Remember Jimmy McMillan? He’s “the rent is too damn high!” shouting, six-time New York City mayoral candidate with the, er — Rent is Too Damn High Party.
McMillan is at least partly right. It’s no mystery that rents are so high. Government policies are aimed at just that result.
In New York City, rent control discourages new supply as well as maintaining existing supplies — causing shortages leading to higher prices. In many cities, particularly in Blue political metropolises, zoning has pretty much the same effect.
Meanwhile, pumping subsidies into the demand side of the rental housing market doesn’t exactly decrease prices.
Last weekend, the Tyler Morning Telegraph offered up “Housing Choice Voucher program helps families,” reporting on 65-year-old Brinda Meier’s effort to land one of 500 “popular” Housing Choice Vouchers offered with grants of federal tax dollars distributed through Tyler’s Neighborhood Services Department. The voucher goes to help pay the rent.
That’s nice, of course, and no doubt why the program is popular. But the landlord actually cashes the voucher check. Moreover, to the extent these rent subsidies allow folks to afford higher rents, they in turn keep those rents higher — including for folks whose voucher numbers won’t come up in the “please Uncle Sam help pay my rent” lottery.
We discover that Meier, who lives on Social Security and food stamps, is preparing to move across town. She’s found a new place to rent, $200 cheaper than her current place — and in a better neighborhood. She tells the reporter that she’ll move without regard to whether she wins the rent subsidy.
So taxpayers may subsidize someone who doesn’t need it, serving only to keep rents too darn high.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.