Friday, March 14, 2008

My LTE in The Washington Post

Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran a three part series that attempted to serve as a scathing indictment of DC landlords for seeking to convert their rental properties to condominiums (often flouting DC landlord and tenant law in the process) and of DC regulators for falling to better regulate the landlords. The series was one of those "in the public interest" exposés that attempted to show how the "little guy" is set upon by the world, yet true to form, it failed to properly identify the real little guy. Below is the text of my letter to the editor in reply which was published on page A16 of today's Post.

What About Landlords' Interests?

The premise of The Post's series on the condominium boom ["Forced Out," front page, March 9-11], that landlords victimize their tenants in pursuit of profits, failed to capture the root cause of the District's housing woes.

We cannot exempt rents from the law of supply and demand and expect that landlords will maintain their properties, build new properties or not seek to convert their properties to more profitable uses.

What incentive does a landlord have to endure a market in which profits are capped and the specter of criminal liability for regulatory violations looms omnipresent?

In a free market, a tenant's desires could be obtained by contract and a willingness to pay the market rate (and a willingness to move when expectations are not met). Instead, under rent control, we have a system in which tenants are legally permitted to get something for nothing.

Some may wish otherwise, but it is inevitable that such a system fails in practice.


Center for the Advancement of Capitalism

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