NYT Headline Disgusts Me: “Rent Control Is a Vanishing New York Treasure”

May 24th, 2010

Rent control is not a treasure. It is a scourge on the free market.

The New York Times has a puff piece about how this “mythic[al]” program is slowly vanishing from Manhattan.

An informal survey of some major landlords and real estate agencies turned up an Upper East Side woman paying $156.20 for two conjoined studios, a Lower East Side man paying $60 a month for a walk-up and the octogenarians and nonagenarians sprinkled through Little Italy paying $58 to $102 a month

The roster of rent-controlled apartments, the ones with the most restrictions on rent, has shrunk to 40,000, according to the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. When these units are emptied, they become rent stabilized, and after a certain point the apartments can be liberated to the free market. According to the most recent figures available, the number of rent-stabilized units fell to 848,000 in 2008 from 900,000 in 2003.

Liberated to the free market? Liberated to the free market???? Seriously??? Well, at least this statement implicitly notes that previously, this apartment was enslaved by the welfare state. In that sense, I suppose it is an appropriate locution.

The articles tells the story of one tenant, John Burke, who pays $288 a month for a studio apartment on 218 East 84th Street. Other tenants in his building pay close to $2,000 for a similar apartment.

And despite such a statist boon, this ungrateful tenant is still unhappy. While his landlord renovates other apartments, for obvious reasons, he will not renovate Burke’s apartment.

Mr. Burke says he has spent $13,500 to repair his dilapidated apartment, and $11,000 on legal fees taking his landlords to court over the conditions.

“It’s been hell,” he said while walking among glass shards that construction workers left strewn in the backyard. “Now you see, it’s no bargain.”

He saves almost $2,000 a month on rent. In one year, he saves over $24,000 in rent. That is approximately the same amount he has spent on repair costs and legal fees.  Now consider all of the years he has lived there, and the money  he has saved. And he thinks there is no bargain? Seriously?

Rant over.