Don’t trust politicians who don’t ask “why” about housing before they proclaim a solution.
Right from the beginning, an op-ed in the Boston Globe by RI Political Co-Op progressive candidate Lenny Cioe gives off warning signals:
In many neighborhoods near colleges like Providence College, Johnson and Wales, and Brown University, predatory real estate companies are jacking up rents and forcing out families in favor of high-paying students.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Significantly higher rents are threatening families in communities throughout Rhode Island.
Calling real estate companies “predatory” shouldn’t hide the underlying question that Cioe refuses to ask: Why are the landlords able to do this?
The basic economic concept is simple. In a given time and place, there is a price that somebody will pay for a product and there is a cost for which somebody can provide it. If the provider is satisfied with the profit between those numbers he or she will continue offering it. If the amount that people are willing to pay goes up and the profit grows, people who are doing other things to make money will shift to providing more of that product.
This makes the underlying problem in Providence crystal clear. More people want to live there than the city has adequate housing to satisfy. Therefore, the price that somebody is willing to pay goes up. Playing the class war card, as Cioe does, and pitting different groups of somebodies against each other is a distraction.
Either the city has to produce more housing, or it has to make fewer people want to live within its borders. But progressives don’t want more buildings to despoil the planet, and they don’t want people to move out of the cities for the same reason (and because they think people condensed into cities will be easier to control).
Refusing to pursue either of these solutions increases the value of land in the city, which means progressives must find some way to force other people to pay the difference, or they must bully landowners into pretending their property is less valuable than it is. Both of these solutions foster resentment and corruption, and nature (including human nature) will find a way.
Progressives can live in their fantasy world, where they are either insulated from reality or enjoy the cycle of feeding their delusions with the resentment that the fantasy generates. That’s no excuse for the rest of us; we have to make real, grown-up decisions.
Do we want to increase companies’ ability to build new housing within and around the city? Or do we want to make it easier for people to live and work nearby? Or do we want to find ways to make fewer people want to live in Providence and Rhode Island?
The worst thing we can do is continue sending the signal to people who consider investing in the city and state that the government might, any year now, define them as predators in the law as an excuse to steal the real value of their real estate.
Featured image by Justin Katz.