sun 09 sep 2007 17:36:11 raamgracht
about rent control
in principle i should not be in favor of rent control. but having seen the effects of the loss of rent control in boston, i was inclined to wish they could have it back. unfortunately massachusetts passed a law in 1995 *outlawing* rent control. that law was passed with the support of lots of people who lived in the suburbs but who owned property in the city. so much for the possibility of home rule for the city.
in amsterdam, they do have a system of rent control, which doesn't quite work, and i'm still trying to figure out why exactly. (if anyone reads this and can help enlighten me, please email me.)
the housing market is divided into "free sector" and "social". prices for social housing are all less than EUR 600 something, regardless of how big the place is. if you want a cheap apartment you need to sign up years in advance. if you want to rent in the free sector, you have to pay more. this often means you are a foreigner who hasn't been living here that long.
many people who have social flats have a habit of hoarding them even after they leave amsterdam, and sub-hiring them illegally to people who will pay more. and solving that problem, of course, would require stricter control, making amsterdam even more like a police state.
what i *think* is going on: the prices in the controlled social housing sector are often ridiculously low, and the prices in the free sector are often ridiculously high. i think there is a connection between those two things.
to the outsider, it seems like *most* housing in amsterdam is social rent-controlled and just plain unavailable because who knows where one is going to be years from now.
and just like everywhere else, they are trying to persuade people to become home owners. the pressure toward gentrification.
what a city is *supposed* to have, is a healthy supply of affordable rental housing for "transients" who will be here only long enough to do what they need to do. they breathe life into the city. mobility of people is supposed to be encouraged, not discouraged. there should not be economic incentives for ownership, that's like taking sides.
so the idea that you can only get affordable housing if you're willing to wait here for five or ten years, works against my own vision of the city as a place where people from all over the place, rich and poor, can easily come and go and cross pollenate the culture. what they're basically saying is "only rich transients are allowed". that's one of the things that is making amsterdam a less exciting place than it used to be.
and of course, the same thing happened to boston. that's why i'm so acutely aware of it.