When it comes to rent control, the market is not God

Dear Editor:
There are some statements attributed to representatives of the landlords’ lobbying group MSTA in last week’s article “Some buildings may come off rent control” that should be addressed.
Ron Simoncini, executive director of MSTA, has a habit of making sweeping generalizations with no foundation and passing them off as if they’ll be accepted as fact simply because he has pronounced them to be so. The statement that “the new tenants” are “all working in New York” and “making 70, 80 to over $100,000” is something he apparently pulled out of his hat. It’s a gross generalization with no support. If it were true, it would not support his assertions. In fact, those who are making a lot are the reason landlords can jack rents to astronomical levels and still find someone who will pay them. If Simoncini gets his way the lower income tenants will all be pushed out of town and replaced by the high-income, more transient tenants he is referring to. Good for some landlords. Not necessarily good for the community.
Simoncini said that “people… want people to pay the full rent.” What is the full rent? That really is the whole question. But apparently Simoncini has decided for all of us. Is it the highest amount a landlord could get on the open market this week? What gives Simoncini the authority to speak for “the people” in this way? I suspect that is what MSTA would like, but not very many of “the people.”
Charles X. Gormally, attorney for MSTA, said that rent control “affects market forces,” as if that is a crime against nature. Gormally is apparently a believer in the fundamentalist religion that places The Market above all else, as though it were a deity and should be the decider of all things. This fundamentalism has been in ascendance for the last several decades, but people the world over are wearying of it. Yes, market forces are marvelous when working well and to the benefit of human beings. But even the most devout adherents to the free market religion have now had to admit that markets need regulation to remain free and healthy. The largest financial institutions admitted as much by seeking bailouts. The head of Deutsche Bank said after the collapse, “I no longer believe in the ability of markets to regulate themselves.”
People who are not free market fundamentalists realize that markets must exist to serve humanity, not the other way around. Gormally speaks as though keeping hands off the market is the primary concern here. And it would benefit MSTA if we all adopted his view. But in fact, if not regulated the market can be a tyrant that makes life miserable for the majority. That’s why regulation is required to keep markets from being destructive to human values.
It is up to city officials to try to balance MSTA’s interests with those of the other thousands of people who live in Hoboken, support its businesses and pay its taxes, either through rents or directly.

David Cogswell

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