Abolishing Rent Control (published in NY Post)

The reasoning behind Jack Newfield’s analysis of the dynamics between New York City’s landlords and tenants (“Talk to tortured tenant before hiking rent,” column, May 21) leaves much to be desired.

Under rent control, government bureaucrats are able to demand, under the threat of criminal penalties including imprisonment, that landlords charge less than half the market rate for their services (in Mr. Newfield’s example, $354 a month for an apartment apparently worth $1,050 to its current tenant), while simultaneously demanding that they maintain or even improve such services.

On the face of such fascist-like legislation, is it any wonder that many landlords feel compelled to abandon or set fire to their properties, or resort to strong-arm tactics themselves? Further, it is any wonder that New York City apartments are in such short supply in relation to demand, thereby driving the rents in non-controlled apartments sky-high? Who in their right mind would want to be a landlord under the condition of having a potential gun pointed at your head by a legally sanctioned government thug, compelling you to act against your own interests and leading you ultimately to financial ruin?

Mr. Newfield’s solution: create a new group of tax-supported bureaucrats who would require government licensing of potential landlords, thereby further reducing the supply of both landlords and rental housing, while simultaneously driving up rents and taxes.

What’s the real solution? In a word, freedom: the abolition of all coercive legislation directed against the interests of landlords and tenants, such a price controls, building regulations and zoning laws. Thereafter, the profit motive would act powerfully as an incentive to radically increase the supply of rental housing, while freedom of competition would act to decrease the rents and increase the quality of such housing.