Monday, July 29, 2013

WNYC covers rent regulations

Adam Davidson, appearing on WNYC's morning "Brian Lehrer Show" discussion program, gave his strongest argument for rent deregulation without any analysis at all. Instead, he appeals to authority: economists on all sides agree that rent regulations are bad for the housing market and harm the middle class. 

True, economists agree on across-the-board rent regulations, but that's not New York's model. New units in NYC are not required to be regulated, so rent regulations here incentivize new construction. Deregulation would remove that incentive since raising rents and evicting tenants are cheaper and easier than construction. The New York model is actually healthy for the market.

Davidson refers to one economist, Christopher Mayer, but Mayer completely forgets that deregulated tenants don't simply disappear from the rental pool. If they have to vacate, they move from upscale neighborhoods into middle class neighborhoods and create a tighter market, raising rents there. So deregulation will hurt the middle class especially. In aggregate: 
deregulation = same # of units, same # of renters, just more wages going into rent, a windfall for landlords and no incentive to construct or ever ease the market. 

A land tax would help, tagged to upzonings in selected neighborhoods that can withstand increased development.