The New York Times Has a (Weak) Defense of Rent Control

March 11th, 2012

Responding (by name) to the WSJ’s piece about the Harmon petition currently pending before the Court, the Times (does its best to) offer a defense of rent control. Not too convincing (by design, I think):

While it requires virtually no effort to sympathize with someone in his position, this kind of story and the conversations it generates tend to obscure the fact that rent stabilization and rent control, despite profound flaws and inefficiencies, do not disproportionately benefit the affluent. According to an analysis of the most recent city data, which date to 2008, by New York University’sFurman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, the median income of a New Yorker in a rent-stabilized apartment is $36,000 a year; in Manhattan, it is $50,000.

“Certain types of stabilization can create more integrated communities,” the Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, author of the book “Triumph of the City,” said to me recently. “New York is a more diverse place because of rent stabilization, and I say that as a staunch and steadfast enemy of rent stabilization.”

Of the city’s 1,063,000 rent-regulated units, approximately 41,000 are in the hands of households making $150,000 a year or more. If we hired private investigators to examine the ranks of those households, we would surely find egregious abuses of the system — unmarried lawyers making $350,000 salaries — but we would presumably also find families of five living on less than half of that. (And it hardly bears remarking that $175,000 in New York City is not the same as $175,000 in Jackson, Miss.)

Moreover, according to the city data, approximately 240,000 rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units are occupied by those making $15,000 or less a year.

Yawn. When that’s the best the Times can do…yeah.