By Jim Edwards
About 10 years ago, I worked at a glossy magazine in Midtown New York which employed a famous author as one of its senior writers. He came into the office one day, beaming from ear-to-ear. He had just signed an agreement to move into a rent-controlled apartment. For the next several years — as long as he wanted to live there — he would be paying hundreds of dollars less than the market rate for his rent.
Rent-control, which caps rent increases, is intended to benefit the poor — people who can’t afford market prices for their apartments in expensive cities like London, New York, and San Francisco.
The author wasn’t poor, of course. He graduated from Harvard and was a well-paid freelancer for New York magazine, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. He was the very definition of the media elite that rules Manhattan.
He was successful in his career because he seemed to know everyone in the city — which is how he got his hands on a rent-controlled flat.
It then struck me that none of the people I knew in New York who lived in rent-controlled apartments were poor. (I’m using the term “rent-controlled” to include “rent-stabilized,” which is a similar but less extreme New York City policy.) They were simply people who knew someone (who knew someone) who hooked them up with a sweet deal.