Real estate ups and downs

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In a delightfully YIMBY “Americans Need More Neighbors” the New York times gets it almost all right.
Housing is one area of American life where government really is the problem. The United States is suffering from an acute shortage of affordable places to live, particularly in the urban areas where economic opportunity increasingly is concentrated. And perhaps the most important reason is that local governments are preventing construction.

It goes on, even noting flagrant progressive hypocrisy
Increasing the supply of urban housing would help to address a number of the problems plaguing the United States. Construction could increase economic growth and create blue-collar jobs. Allowing more people to live in cities could mitigate inequality and reduce carbon emissions. Yet in most places, housing construction remains wildly unpopular. People who think of themselves as progressives, environmentalists and egalitarians fight fiercely against urban development, complaining about traffic and shadows and the sanctity of lawns. 

It noticed the sordid racial past of zoning restrictions
… many residents said they were surprised to learn that single-family zoning in Minneapolis, as in other cities, had deep roots in efforts to enforce racial segregation. Cities found that banning apartment construction in white neighborhoods was an effective proxy for racial discrimination, and the practice spread after it was validated by the Supreme Court in 1926. 
Heavens, it even allows for the freedom to spend money, as long as it’s not subsidized
People should be free to live in a prairie-style house on a quarter-acre lot in the middle of Minneapolis, so long as they can afford the land and taxes. But zoning subsidizes that extravagance by prohibiting better, more concentrated use of the land. 
Usually I would expect the NYT to jump on the opposite bandwagon and prohibit such houses.  The NYT even realizes that more market-rate apartments is the best way to provide more low priced housing

OK, the Times being the Times, it has to argue for some vast new subsidy,

 Governments need to provide subsidized housing for people who cannot afford market-rate housing. 
But here too, it gets a lot right. The bulk of the long oped is not about repeating the disaster of public housing projects, or more “affordable housing” mandates. It’s just about build — move the supply curve to the right. Berating its own a little more, it recognizes substitution and depreciation
…advocates for affordable housing should be jumping up and down and screaming for the construction of more high-end apartment buildings to ease demand for existing homes. Those new buildings are filled with people who would otherwise be spending Saturdays touring fixer-uppers in neighborhoods newly named something like SoFa, with rapidly dwindling populations of longtime residents.
Today’s market-rate apartments will gradually become more affordable, just as new cars become used cars. 
Meanwhile, in progressive political reality, and lest you get too optimistic, the Wall Street Journal, in a spectacularly mis-titled article, covers New York State’s new rent control law. The title is “New York Passes Overhaul of Rent Laws, Buoying Wider Movement to Tackle Housing Crunch”  It’s not an overhaul, it’s a massive expansion, and it will not tackle the housing crunch, but it will make it spectacularly worse.
The New York legislation brings increased power to tenants in roughly one million rent-regulated apartments in New York City. It makes it more difficult for the owners of those apartments to increase rents, while enabling more tenants to sue landlords for rent overcharges. Also, tenants around the state will have more protections against eviction.
Proposals to limit rents are advancing in a number of state legislatures, including in California, where a statewide cap on rent passed the California Assembly in May, and in Oregon, which passed the nation’s first statewide rent control in February, limiting annual rent increases to 7% plus local inflation.
The times will probably get its way on housing subsidies, already a popular idea here in California. Imagine a subsidy for any house or rent above 30 percent of your income, plus a continued block on new construction.

It’s interesting that economists spend a lot of attention on the minimum wage, and less on rent control plus housing supply restrictions. I guess nobody has made a big stir with a diff in diff regression claiming that rent control doesn’t shrink housing supply. Perhaps someone should, just to ge the outrage going.

And, if you’re wondering about the wealth tax, it’s here. A limit on rents is a pure tax on the landlord’s  property, transferring its value to the current renter, but destroying much of that value along the way.