Much to my surprise, I found a story in a New York newspaper about rent control in Cambridge.

And about how it had some negative effects on housing in the Commonwealth.

From the New York Observer:

In 1994, Massachusetts ended rent regulations on most apartments. Boston and its suburb Cambridge were among the state’s few municipalities that still had wide-scale controls on apartments that kept rents below market.

In Cambridge, two-thirds of apartments in buildings with at least four units were regulated …

… “Five years after Massachusetts voters ended rent regulation in Boston, Brookline and Cambridge,” began a New York Times article from July 2000, “rents have taken sizable jumps, the cities are spiffier and less pockmarked by deteriorating neighborhoods and many poorer people have been forced to move to communities farther from the urban core. [A] leading landlord in Cambridge found that rents for his company’s formerly controlled apartments have doubled.”

Well, the article makes it clear: lack of rent control hurts people.

Well, I disagree.

There are many problems with the reporter’s analysis.

First, it appears to ignore the effects of a healthy economy on rents. Yes, rents went up, but wouldn’t they have, anyway? I mean, think about how prices of all housing has gone up over the past decade.

Plus, as the article mentions, many of the units that were previously regulated were in poor shape. Once rent control was outlawed, lndlords were attracted to the idea of making money (imagine that …) so they renovated their properties. Yes, they cost more. But the apartment quality was a lot better!

Finally, even if you think rent control was a good idea, how many times have you heard about some rich person (or middle-class) who has a rent-controlled apartment? (Most recently, Nora Ephron, the mega-successful writer/director was kicked out of her rent-stabilized New York City pied-a-terre because they were able to finally prove she made too much money …)

(Yes, I realize criticizing that a few people took advantage of the situation doesn’t mean the goals were not laudable, but I’m willing to rule out having it at all, even though it was abused by a few. (Well, not a few, I don’t think …))

Let me tell you one thing I know for sure.

Rent control is one of the worst ideas to hit America. Ever.

Creating affordable housing is an admirable goal.

How you go about it, is open to discussion.

We are all very fortunate that citizens of the Commonwealth voted the right way, back in the 1990’s.

But we should all keep an eye out for attempts to undo the good the rest of us have done.

Rent control is bad.

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