A Populist Crusade for New Yorkers?

One of the policies I loathe most is rent control and rent stabilization. Like Ed Glaeser, I think U.S. cities should immediately end rent control and stabilization policies while simultaneously loosening density and height-limit requirements to encourage an increase in housing supply. Greg Mankiw has highlighted a particularly perverse aspect of rent control laws in New York city, namely the process through which major research universities have gamed the system:

In the end, the goal of the rent control laws is thwarted (the low rents are enjoyed by well-paid tenured faculty rather than the needy), the income tax laws are thwarted (a sizable part of compensation is untaxed), and all this is done by a nonprofit institution (the university) whose ostensible purpose is to serve the public interest.

But there is a small problem. The New York Times guide to rent stabilization and control includes the following:

The board notes that there are many exceptions to these general categories. For example, if the legal rent exceeded $2,000 after a vacancy the unit may be deregulated. Or, if the unit was in a building converted to a co-op it may be deregulated upon vacancy. And a tenant living in a rent-stabilized apartment with a rent higher than $2,000 a month whose family income exceeds $175,000 a year for two consecutive years is no longer entitled to rent stabilization, and the apartment may be deregulated.

Many if not most of the households Mankiw has in mind are presumably earning more than $175,000, though this is not generally true of unattached junior faculty members in the humanities. In this particular case, the landlord has no incentive to enforce the law. But the law is there all the same, which suggests that there might be room for some rent control vigilantism. 

Note, by the way, the irrationality of New York city’s approach to vacancy decontrol. What if the apartment is worth more than $2,000 a month yet the rent is $1,999? You’re apparently in the clear.

I can’t imagine that anyone will want to waste hours, or even minutes, of their life on this particular crusade. But this could be a job for one of those super-gadflies.  

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More