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More attacks on tenant protections

Posted by Halibut on May 24, 1996 at 11:28:45:

In Reply to: Seen on the net - re: Rent Control in Boston posted by Halibut on May 24, 1996 at 11:18:06:

More venom and lies from the right-wing. This is all garbage but tenants
should know why their landlords get away with murder:

A publication of the American Association for Small Property Ownership
Rent-Control Fiats Foster Urban Blight

by F. Patricia Callahan (published in Insight, June 5, 1995)

What do New York City, Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles all have in
common? Devastated neighborhoods, deteriorating housing stock, increasing
foreclosures - and rent control.

Rent control is a community cancer that is robbing urban areas of their
vitality, diminishing mobility, stifling economic growth and costing
billions of dollars to the taxpayers. Only four states - New York, New
Jersey, California and Massachusetts - and the District of Columbia permit
jurisdictions within their borders to maintain rent control. Ironically,
these four states are led by Republican governors whose national party
leadership is promoting an agenda of deregulation and individual property

Originally intended to help the poor, elderly and other disadvantaged
citizens, rent control is exploited by residents who are better off than the
average citizen in their communities and often better off than their

Rent control is more than a matter of price controls. It is an oppressive,
confiscatory and punitive regulatory system that denies property owners any
meaningful control over their properties. It has a devastating impact on
property owners and their families. Consider two cases from Massachusetts:

Barbara Pilgrim of Cambridge works at a food pantry while her husband Carl,
an invalid due to a stroke, stays at home. Their entire lifesaving went into
their four-family home. Under rent control, Barbara was allowed to charge
only $500 a month in rents, but her monthly costs exceeded $900. Meanwhile,
her tenants could afford vacations in Florida during the winter and Cape Cod
in summer.

Anne Cox, 72, of the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, was ordered by the
Boston rent board to resume renting rooms in her two-family house under
threat of prosecution, despite the fact that she was ill and wanted to
retire. To operate a rooming house would have put her in violation of the
city's building and zoning codes, a fact of no importance to the rent board.

Rent control presents a study in contradictions. First adopted during the
era of rationing and shortages in World War II, it was reimposed 25 years
ago in a number of communities in response to a perceived housing
"emergency." For over two decades, the alleged emergency has provided the
legal basis for states and localities to continue rent control. But while
the purpose of the policy is to make housing both available and affordable
to low-income residents, numerous studies have shown that the primary
beneficiaries of rent control are the well-to-do who have displaced
lower-income tenants in many of the neighborhoods in which rent control is
in effect. And, because rent control does not allow rental-property income
to be sufficient for necessary maintenance, deterioration of housing stock,
abandonment and foreclosures invariably follow. Like many other
well-intentioned government programs, rent control has had perverse

Rent control is welfare, pure and simple. But it is a private welfare system
imposed by local government on one class of citizens, the private property
owners. Like public welfare, it is an income-transfer strategy, except that
the private-property owner is the one compelled to transfer his or her
wealth to tenants who often have incomes greater than the property owner.
Unlike public welfare, which is supported by general tax revenues, the
burden of providing subsidized housing falls exclusively on the
private-property owner.

Over the years, various property-owner groups have tried in vain to repeal
rent control in courts, statehouses and city council chambers. In 1993,
however, a group of small-property owners in Massachusetts decided to take
their case directly to the people. Despite roadblocks thrown up at every
turn, their tireless efforts resulted in a referendum on the ballot in the
November 1994 election. The results were a cause for celebration: One
million Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 9, which abolished
rent control and its abuses in the state. But Gov. William Weld, over the
objections of small-property owners, sponsored a "compromise" extension of
rent control for two more years to certain classes of tenants, the costs to
be borne solely by private-property owners.

The news from New Jersey - where 115 communities have rent control - is
equally depressing. In spite of the fact that Jersey City recently had to
borrow $6 million to pay tax refunds to landowners whose properties had been
devalued by rent control, the state and local politicians still do not see a
problem requiring any action.

Gov. Christine Todd Whitman will be hard-pressed to present herself as a
convincing vice- presidential nominee concerned with private-property rights
while maintaining that 115 rent controlled communities are okay for New
Jersey. Those are more rent-controlled communities than the rest of the
United States combined.

Cases of rent-control abuse in New York and California have been
well-documented and widely publicized. Yet, the political leadership in
California, with 17 rent control communities, and New York, with 61
communities, have produced no plans to allow the free market to work in

In response to a renewed sense of urgency, an Alliance of Small Property
Owners is forming in the four states with rent control. Spearheaded by
Robert G. Sacks of the Hudson County Taxpayers Association, this grassroots
movement will press the Republican Congress to enact federal legislation
prohibiting any form of rent control where federal funds are at risk. The
abolition of rent control will be one of the defining issues for the GOP
according to Boston commentator, George Hand. As Hand observes, "From a
purely structural point of view, given the general disrepute into which rent
control has fallen, and given November 1994 (in which a victory at the polls
was reversed by a Republican governor), small landlords may be left in

Is the GOP listening or can the property owners expect to be tuned out
again? The answer is important because when the politicians come knocking on
their doors for votes and support, as they always do in an election year,
the small-property owners can point to a shameful record.

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