The "Modern Love' column in Sunday's New York Times is about a man who, with his wife, owns "a light-filled, two-bedroom, two-bath place in a doorman building" in Manhattan, but has kept a rent-controlled apartment that he uses as an office (even though he has other offices) and as a storage unit. The article is framed in terms of what it all means for the romantic and personal relationship between the man and his wife, but to us the more interesting angle is how quickly a government-price-control policy aimed at assisting the needy becomes an entitlement open to abuse by the upper-middle class. Rather than helping to solve the housing shortage, the price controls exacerbate the housing shortage by encouraging people to take up more space in the city than they would if they had to pay market rates for the space.
For more on rent control, please see the New York Sun editorials Paterson's Rent, about the governor of New York, who maintains a rent-stabilized apartment in New York "even though he and his wife earned a combined $270,000 last year, even though he owns a house in Guilderland upstate, and even though he already has a taxpayer subsidized dwelling, the 40-room governor's mansion in Albany," and Quinn's Rent, about the speaker of the New York City Council, who lived in a rent-stabilized apartment in Chelsea while owning half of a four-bedroom house in New Jersey worth more than $500,000. When Rep. Charles Rangel was caught using a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office he said he would stop.
Reader J.H., who sent in the tip to FutureOfCapitalism.com after reading the Times article, wonders whether the man is going to be forced to repay the difference between the market-rate rent and the controlled rent for the period during which he used the space as an office rather than a domicile.