Tag: Housing

Tackle the Everlasting Rent-Control Mess


The Buckeye Institute and I have submitted to the US Supreme Court an amicus curiae brief urging the court to review the constitutionality of 2019 amendments to New York’s Rent Stabilization Law. That law further tightened the wall-to-wall restrictions, by among other things removing the provisions for vacancy decontrol when rents reached a certain level, last set at $2,774.76, and eliminating landlords’ previous option of raising rents by up to 20 percent between unrelated tenants. The challenge to that law in 74 Pinehurst LLC v. New York (2023) was brushed aside by a unanimous Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on the basis of its view of established law.

That decision should be regarded as the next chapter of a self-inflicted tragedy that has cost the city and its citizenry billions of dollars in real economic growth. It is a progressive fantasy that price controls of this sort simply transfer wealth from greedy landlords to helpless tenants. The truth is otherwise.

The laws that mandate wealth transfers create a perverse set of incentives on both sides of the market. Potential developers are reluctant to invest in building or maintaining rental properties if their returns can be snatched away by legislative fiat. Current tenants, all local voters, will lobby for a system of price controls, from which they receive huge benefits, sufficient to fund their second homes in New England. Yet local tenants don’t care that everyone else—including new arrivals to the city—gets hurt when supply shrinks and quality of services declines because of insufficient revenues, thereby cutting needed tax revenues because of sagging property values. The administrative costs of running, or complying with, the city’s euphemistic Tenant Protection Laws add tens of millions.

Joe Selvaggi talks with Tim Quirk and Kevin Caulfield, cofounders of Boston-based technology startup Final Offer, about the way in which their recently launched platform disrupts the traditional home buying process by providing a real-time transparent auction for each sale.


Renowned urban economist Edward L. Glaeser joins Manhattan Institute senior fellow and City Journal contributing editor James B. Meigs to discuss the American housing crisis and how—or whether—it can be fixed.

Find the transcript of this conversation and more at City Journal.

Join Jim and Greg as they eagerly welcome a poll showing Republicans with a 21-point advantage in competitive House districts. They also shudder as more signs emerge of a worsening economy from – from energy to housing to hiring. And they discuss the left and the media branding incoming Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as a fascist. But since the left now tars anyone who disagrees with them as “fascist,” the word has lost much of it’s meaning.

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with real estate expert and broker/owner Pauline Donnelly about the disruption and trends created by the Covid-19 pandemic and steps buyers and renters can take to become more informed, prudent, and competitive in the frenzied market of Greater Boston and Martha’s Vineyard.


Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer research analyst Andrew Mikula about the need for affordable housing near the mass transit network and the requirements and local design opportunities of the 3A zoning reform law. Read Pioneer Institute’s recent public comment on this topic.


Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Doug Quatrocchi, executive director of Masslandlords.net about the historical effects of rent control in Boston and Cambridge in the past and discuss the gap between the stated goals and the likely outcome of Boston Mayor Wu’s 25 member Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee.


Hubwonk Host Joe Selvaggi talks with economist and MIT Professor Chris Palmer about his research and analysis of the effects of rent control in Cambridge during its 25-year implementation and in the aftermath of its repeal.


Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with MassLandlords’ Doug Quattrochi about ways landlords faced the challenges of being caught between tenants unable to pay rent during COVID-19 shutdown and having little or no programmatic relief from state and federal agencies.


The Platinum Rule


The Golden Rule, “Whoever has the gold makes the rule,” has turned into the Platinum Rule: “He who has the government’s American Excess Platinum Card makes the rules.” Because state politicians lack the power to spend significantly in excess of annual revenues, thanks to state constitutional balanced budget provisions, they turn to Uncle Sugar. The first taste may be free, but then come the demands. This bipartisan political dynamic has pernicious effects on the constitutional balance between states and the federal government. nationalizing much of our policy, right down to local government and so right down to where you live.

But wait, we hear all the time about states in debt, what is this state constitutional limit talk?

Introducing Kite & Key


Admit it: you’re a nerd. Admit it, Ricochet!

No worries — me too. And during my years as a think tank executive, that was always a frustration. People who casually followed politics would ask me how to get a quick understanding of a public policy issue and … I wouldn’t know where to send them.

TV and the major newspapers increasingly focus on the political dimensions of policy fights, without telling you anything meaningful about the substantive debates. But where was I going to steer people? To one of our white papers? To a book I knew they didn’t have the time to read? I got paid to be immersed in that stuff — and I loved it. But these people had lives to lead. They wanted to be responsible, informed citizens, but didn’t have endless free time to delve deep into policy research.

‘Systemic Racism’ a Red Herring in Evictions


Last month, I testified before the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights on the vexed question of “Discrimination in Eviction Policies and Enforcement.” Several months before my testimony, the commission issued a report concluding that the United States “is in the middle of an eviction crisis, one in which persons of color are disproportionately impacted and suffer unequal treatment.” The study further held that the racial disparities in eviction that existed pre-COVID have been magnified since the pandemic struck—such that the eviction crisis has an important civil rights dimension.

The economic impact of the pandemic has been exceptionally devastating in New York, in part because of the severe limitations that Governor Andrew Cuomo placed on economic activities under his broad emergency powers. These restrictions directly hamper the ability of tenants to earn money and pay rent, thereby affecting the earnings of landlords, many of whom are part-time. The question then arises as to what kinds of remedial activities should be taken in both the short and long term.

To the New York State Advisory Committee, as well as many other commentators, the solution is a moratorium on tenant evictions. The committee believes the current moratorium should be kept in place, perhaps for as long as it takes for the economy to return to normal. This assessment is supported by the common assertion that the disparate impact of evictions on black and other minority populations is evidence of an entrenched form of “structural racism” that requires corrective measures. The disparate impact of the pandemic cannot be denied. But in my view, any claim of structural racism (or worse) cannot be sustained.

Two Cheers for HUD


President Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a rule this past week grandly titled “Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice.” That rule undid an Obama administration rule on the same topic, called “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH). In July 2015, the Obama administration adopted an aggressive position that allowed HUD to monitor state, county, and local governments that received HUD grants to see that they had undertaken exhaustive efforts to remediate a wide range of racial disparities in housing markets, thereby raising the costs that arise from accepting government grants. Under HUD’s recently revised regulations, HUD Secretary Ben Carson scaled back the regulations so they concentrated not on the overall condition of local housing markets, but on the risks that individual acts of discrimination pose to individual applicants.

At no point in that order did HUD single out suburban housing for special treatment. Nonetheless, with scant regard to the content of the revised rule, President Trump posted a celebratory tweet: “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.” This ill-advised outburst prompted a cascade of criticism that portrayed the new HUD regulation as a backhanded effort to undo President Obama’s much-needed protections against racial bias. As one critic alleged, whereas Carson carefully cloaked these major substantive reforms in a procedural guise that stressed paperwork reduction, the new rule in reality was intended to “reduce the pressure on local governments to provide space and opportunity for Black families in affluent white neighborhoods.”

But the new HUD rule scores well on two key points. First, it is more consistent with the basic objectives of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA), which aimed to prevent pernicious forms of discrimination in the housing market. Second, it avoids the highly interventionist mission creep of the Obama-era AFFH rule, which insisted that the purpose of HUD was “to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable housing for all.”

American Architectural Geography: Part 1, Timing


Last winter, Ricochet’s own @thelostdutchman published a great series about Pennsylvania political geography. Being something of a geography geek myself (the map-loving kind, not the critical-theory-spouting kind), I thought I’d try my hand at writing something a tad less detailed and a tad more ambitious — a brief description of American architectural geography.

Finding data which says something meaningful about architecture is not an easy task, perhaps because architecture is an art, and art isn’t quantifiable. But, still, the statistical gods have smiled upon us Americans. In 1940, the Census Bureau decided, for the first time, to ask detailed questions about American housing. As the libertarians winced, homeowners and renters filled out a questionnaire inquiring about such subjects as property values, housing size, mechanical systems (like heating, plumbing, and electricity), and, best of all, housing age. The data is aggregated by county and city (and farm and non-farm), and it’s organized, roughly, by decade — with a category for houses built before 1860, one for houses built in the 1860s and 1870s, one for houses built in the 1880s, and so on. This means that the interested obsessive (like me) can gain some understanding of any one county’s architectural chronology. Is the data accurate? Not entirely. Self-reported data is seldom accurate. But it’s accurate enough to show trends. I’ve done plenty of spot-checking, and the data usually aligns with what I’ve observed. The picture it paints is a meaningful one.

Your Friday treat is three crazy martinis, but only after basking in the glow of the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice and the national morale boost a bunch of unheralded college kids gave us by defeating the supposedly unbeatable Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics.  Then, join Jim and Greg and as they bang their heads against the table after Nevada Democrats say they can’t promise results of Saturday’s caucuses on the same day they’re held. They also weigh in on Michael Bloomberg’s video of crickets chirping and his fellow Democrats shifting uncomfortably when he asked if any of them had ever started a business – was it deception or just a candidate making a point? And as California Gov. Gavin Newsom says doctors should be able to prescribe housing just like they prescribe insulin and antibiotics, Jim offers Newsom a devastating reminder of which party led California into the homelessness crisis and many other problems.

Rent Control Laws Are Unconstitutional


New York City recently implemented its far-reaching Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. That law enacted extensive amendments, all plaintiff protective, to New York’s 1969 Rent Stabilization Law (RSL). The Act imposes the RSL throughout the state. It also reverses the state’s earlier position on Luxury Decontrol for High Income Tenants. Formerly, when a tenant earned over $200,000 per year and paid a rent of at least $2,700 per month, the unit was decontrolled to allow the landlord the benefit of market rate rents. But under the new law, well-heeled tenants can continue to pay at most 15 percent of their gross rent on city housing.

The new act also sharply limits rent increases when landlords make improvements on a tenant’s premises. The older system allowed increases of up to 6 percent per annum, but the newer rules cap that figure at 2 percent, which makes it highly unlikely that a landlord can recover the costs of those improvements (assuming these are still made) over their useful life.

Finally, the new law also works a major change for the many units covered by the RSL but which are rented at below the regulatory cap. These below-cap rentals show how rents are in many areas constrained solely by powerful market forces: landlords cannot move up to the maximum rent levels when demand is not there. Nonetheless, the 2019 law treats the tenant’s current rent as a statutory base for calculating any future rental increases for that tenant. These landlords are now severely restricted in the extent by which they can raise rents going forward.

Seth Barron talks with four City Journal contributors—Rafael MangualEric KoberRay Domanico, and Steven Malanga—about former New York City mayor and now presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg’s record on crime, education, economic development, and more.

After years of teasing a presidential run, Bloomberg has entered the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Just a week before his official announcement, he made headlines by reversing his long-standing support of controversial policing practices in New York—commonly known as “stop and frisk.” Bloomberg’s record on crime will factor heavily in his campaign, but his 12 years as mayor were eventful in numerous other policy areas.