The economic arguments against rent control are well-known, and were in fact made long ago by no one less than Milton Friedman. There’s another dimension to the rent control argument, though, and it’s laid bare in this story from The New York Times:
An informal survey of some major landlords and real estate agencies turned up an Upper East Side woman paying $156.20 for two conjoined studios, a Lower East Side man paying $60 a month for a walk-up and the octogenarians and nonagenarians sprinkled through Little Italy paying $58 to $102 a month.
Most of these tenants with time-warped rents declined to be interviewed, because of the hate mail they believed they would receive. But one such tenant did agree to go on the record, and he wants his fellow New Yorkers to know that he has not been able to maintain his cheap apartment without a long fight.
He is John Burke, a 65-year-old paying $288 a month for a studio at 218 East 84th Street.
While it is less true today, rent-regulated apartments have provided some New Yorkers with very comfortable lives. Mr. Burke, who grew up in Ireland on a farm outside Galway, moved to New York in 1964 to be close to his brother upstate and his 100 relatives in Massachusetts. He worked in restaurants and bars and collected decades of tales of celebrity sightings and romances. He moved into his current apartment in 1977, when the rent was $65, and filled his closets with fine clothes.
Sorry, Mr. Burke, but if you’re paying $ 288/month for an apartment with a market value almost 700% higher than that (according to the article the landlord is charging up to $ 1,975 for empty, renovated, apartments in the same building) then you are stealing from the buildings owner. You’re getting something you’re not entitled to, a 2010 apartment for 1977 prices.
Rent control is economically stupid because it inevitably results in a deterioration of the housing stock. It’s morally wrong because it constitutes theft.