Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
If a liberal observes that rich people are eating steak, while poor people are eating hamburgers, the obvious solution is to ban the hamburger. It sounds silly, but if you apply this rule, for example, to the minimum wage for teenagers, it all comes into focus. It is “obvious” that people should not be underpaid — and so we must forbid low-paying jobs. Steak or bust.
Do-gooders doing evil is hardly a new phenomenon. New immigrants to the United States in 1900 could find a place to drop their heads for seven cents a night. It was not remotely nice, but it was cheap. The average hourly wage was 20 to 30 cents, meaning that a person could sleep for 20 minutes of work. Think about that: Can you imagine having a bed to sleep on for a few bucks?
In 1892: – two rooms in an attic cost $3 to $ 5 per month – three rooms (kitchen and two bedrooms) cost $6 to $12 per month – four rooms as described above cost $12 to $16 per month. source….
This tenement apartment at 340, 342 and 344 Cherry Street … opened in 1888 and boasted a laundry room and bath rooms (rooms with bath tubs) on the lower level as well as a kindergarden on the first floor. Each floor contained a WC (water closet) that was shared by two or more families. All rooms had windows, none were smaller than 10 feet by 8 feet and each apartment contained at least one room that was at least 12 feet by 12 feet. There was no dark narrow hallway, all having widows and gas light at night. Some apartments had running water. Rents were from $6 to $15 per month.
Let’s see … as compared to an average national income of $450 per worker … with only one person working, housing was $72-$180 for a year — or as low as 16 percent of a person’s income. NYC incomes were actually higher ($600 for female teachers, $900 for male teachers for example), so housing could be as low or lower, than 10 percent of one’s income.
The average rent on the Lower East Side in 1930 was $6 a month per room. Thus, a three-room apartment in 97 Orchard Street might have rented for about $18 per month, little more than it did in the 1870s. There were, however more than 10,000 people at the time living in rear tenements who paid as little as $2 a month per room. source.
The median income for a man in 1940s Lower East Side was $1,358, allowing him to support a family in a three-room apartment in NYC for 17 percent of his income. And that was living pretty high — the tenements offered a much cheaper option. Conclusion: Housing was very cheap for a long time.
The result? People could save. They could move upward. They invested in themselves, in tools and education. Even in homes. In 1938, a new house cost two times the average income. And these poor people did just that. Very few NYC immigrants in 1900 were still poor in 1920.
Median home values (costs) adjusted for inflation nearly quadrupled over the 60-year period since the first housing census in 1940. Today, housing costs 40 percent of a poor person’s income. That is up from 10-17 percent in 1900-1940.
What changed? Liberals banned the hamburger.
Tenements were dangerous and unhealthy. Sure, people chose to live there and save their money for other things, but we all know that people don’t know what is best for them. So we needed to enact housing codes, and then make them ever-more-stringent as the enforcers of these codes (which include tradesmen) maximized their self-interest.
In recent years, the trend is accelerating. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal said that regulatory costs are up 30 percent over the last five years alone! Regulations are in fact a huge portion of housing costs. And it is not just fire codes or strength codes; we now have water offsets, required park spaces, landscaping…
$8,000 for a new type of storm-water capture device required for each house, $3,500 for customized architectural plans required on every lot and about $15,000 to remove a tree from the property. …. New regulations included a survey required in some areas of the Midwest to determine whether endangered bats are on a property, which builders said can cost $10,000 or more for each new development. WSJ
Is it any wonder why people cannot get ahead? Why people see that working hard does not translate to climbing the prosperity ladder? There is no option for me to rent out my garage to poor people, or for people to build makeshift housing. The government would raze any such living arrangements, declaring them “unsafe.” The poor must eat steak, or go hungry.
And given that so many of these codes are actually driven more at a local level than by the Feds (I think), here is my question: Is there any viable pathway back to a regulatory structure in which people can be free to choose their own level of acceptable cost/benefit when it comes to housing? Or is hamburger never going to return to the menu?Published in