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Housing isn't soap

Posted by A Tenant on August 15, 2000 at 23:48:15:

In Reply to: Know the facts: Fewer Apartments=Higher Rents posted by Unstoppable Ed on August 15, 2000 at 19:51:12:

Well, I wish we all could get a 20 or 30 or 50 percent raise at work, like the rent increases that owners of unregulated apartments are getting these days!

Housing isn't a commodity, like rice or soap or computers, with true price competition. It's a contract for a vital service, in which the landlord has a considerable advantage. And it's all vastly more complicated that those supply-and-demand diagrams from Economics 101.

Regulated apartments aren't "taken" from the market any more than unregulated ones. Rent regulation doesn't apply to most new construction in New York, so that's not what's restricting the creation of new housing. More than anything, it's simple geography; land is extremely scarce, and there's high demand for commercial space as well. But if a developer can build, the sky's the limit for rents, and the dwindling number of regulated apartments is no barrier at all.

Passing on apartments to relatives, illegal sublets, holding onto apartments for a pied-a-terre -- these don't cause the shortage of affordable housing. They're a symptom of it. If there were a sensible system of rent regulation that applied to ALL apartments, tenants wouldn't feel the need to hold on so fiercely to the regulated apartments that remain.

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