Does Rent Control Reduce Segregation?
28 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2003
Date Written: November 2002
Advocates of rent control often argue that rent control aids the mixing of rich and poor, and perhaps of the races as well. Economic theory does not necessarily predict that rent control will reduce segregation. The best case for rent control as an aid to integration is that it creates pockets of low rent (and low quality) apartments in expensive cities. However, by creating an excess of demand over supply, rent control ensures that apartments will be allocated on the basis of landlord preferences, which may in fact be segregationist. Furthermore, when rent control induces poor renters to live in rich cities, those poor renters are generally older, long term renters, who are less likely to have young children living at home and are less likely to benefit most from integration. Empirically, rent control seems to have allowed some poorer (and older) tenants to live in expensive Manhattan, but rent control in the declining cities of New Jersey seems to have increased the isolation of the poor. Rent control is a very socially costly means of occasionally getting integration, and housing vouchers or supply-side policies seem likely to be much more effective.
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