When you say that the government should step in and force landlords to allow people to live there at below market rates, you’re implicitly saying that other people who are willing to pay full price should nevertheless be forced out. Why do you consider this acceptable?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        Hell, I’d like it if @saul-degraw or @jesse-ewiak answered the more basic question:

        How is it even remotely right that a small class of persons/businesses bear the full cost of a welfare program? Rent Control, as I understand it, places the burden entirely upon the building owner/manager. They don’t get money from the city for having rent controlled units, or assistance with building maintenance, or anything.

        Certainly some of the larger owners & corporations with deep pockets can afford to have rent controlled units, but not every owner is flush with oodles of cash, but this still ignores the fact that the burden falls on a small population.

        At least with Section 8, the burden falls on the whole city/county/state, property owners get their rent, and having units available for section 8 increases their potential renter pool.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        I too would like to hear an answer to these questions.

        Please “edumacate” us.Report

      • Avatar switters in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        I’ll preface this by saying (i) I am opposed to rent control and (ii) I also would like to hear Saul’s or Jesse’s answer to the questions posed above.

        I would like to tentatively push back on the “on the backs of landlords” position. I say tentatively because I don’t know the following, but I do presume that given the length of time rent control has been in place, the buildings sold/bought by landlords under the current regime were priced to reflect the buyers and sellers expectations regarding the durability of the rent control regime. For the owners who bought knowing rent control was an issue, I have ittle sympathy. Ending the rent control would actually result in a windfall for those Landlord’s who purchased at a price with the expectation that rent control will continue baked in.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @switters

        That speaks to one of my problems. I oppose rent control, but once it’s established, I don’t know of a fair way to end it, which is at least a reason for not doing it in the first place. I suppose that if one wants to be fair, ending any rent-control regime would have to be a graduated process. Even then, it wouldn’t be completely fair.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @switters

        True, but it still does not resolve the deeper problem that when the controls were instituted, it was, in my mind, a taking* and as such it is a welfare program that a minority are paying for. Also, if rent controlled units are not going up in price at a pace sufficient to cover the costs of maintaining the building, then either building maintenance suffers, or the rent of everyone else has to increase, which runs the very real risk of forcing out other tenants who are not lucky enough to have rent control & not wealthy enough to pay the hike.

        *Curious, has anyone ever challenged Rent Control on 5th Amendment grounds?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        Simple, institute something akin to Section 8 & begin moving people off of rent control, mostly through attrition & the ending of sublets & inheritance.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        That might work. I’m just skeptical that it’ll be fair in practice all around. That’s not to say I’m opposed, just that something like rent control entrenches some people in certain expectations of what they’ve got coming to them, and the process of dismantling those expectations can’t be other than unfair in some way. Again, that’s not a reason not to dismantle it, just an observation on the difficulties involved.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw
        it seems like what is being built is luxury condo building after luxury condo building and at a seemingly (but not actually) infinite pace.

        You’ve been given the answer to this at least three times now, and the on,y counter-argumen you’ve made is that things “seem” this way, or that it doesn’t “seem” that these luxury apartments aren’t resulting in transitions of older housing that makes less costly housing available.

        What you haven’t done is provide a logical argument for how your position is possible in practice, or a logical argument for why many decades of damage should have already been undone after only a decade of increased building, and when so many restrictive regulations are still in place.

        If some of us (read, I) sound unduly irritated, it’s because this is not really a debatable topic. The pro-rent control side, and your argument that building luxury housing can’t produce less costly housing, can only be true if the laws of supply and demand don’t hold. That position is akin to flat eartherism. As Paul Krugman notes,

        The analysis of rent control is among the best-understood issues in all of economics, and — among economists, anyway — one of the least controversial…
        But people literally don’t want to know. A few months ago, when a San Francisco official proposed a study of the city’s housing crisis, there was a firestorm of opposition from tenant-advocacy groups. They argued that even to study the situation was a step on the road to ending rent control — and they may well have been right, because studying the issue might lead to a recognition of the obvious.

        So now you know why economists are useless: when they actually do understand something, people don’t want to hear about it.

        Don’t a flat earther. Don’t be a creationist.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        I’m just skeptical that it’ll be fair in practice all around.

        Seeing as how it isn’t fair now to owners and any other renter who struggles, I have little concern over the fairness to the current rent control beneficiaries. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but I think too often bad regulation continues just because people are hesitant to harm the current beneficiaries, despite the harm done to the whole.

        Just make the decision, give 6 months to a year of notice, and then start making changes.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Saul DeGraw
      Ignored
      says:

      All of our presumptions are still that cities are… for people who can’t afford the suburbs…

      Perhaps it’s a matter of where I live… Housing prices in Denver are generally substantially higher than a similar place in the suburbs. In some cases there isn’t anything similar, eg, 20-story apartment towers are rare outside of Denver proper. When I occasionally pick up the flyer from a for-sale sign in Denver, I am astounded at what is being asked for beat-up old houses.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        Cities are getting more popular but it might be too early to tell. Education writer Dana Goldstein says that more people in Generation X and the Millennial Generation are choosing to stay in cities and raise their kids in the cities instead of decamping for the suburbs as their parents did. Anecdotally my friends seem split on the whole suburb v. city thing when it comes to childrearing and we are talking about a group of largely white people and almost everyone having a college degree at least, usually an advance degree.

        I have seen people talk about leaving NYC because it lacks good public schools and people praising NYC public schools to the high havens. Again these are all generally white and educated people.

        The problem is gerrymandering. We have Representatives that represent cities, suburbs, and rural areas. We have very few politicians who represent both. My hometown Congressional district was weird because it contained sections of wealthy suburban Long Island and more immigrant/middle class Queens. As far as I can tell, very few districts are carved this way but perhaps more should be.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Cain
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul,
        Economically speaking, the suburbs are becoming a worse and worse deal. And Americans are becoming too poor to afford them. I expect more and more cities to follow the Parisian model, or perish.

        It is an economic hindrance to the entire city’s labor market (and hence ability to compete with other cities) when a significant fraction of the labor market can’t afford to commute to a significant fraction of the jobs (see Atlanta).Report

  23. Avatar wardsmith
    Ignored
    says:

    @jesse-ewiak Moved down here for more room. A bit long, but an excellent take on the German model in this article. I had started to mention the Turkish and squatters in the previous post but figured I’d put it here. In other words, while Germans were living in German housing everything was hunky dory, but now that they’ve imported cheap laborers from Turkey (and elsewhere) their housing is starting to look a lot more like our “projects”. The keys for Germany doing as well as they did for as long as they did are directly related to the complete destruction of so many things in their society during WWII. First was the housing, about 20% was rubble, second was the moneyed class, largely destroyed (so everyone was in the same boat so to speak), third was their bankrupt banking system, which couldn’t afford to loan out mortgages, fourth was their reasonably intelligent rental laws with limited restrictions. Professor Michael Voigtländer has written extensively about this, unfortunately mostly in German. From the one in English the abstract: Why is the German Homeownership Rate so Low? The comparatively low homeownership rate in Germany is often referred to as a weakness of the German housing market. As it turns out, the situation in Germany is primarily due to four factors. First, rental housing makes up a larger share of the market because of an extensive social housing sector. The high quality standard of social housing and the fact that private investors were included in the subsidisation scheme from the beginning laid the foundation for a large private rental housing market. Second, homeowners in Germany did not benefit from the same high subsidies as in countries such as Spain or the Netherlands. Third, the German rental housing market was not rendered inoperative by excessive interventions in rents, as was the case in countries such as Spain and the UK. Finally, German house prices remained stable over a long period of time. Therefore, in view of these results, judgements on Germany’s housing market should be revised.

    So Germany is a special case due to rebuilding after the war, a homogenous society and systemic bias towards renting versus owning.Report

  24. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    My position is in-between North and Saul’s. Like North, I basically think that rent control doesn’t work and its been proven not to work multiple times in many different countries. The best thing that you can say about rent control is that it creates a sort of lottery for affordable housing in desirable cities and that people you win the lotto, win big. The problem is that it definitely prevents the development of new rental property from coming on to the market and makes it more difficult for newcomers to move into the city.

    That being said, I don’t think that ending rent control alone will lead to a renaissance in affordable housing. Zoning and NIMBYism are also issues that prevent the building of needed housing or much of anything else. Getting rid of rent control is a lot easier than reforming zoning laws to permit more densely built housing. Like Jesse, my dream would be if we could actually built decent social housing in the United States like they do elsewhere. Housing like medicine is a good or service that you can’t entirely rely on market forces to provide. The American experiment in mass suburban homeownership was a result of indirect, hidden welfare from the government. In the absence of government intervention, housing for lower income people is basically slums because historically landlords dealing with the poor weren’t too keen on providing decent living quarters.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      For the record I have never said that ending rent control would solve the housing difficulties that these urban areas face. That is a mischaracterization that has been imposed by Saul and Jesse and I do not agree with it even remotely.
      I view ending rent control much like ending cutting. It won’t cure your arthritis if you stop cutting yourself but you’re still going to be better off if you stop cutting yourself. Even if you ended rent control you’d still have to deal with NIMByism and the physical restraints of the geography. Similarly I reject the idea that ending rent control would allow people to immediately move into the city or cause rents to go down in the short term. Building new housing takes time and we could expect rents to increase at first until new housing units were built to drive the prices back down.

      That said the constantly repeated canard that there’s some infinite supply of rich people who’d buy every housing unit that’d be built if rent control ended is laughable as others above have merrily deconstructed. The steady contraction of rent control and the proliferation of housing in the hundreds of non-rent controlled cities everywhere demolishes that convenient fantasy.

      I also have never suggested that building codes are the kind of deplorable horrors that rent control is so the idea that the result of ending rent control would lead to slums of all things is also empty hyperbole. I also can’t help but be bemused at the idea of larding even more enforcement, even more regulation on top of the existing regulation and enforcement to fix rent control. That one is a classic, on the right or the left there’s nothing like a surge to fix what ails any given policy.

      I myself am skeptical about the idea of public housing but not hostile like I am to the utterly disastrous policy of rent control. Listening to my British acquaintances snarl about “Council homes” has always led me to suspect that people (being people after all) treat commonly owned homes much like the treat commonly owned bus shelters (not well at all). Now doubtlessly one could retort that we can make a program to deal with that but I think our history on such programs is not a good one.

      But beneath all this flailing is the basic premise: something must be done about housing, rent control is something so it must be done. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work; it doesn’t matter if it makes things worse; something must be done and rent control is something.

      I’d note, also, that my fervent criticisms of rent control stem generally from a liberal position. I do not assert that property rights are sacrosanct and any infringement on them is immoral or any such libertarian position. I observe, accurately, that rent control makes the housing markets it is imposed on worse. It reinforces Nimbyism, it discourages development, it encourages cronyism, it encourages sprawl and it privileges elderly established and historically racially privileged people over younger more diverse new comers. These are liberal criticisms: the program isn’t working the way it’s supposed to; the program is producing empirical results that are contrary to its intentions; the program needs to be done away with and something else should be tried.

      With respect none of the defenses I’ve read of rent control have been even slightly persuasive. There’ve been attempts to drape it in the mantle of more defensible policies (like building safety codes); there’ve been appeals to imaginary economics (infinite supplies of rich people); there’ve been dark allusions to my motivations; there’ve been false attributions of assertions I’ve not made (do away with rent control and our problems are over) but there’s been little to no empirics or actual real arguments made. I expect this kind of argumentation in favor of conservative policies (talk to a right winger about defense spending or agricultural subsidies) but I wish that I didn’t have to see that hoary trope replicating itself within my own ideology. Thank goodness that it is unsuccessful and rent control is waning in so many places as it should.Report

      • Avatar LWC (Liberal With Cojones) in reply to North
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        says:

        This is actually very close to my positions, were I not so lazy and unwilling to write them out.

        “Something must be done” is the part that catches my eye- why do we feel so?

        I have noticed that most arguments for rent control lean heavily on the horror of the elderly poor, rather than college students or welfare mothers.

        I think its because our culture, like most, holds that there is an intergenerational obligation of the young to the old, that it is perfectly legitimate to coercively mandate some form of benefit to the elderly as a group, from the young as a group.

        This explains, to me, why this form of benefit, like Social Security is so popular, even if, unlike SS, it doesn’t really work as advertised- its a tangible benefit.

        Another reason might also be our attitudes towards housing itself- although one might argue* that housing is nothing more than a consumer good, to be traded and purchased like a toaster or luxury car, for most people, housing occupies a special place in our lives, and the specter of the family home being disrupted by market forces triggers some pretty deep emotions.

        * No one around here, certainly!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        LWC,
        There’s also the manifest disadvantage that the elderly have in dealing with “finding new things” and their acquired “but I live here” status is stronger because they’ve lived there longer. Hence they have higher moral authority.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        Slums are caused by our building codes, not by rent control.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        Shouldn’t it be “liberal with cajones who makes broad statements about libertarians and then runs off without defending them”?

        Truth in naming and all.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        Personally, I find the repeated use of the Spanish word for ‘testicles’ by a (presumably) white male to be both subtly racist, and subtly sexist. Next thing you know, LWA/C might try his hand at ‘macking’. And once you mack, you never go back.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        Stop picking on LWA err LWC when he’s agreeing with me!Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      North,
      Not all cities use their housing stock as a form of reserve currency for the world at large.
      Be very very careful with your analogies. Not all cities are equal in this respect.Report

  25. Avatar Randy Harris
    Ignored
    says:

    1) Give tenants in rent-controlled housing vested property rights in said status, 2) Such property right would be tied to said unit and could be sold when the tenant moves (The tenant would not be able to transfer rights to a new property), 3) Allow landlords to buy rights from the tenants, it which case said rights would be permanently retired (Possibly give landlords right of first refusal), 4) Compensate tenant for rights in the event that building is converted to condos or torn down, 5) Never apply rent-control status to any properties ever again, effectively phasing out rent-control over the long run.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Randy Harris
      Ignored
      says:

      This is an interesting point: I wonder how many tenants would leave if they were offered the present discounted value (or even a substantial fraction of that value) of their current rent savings for their expected future tenancy in a lump sum?Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Randy Harris
      Ignored
      says:

      ” Allow landlords to buy rights from the tenants,”

      At which point the conniving big-business fat-cat landlords would totally bamboozle the poor sweet innocent grandmothers for whom rent control is the only thing keeping them from being turned out into the cold.Report

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