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OpenMarket: Property Rights

  • Rent Control: Why Is It So Bad?

    October 20, 2010
    When rent is "too damn high," people move. Yet many cities still impose rotating rent controls, in a misguided attempt to make housing more affordable. Governments can hardly be credited with behaving as rational actors. Still, for those of you with a lingering sense that maybe rent control-mongers might have a point, here's a nonexhaustive list of why rent control is such bad policy:
    • Rent control reduces landlords' incentives to rent out apartments. This means that rent control in a city keeps apartments available for rent scarce.
    • Demand skyrockets for the few available apartments. Unable to respond to rising demand in the logical way--raising price--landlords impose conditions on renters, or stop responding immediately to renters' complaints because, after all, with such low vacancy...
  • Poker and Private Property in South Carolina

    October 20, 2010
    In South Carolina, the fate of five men has hung in the balance for the last four years. They crime they have been accused of is running an illegal house of gambling from the home of one of the defendants. In actuality, the five men were playing a twice weekly, kitchen table game of poker, in which they paid an agreed upon fee (a "rake) in order to pay for drinks and snacks. At first blush, the case seems like an inconsequential example of a backward law in a conservative state, but as it has wound through the judicial system in South Carolina it has sparked debate about landmark issues and the decisions could have reverberating implications for the rest of the country. In 2006, the five men were arrested and convicted for illegal gambling. In 2009, however, Judge R. Markley Dennis reversed the gambling convictions and declared that the particular game the men were playing, Texas Hold...
  • Rent Is Too Damn High

    October 20, 2010
    Not much to add to this brilliant insight: The rent is too damn high! Jimmy McMillan doesn't get into details about what he intends to do about such high rent. The answer is clear: Let the markets go! Sure it's nice to live in a safe, high-rent neighborhood. Hopefully Jimmy McMillan understands that the problem with rental price caps (like rent control) and regulations (like banning food trucks) is that these policies create spikes and troughs across abutting rent districts. This artificially ghettoizes neighborhoods rather than permitting rents to rise and fall naturally to reflect the more nuanced actual rent prices people are willing to pay. If he intends to fix the "too damn high" problem by mandating a maximum rental price, neighborhoods will suffer. From a 2004 CEI paper:...
  • Building Height Restrictions: Where I Agree with Matthew Yglesias

    October 19, 2010
    Matthew Yglesias of the Center for American Progress links to a Washington Post article that notes that office rents in downtown D.C. are now higher on average than office rents in Manhattan. He correctly points out that Washington, D.C.'s building height restrictions are largely responsible:
    Normally what happens when you get high rents is that people respond with bigger buildings. Which is why Manhattan has such big office buildings. DC office buildings, by contrast, are quite short. So are developers working on responding to the high demand by building taller buildings? Of course not! Taller buildings are illegal in Washington DC. Consequently, instead of building up...
  • Stop Coddling Mortgage Deadbeats

    October 14, 2010
    Right now, there's a big manufactured outrage over the fact that at a few banks, paperwork errors occurred in foreclosures. The Wall Street Journal summarizes it well:
    A consumer borrows money to buy a house, doesn't make the mortgage payments, and then loses the house in foreclosure—only to learn that the wrong guy at the bank signed the foreclosure paperwork. Can you imagine? The affidavit was supposed to be signed by the nameless, faceless employee in the back office who reviewed the file, not the other nameless, faceless employee who sits in the front. The result is the same, but politicians understand the pain that results when the anonymous paper pusher who kicks you out of your home is not the anonymous paper pusher who is supposed to kick you out of your...

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