Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rent control?

Today's NY Times includes "What is middle class in Manhattan"?  The place is expensive for anyone "middle class" -- and has been for some years.

In natural-amenity-rich California, politicians have discovered the "sun tax," whereby they have a freer hand than they would in areas that must work harder to compete for labor and capital.  New York has its cultural amenities.  The analog to the sun tax would be the "cultural amenities tax."

The Times piece mentions New York rent control in passing. "More than 280,000 units — nearly half of Manhattan’s apartment stock — is rent-regulated in some fashion. These apartments are either godsends to those who occupy them, or daggers that twist in the hearts of everyone else, left to pay market rate or compete for the borough’s remaining vacancies — 2.8 percent of the housing stock, as measured in 2011. But 30 percent of the residents of rent-stabilized apartments moved in more than 20 years ago."

But what do we know about cities?  Urban economists emphasize that cities are self-organizing spatial arrangements. Labor and capital migrate to cities if/when/where they expect opportunities (including spatial arrangements) to be productive. Entrepreneurs look for spatial arrangements (including networking opportunities) where they can be inventive/productive. And there is considerable debate over whether these phenomena can gain from non-market guidance. But rent control of half the apartment stock?