Finally, anti-rent-control view hits national media: 6 minutes
A no-apologies anti-rent control view finally hit the national media. It was a 6-minute segment called “Home, Cheap Home” by John Stossel on the February 19 edition of the hour-long weekly TV news magazine “Prime Time Live,” hosted by Sam Donaldson.
SPOA president Lenore Schloming talked a half dozen times with Stossel’s staff prior to the segment, and she was called hours before the show to tell her it was running. Statistics quoted were sent in by her just the day before.
Stossel’s emotional hook to viewers was all the wealthy people living cheaply in New York City rent-controlled apartments. Stossel cited Masterpiece Theatre host Alistair Cooke (who pays “less than a fifth” of the $10,000 a month rent his apartment would cost on the open market), the high-class brothel owner “Mayflower Madam” Sidney Biddle Barrows, former New York City mayor Ed Koch, supermodel Kim Alexis, singer Carly Simon, fashion designer Arnold Skazi (whose apartment was featured in “Architectural Digest” magazine), and actress Mia Farrow (whose apartment was featured in a Woody Allen film).
Repeatedly, Stossel said these wealthy people were paying half, a third, a fifth of what “you or I would have to pay on the open market.”
The camera showed shots of the celebs, panned across 5th Avenue high-rise apartment facades and glitzy interior lobbies with doormen, but Stossel lamented that no wealthy persons would let him film their apartment interiors.
Black economist Walter Williams was pictured calling Alistair Cooke “a thief” using the government.
Stossel cited a bigger unintended consequence of rent control than rich people getting cheap digs: the high cost of the housing left on the free market. “Cities with rent control have less housing,” Stossel said, “because no one wants to build.” Unregulated cities like Dallas and Chicago have ample housing, he said, then showed several examples of New Yorkersseeking scarce housing, even paying bribes.
And the most destructive consequence of rent control in Stossel’s view: abandoned housing. “Acres” of it in New York City, Stossel said, as the camera panned across blocks of abandoned brick row houses falling apart. The black economist declaimed: “Short of aerial bombardment, the best way to destroy a city is through rent control.”
Suggesting a note of reason, Massachusetts’ decision to end rent control two years ago is mentioned. And this statistic: “Only 6% of people getting rent protection were poor.”
All in all, it was a solid, undiluted statement of the anti-rent control position in a national spotlight position, just as New York is seriously thinking of ending rent control this spring.