Saturday, August 6, 2011

"The Rent is Too Damn High": Too Damn Bad

Jimmy McMillan, the 2010 New York gubernatorial candidate who spiced up the race with his racy quip "The rent is too damn high," is now facing eviction.

His rhetoric during the campaign was great. He tapped into voter frustration. He knew how to set off a crowd. Yet rhetoric without reason does not move people to do anything. People still value substance in addition to style.

And McMillan never bothered to ask the question, "Why is the rent too damn high?" Too damn many rent controls, for one thing. Proprietors cannot raise the rent to reflect the fair-market value of their properties because arcane rules protecting long-term renters allow them to pay the same low rent. As a result, new couples and large families struggle to find housing. When landowners finally move out the ancient inhabitants, they knock down homes, duplexes, and lofts, and create bland condominiums to let at excessive rates because they will not be able to raise the rent again for some time.

This governmental intervention into the apartment marketplace has prevented supply and demand from leveling out housing prices. It has also discouraged smaller contractors from creating more space from which prospective tenants may choose. Thus, the rent is too damn high, and it's just too damn bad for most New Yorkers who still expect the government to care for them, the very cause of the problem.

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