New Yorkers may especially love telling horror stories about their housing travails, but expensive rents are no longer the exclusive purview of the coastal cities: Across the country, tenants are feeling the pain of low vacancy rates and astronomic prices. On episode 49 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene look into what’s driving the increase in costs, what we can expect will happen in the housing market, and what could help people remain in their homes. Guests include Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Bridget Read, a features writer at New York magazine.
Alex: Every three years, in a tradition dating back more than a half-century, the city of New York declares a housing crisis. The New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey determines, among other things, the city’s official vacancy rate, or how many housing units are currently available for rent. For apartments priced at $1,500 a month or less, that rate is currently less than 1 percent—a 30-year low.
Laura: One-third of renters in the city spend more than half their income on rent. The median effective rent in Manhattan is $3,870, a record high.
Alex: Stories of the absurd lengths people will go to to secure apartments have entertained New Yorkers for decades, but it seems more desperate now than anyone can remember.
Laura: For once, the absurd cost of rent isn’t just a New York City story. By one company’s estimates, Miami became the third-most-expensive city in which to lease an apartment this year; median rent in metropolitan Phoenix has hit an all-time high.
Alex: What can explain these numbers?
Laura: Will they ever return to normal?
Alex: Could rent control, which economists have long decried, help people stay in their homes—or does it just make the expense problem worse? I’m Alex Pareene.
Laura: I’m Laura Marsh.
Alex: This is The Politics of Everything.
Alex: Bridget Read is a features writer at New York magazine and Curbed who has written multiple articles recently about the state of the New York City housing market. Bridget, thanks for talking to us today.
Bridget Read: Thanks for having me.
Alex: You recently wrote for Curbed about an experience that I very gratefully have not had to have in a while, which is looking for an apartment in Brooklyn. How did it go? How is it out there?
Bridget: I do not recommend it. To anyone.
Alex: Why is that?
Bridget: It’s harrowing out there. I was looking in February and March, when there was actually some relief in the market, we now know from some data that’s come out recently. It got worse in April and May, so I recommend it even less, I guess. We’re just in this crazy housing shortage.
Laura: What is the indicator of crazy? How many apartments are you looking at before you find one that’s reasonable? How many times are you making an offer or trying to sign a lease before actually being accepted?
Bridget: Craziness—I would say a more specific word is frenzy. A realtor used the word “scrum” to me. It’s at almost every single level of the process. There’s when you look at the actual listing on StreetEasy or Zillow or whatever, and you’re already told that people are applying without even seeing it, so then you get to the showing and you’ve applied already—which is psycho—just to get ahead. So you’ve paid the $20 application fee. You sent them your tax return and maybe even your parents’ tax return; they know more about you than the government. Then at the showing, you’re hearing people offering more money than the listed rent amount. Then, depending on if it’s a smaller landlord, they might want to know more about you and your vibe, and you’re writing a letter. Jonathan Miller, who’s this appraiser that has reams of rental and leasing data, has us at around a 2 percent vacancy rate for all of Manhattan. He says he can extrapolate that it’s probably around the same for Brooklyn. There aren’t enough apartments.
Laura: So 2 percent seems really low, because that means if there aren’t very many apartments on the market and there’s people looking, it’s just really tight. What was normal before the pandemic?
Bridget: Relative to New York City, we’ve never surpassed 5 percent, in terms of a vacancy rate overall, since 1965, which is why we’ve been in a housing emergency technically since 1965. Two percent overall might not seem that much lower than 5 percent, but it is low. We weren’t that low before the pandemic. I believe this is very low also nationally. So 2 percent even among housing shortages in other cities is quite low.
Alex: I mean, it’s never been fun to look for an apartment in Brooklyn. I remember years ago you would go and it would be like, “Oh, this is clearly a windowless, illegally converted basement that you are claiming is like a two bedroom.” But then I could be like, “I’m going to turn this down because I don’t want to live in a windowless basement and I will be able to find something else.”
Laura: That just gave me a flashback to the absolute worst rental story of my history, which was my first move to New York. Someone tried to get me to rent their garage as a bedroom. It was a garage where you could actually flip up the garage door to drive a car in. I was like, “Oh, would that open? Would that still be openable when I’m in here sleeping?” And they were like, “Yeah, and we also want to store a lot of our kids’ stuff in Rubbermaid totes in the corner.”
Bridget: Where was this garage?
Laura: I believe it was in Park Slope; $800 a month. That was like 11 years ago.
Bridget: Now you would be writing a letter about how much you can’t wait to make the garage your home.
Alex: “I always wanted to live in a garage.”
Laura: I wouldn’t even have seen that door. I would have just offered $2,000 a month for it, sight unseen.
Bridget: I think that’s what’s remarkable about what’s happening right now in New York in particular. New York is a storied place where everyone wants to live. That’s been the trope of New York for decades, if not nearly a full century. New Yorkers already had a higher tolerance for doing whatever it takes to get that apartment. I mean, that’s the center of Rosemary’s Baby—they take the cursed apartment because it’s rent stabilized, and they overlook all this stuff because they’re like, “Whatever, this is a great apartment.” It’s been that way for so long. Even for New Yorkers—for whom this is already something where it’s so cutthroat—the frenzy, the scrum is beyond everyone’s imagination right now.
Alex: It seems interesting that the sort of classic New York story of fighting for the apartment was formerly limited to quote-unquote more desirable neighborhoods. It really seems like it’s just spreading everywhere now in this way that seems really out of control.
Bridget: It’s concentrated on the actual lower end of the income scale, which is also making it really frustrating. The vacancy rate above $2,300 in terms of the rental price is at 12 percent, versus I believe it’s somewhere around 5 percent for under that amount. Then under $1,500 there’s almost nothing. It’s a fraction.
Alex: There’s nothing under $1,500.
Bridget: You can see how it’s disparate across incomes. There are renters above the income bracket for whom this isn’t so competitive, and then there are ones below—you know, people using vouchers, people in rent-stabilized places, and people in public housing—who are not participating in a bidding war. So there is a very specific part of the population for whom this crunch is really, really visceral.
Alex: I think it’s true that if you have a lot of money, you can find somewhere to rent without worrying about it too much.
Bridget: My colleague Clio Chang wrote about a recent story of a couple paying $10,000 above the rental amount, sight unseen, for a Brooklyn Heights apartment.
Alex: Yeah. A Brooklyn Heights apartment on Livingston Street too, right? Not to be a snob, but that’s not even a nice part of Brooklyn Heights.
Laura: That’s not where you would personally choose to spend $40,000 a month on rent?
Alex: They obviously paid a lot above the asking price. You coined the term—I feel like I should allow you to say it. What is the term?
Bridget: If Brian Lehrer said it yesterday, Alex, you can say it.
Alex: OK, Brian Lehrer said it on the radio? All right. You call it “cuck money.” Tell us about what that is as a phenomenon.
Bridget: I just want to preface that it first came from “key money.” We wanted something that sonically resonated with key money, which is a practice that isn’t so much of a big deal anymore because it refers to money paid under the table to secure a highly coveted rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartment that you would pay to a landlord or a broker or even a tenant who was living in the apartment who was leaving. That was key money. It’s illegal, but there aren’t any rent-stabilized apartments anymore.
Alex: The rent-controlled apartment is … yeah. It’s not quite a thing.
Bridget: So key money doesn’t exist, but we wanted something for this money being paid above the asking price, because initially when I started reporting this story there was and there still is a lot of confusion about how this can be legal. It doesn’t feel like it should be because it feels absurd. We wanted something to capture the absurdity and, frankly, the abject humiliation of rolling up to an apartment and begging to pay more when you’re not even owning it. I mean, it’s just gross and it’s vulgar and you feel cucked. I have had people reach out to me and say, “Is this legal?” And the answer is yes.
Laura: Where do brokers come into all of this? It feels chaotic, but is it like, “Oh, there’s no rules, so everything’s crazy and it just happens to be that prices are massively going up!” or is this orchestrated in some way?
Bridget: Laura, your question gets into the role of brokers at large, which is a controversial position because they really are working specifically for the landlord, and yet tenants pay a fee. It’s becoming more controversial as we speak because of that theatricality and how manipulative, I think, it can feel. It really depends on who you ask. For, let’s say, the YIMBYs in the room, it’s all about “build more” so that these viewings aren’t so scarce. But if you talk to some tenant advocates, they’ll be like, “Well, thousands of units—and we don’t even know how many—are being warehoused right now to make the environment even more scarce,” which is when landlords keep their apartments from going on the market. The broker is sort of in between, middlemanning this process in a way that is definitely contributing to its frenzied nature, because it is a position that requires scarcity in order to function best. Because it’s like, “Why do you need a broker?” “To deal with all these crazy people.” I don’t know—I don’t want to speak ill of them.
Alex: You can speak ill of brokers. They’re middlemen and they extract rents. If you’ve never looked for an apartment in New York City you might not know this, because it’s not true almost anywhere else in the country—that a prospective tenant pays a broker for showing him an available apartment. Interestingly, those broker’s fees were very temporarily banned during the pandemic, and then that ban was lifted. To get into the politics of this, brokers have some pull in the state Capitol and in the city, but if a politician promised to end broker’s fees tomorrow, it would be one of the most popular things any New York politician has ever done.
Laura: One thing I’m really baffled by in this moment is we’ve seen so much fluctuation in the housing market, particularly in New York. With the pandemic, rents went lower for a little while and now they’re going up. Trying to find an apartment in New York has always been hard, but why is it so much harder right now? What’s changed?
Bridget: It depends who you ask—their agenda will determine what they will tell you. Definitely in the short term, the rush of people coming back to the city because “NYC is back, baby,” as our mayor says—that is definitely contributing to it.
Alex: Eric Adams’s swagger contributed to it is what you’re saying.
Laura: The swagger tax.
Bridget: In 2021, our population started increasing for the first time in several years versus overall net decrease. More people are coming back. That’s happening right now, but talk to people again on the housing-stock side who really want us to build more. I have a stat from the Furman Center, which is that we built less housing over the 50 years between 1970 and 2020 than we did just from 1920 to 1930 in New York. We built more in that decade than we did in the last 50 years. So there’s also a dynamic that’s several decades in the making that’s coming together as well to produce this crisis. There are a few reasons, I would say.
Laura: In your story, you also have one reason that is a little bit more unconventional. Do you want to tell us about that?
Bridget: I happened to mention in front of a New York magazine editor that a broker had told me that there weren’t any one bedrooms, which I was looking for, because everyone had broken up in the pandemic—so everyone wanted one bedrooms, and that’s why I was actually looking for an apartment. It really resonated with me, so of course New York magazine said, “You will write about your personal life now.”
Alex: “We will force you to write that.” I mean, it’s the perfect New York magazine anecdote. You should’ve known what you were getting into with that.
Bridget: I know, it’s truly my fault. I had to chase down this theory of whether there was actually a shortage among studios and one bedrooms because there were more single people looking around, which couldn’t technically be proven. But speaking of the Furman Center, I did have Matt, who’s one of their researchers, write to me last week that the housing vacancy survey does show a shortage, a very particular shortage in the latter half of the pandemic among one bedrooms and studios. He was like, “You might’ve been onto something.” So I feel really vindicated
Alex: I think you’re vindicated. The rental market is a hard economic story with numbers and stats, but a lot of it is just like guesses and vibes—even among the experts.
Laura: Well, I think the other thing that it highlights is that the reasons people move are intensely personal. It might be that you’ve broken up with someone. It might be that, you know, several people were able to rent a one bedroom for the first time ever in the early years of the pandemic because the rents were lower. There are so many reasons that someone is looking for a particular kind of housing and in a market like this, that becomes really intensified. All of these needs that people have are exaggerated because of scarcity.
Bridget: Totally. On the one side you have a landlord for whom it is a profit-making enterprise, a commercial enterprise, and then on the other side, you have a tenant for whom it is their home. That’s such a stark difference. For one person it really is a basic need. It’s shelter. On the other side it’s a service that someone is providing for a fee. Now people are understanding like, “Uh-oh, should this be such a commercial enterprise?”
Alex: I think New York—because as you say, it’s been in a housing emergency for decades—can serve as something of a cautionary tale for the rest of the country, where there are a lot more renters than there used to be and where, all over the place, rents are all of a sudden rising much like they are here.
Bridget: One friend said to me, “I’m seeing a lot more housing activists among friends of mine who would most typically be sort of bougie in their politics.” Housing is creating people with some pretty left ideas now about who should own housing and who should profit from it.
Alex: How it should be distributed, yeah. So you had your own personal housing crisis. You did make it through, and you did get an apartment. To me it looks very nice here on this screen, but how is it? Are there any downsides to it?
Bridget: Well, I do look into an interior courtyard directly into another man’s apartment. Some cabinets are installed backward, so they open not like a cabinet but more like a … well, just a backward cabinet. I can’t describe it any better than that. I’ve had some critters visit me. But yeah, I’m cucked—I didn’t pay cuck money, but I feel cucked overall. I’m just like, “Whatever, man, this is my apartment.”
Alex: This is it, yeah.
Bridget: The resignation is strong.
Alex: All right. Well, thank you so much for talking to us, Bridget.
Bridget: Thanks, guys.
Laura: The housing crisis we’re talking about has been decades in the making. And there is actually a set of policies that could alleviate it.
Alex: After the break, I’m speaking with Dean Baker, an economist who famously identified the 2000s housing bubble before it burst, about those policy solutions and why economists hate them.
Alex: We’re joined now by Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Dean, thank you for talking to us today.
Dean Baker: Thanks a lot for having me on.
Alex: We’re talking about affordability. I want to talk about a subject that economists love: rent control. It feels to me like for many, many years, the consensus in “economist world” was that rent control was a terrible thing. But before we get into that, can you describe, first of all, what rent control does?
Dean: Rent controls basically prevent rents from rising to the market rate. There are different rules. Usually there are provisions for rents to rise in step with costs. That’s pretty much universal; there may be an exception to that. There are different rules about things like vacancy decontrol, which means if I’d been in a rent-controlled unit and then I move, the landlord is able to charge the market rent. In some cases they aren’t able to charge the market rent, but they give a much larger increase based on decontrol.
Alex: In the eyes of the economics profession, what exactly is wrong with that arrangement?
Dean: Most economists would say, “We draw a simple supply and demand curve, and we go, here’s our upward-sloping supply curve, here’s our downward-sloping demand curve. We put the price control—the rent control—below where those two cross. That’s the point: We want to have lower rents than what the market would give us. We see that there’ll be more demand than there is supply.” Then you go, “Oh, so we have a shortage.” That’s kind of a simple story. I think the basic story is true—I mean, if you put the control below the market level, then there will be something of a shortage. But I used to have fun teaching this years ago, when I taught an intro microeconomics class. I’d draw those lines, and then I’d go, “OK, well, let’s change this a little bit,” and then draw a vertical supply curve.
Alex: The vertical supply curve means that no matter how much demand there is, you can’t produce more of the good—in housing, at least, you can’t immediately produce more of the good.
Dean: Yeah. I’d go, “OK, let’s have rent control in the market.” Well, you still have a shortage, you can show that—you still have more people wanting units than units available—but no fewer people are housed. You haven’t affected the supply. Those of us who’ve tried to look at it more carefully go, “OK, the supply curve is not literally vertical, but at a moment in time it probably is pretty close to vertical.” So we’re not necessarily excluding people from having housing. It might mean different people have housing. But if you have rent control—and particularly if you give people security of tenure, so I can’t throw you out—you’re in effect saying, “There’s been a big increase in housing prices—in housing values—in this area, and we’re not going to let the owner capture all of that benefit. We’re going to give some of that to the renter.” And you go, “What’s wrong with that?”
Alex: So if we assume a fixed supply of housing, what we’re doing with rent control is ensuring that high demand does not force real people out of their homes. I guess that’s what has always struck me about the Econ 101 explanation of what’s wrong with rent control. It’s always saying, “Well, it’ll drive up prices,” but it doesn’t drive up prices for the person who currently lives there.
Dean: One of the conservative publications had, like, all the prominent liberal leftist types who are benefiting from rent control apartments in New York City—I remember Abbie Hoffman was one of them, back in the 1980s he was living in a really nice place for a very low rent. You go, “OK, so you want to make a big deal about that.” Suppose he had owned it. Suppose it had been a condo and it had tripled, quadrupled in value. No one would say anything about Abbie Hoffman—or maybe some people would, but I think most people would say, “He made a lot of money. He got his condo for $100,000. Now it’s worth $800,000. Well, good for him.” That’s the most that people would say. But if you say, “Oh, you’re living in a rent-controlled place; you’re paying $800 a month on a place that on the open market would be $4,000”—then they go, “Well, that’s a scandal.” I mean, not to say there aren’t issues with rent control; there are issues, but I just don’t see that in and of itself as being a huge scandal.
Alex: If he had spent 30 years paying off a fixed rate mortgage, he’d be paying nothing. It’d be the exact same situation.
Dean: We have this idea that if you own it, it’s fine if you come out really rich, but if you’re a renter, you don’t have any rights. You don’t have the right to gain from the fact that you’re living in a place.
Alex: One of the objections to rent control that I’ve heard is that developers are just going to stop building apartments because they can’t make any money off them if they can’t charge whatever the hell they want.
Dean: That’s a really good point. The major sort of comeback, insofar as you’ve had cities be responsible in how they regulate rents, is they don’t have rent control on new construction. What they say is, “OK, everything that was built before May 1, 2022 is going to be subject to rent control. But if you want to go and build a new apartment, you can charge whatever you feel like.” Now what the conservatives—the opponents of rent control—are going to say is, “Well, but they know they can’t really trust you, because they’ll do that and then two years from now you’ll put rent control on their unit.” There’s not an answer to that. They might be worried about that, but the point is you structure it so that, at least in principle, you tell builders that they can go ahead and build new units and they can charge whatever they want.
Alex: Right, the argument would be that rent control will distort the market and cause people not to want to build apartments and rent them out, and then one solution to that is to not subject new units to rent control. I personally support rent control just from the perspective of preventing displacement, allowing people to stay in their homes, but you can see obvious flaws in it, as you were just describing: That’s a system that protects incumbents and doesn’t help future renters. It seems like more is needed to get rent relief. What do we need to do to actually make housing affordable in American cities?
Dean: I see rent control as at best a temporary measure. People have pointed out that rent control is not necessarily helping the people whom you might most want to help, because just as a factual matter, it tends to be the case that lower-income people move more frequently. They have less stable jobs. If they’re in a situation where they’re trying to look for a rent-controlled unit, they’re going to have a hard time. Particularly if you have vacancy decontrol, then by definition they won’t be able to get it. There’s also an issue that landlords in rent-controlled units often don’t do maintenance. One counterpoint is that if you have security of tenure, many tenants do their own maintenance. I know many people in New York rent-controlled units paint their place, put in new windows: If you expect to live there for the next decade, you’re going to benefit from that. But the bottom line is that you do need more units, and we’ve seen limits on housing. The fear that there’ll be rent control I’m sure is a factor, but I think that’s the much, much less important factor in a place like New York City. I think it’s much more zoning. You have a lot of zoning restrictions that people are increasingly paying attention to, I think that’s a good thing. I don’t want to see every neighborhood turned into high rises, but you could have many multifamily units without destroying a neighborhood. At the end of the day, we do need more housing, and zoning has been an obstacle to that in most places.
Alex: There are a lot of places in the country where it’s essentially illegal to build apartments, right? Like if they’re zoned for single-family housing only and all these things. Why were American policies for so long so geared toward homeowning?
Dean: It’s an interesting question. It was very conscious policy after World War II to make the country a nation of homeowners. We had the G.I. Bill of Rights. Veterans—and at that time basically all men were veterans—had the opportunity to get a very low-cost loan from the Veterans Administration. We had Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that in effect subsidized mortgages, knocking off one to two percentage points by in effect having the federal government guarantee mortgages. We really geared our policy in a lot of different ways. Tax deduction for mortgage interest, that too I should mention. We had a policy very much oriented toward promoting homeownership. On the conservative side, the idea was, “Oh, homeowners will be conservative. They’ll vote Republican or in any case support conservative politicians.” A lot of liberals said, “Well, this is a good thing. We want people to have property, have a stake. If the average worker could have a stake, that’s a good thing.” It really was largely across the political spectrum that people thought homeownership was a great thing.
Alex: You can see the logic of it in that sort of postwar consensus era—that it would create middle-class wealth—but it obviously had a lot of unintended consequences. My question is, at that same moment, were other comparable, wealthy nations doing the same thing? Were they pushing house ownership the same way that we were?
Dean: You have other countries that have adopted similar policies. I think Ireland has a higher homeownership than the U.S. The U.K. is very comparable. Other countries had policies that were very much oriented toward supporting renters. In Germany, homeownership rates are somewhere around 50 percent, considerably less than the U.S. They are a very wealthy country—obviously it’s not that they’re a poor country, it’s just that they made it much more desirable to rent in the sense that you have stability, they have laws that generally make it difficult to throw out a tenant, you have to show cause: You didn’t pay your rent for three months, or you’ve been burning down the house or something like that. We aren’t the highest in terms of homeownership, but we’re near the highest. You have quite a range with, again, some countries having rules that are much more supportive of renting and, as a result of that, do have much lower homeownership rates.
Alex: I want to talk about the politics of this for one second. There are a bunch of cities where these sorts of YIMBY policies are becoming more popular. They’re allowing denser development. Some places are trying to institute rent control. Saint Paul just instituted rent control—I grew up around there, and I find that wild. Broadly, is there a contradiction between the fact that the liberal-democratic coalition contains homeowners who have a self-interest in homes becoming ever more expensive and renters who need to afford rent?
Dean: It certainly can. The story of homeownership and people protecting what they think they have is often not a pretty one. A lot of this is racial. I mentioned before how we encouraged homeownership after World War II—well, that was largely among the white population. It was very difficult for many very comparably situated Black Americans. They might have had a good job working in the auto industry or something, and it would be much harder for them to be a homeowner than a white American working in the auto industry. They couldn’t get mortgages from banks. That’s gotten better—there’s still almost certainly some discrimination, but it was just open policy; many banks would not lend to Black people. I grew up in Chicago, and there were neighborhoods, literally, a Black person could not move into. Their house would be firebombed. Their kids would be threatened at school. That was very open. You didn’t have to do any looking underneath the surface. It was all totally upfront.
Alex: I wonder today—why, for example, do we not see Joe Biden say, “I’m going to do something about rent.” It still feels like the Democratic Party wants to encourage homeownership but doesn’t have a message for people who are renting.
Dean: I think this hits at fundamental things. It might even be worse than saying, “Hey, we’re gonna do something on police,” because there’s so much of an idea that homeownership is the American dream. Now to his credit, Biden did have, in Build Back Better, proposals that would give money to cities if they had inclusive zoning to promote multifamily units. To my view that was a great thing. That didn’t necessarily mean rentals, but it could mean rentals. He did have that. But I think saying that, “Oh, we want to make the world better for renters,” that’s just seen as like, “Oh, you’re saying there is no God.” You know, you can’t do that.
Alex: Right. So homeownership remains like the ideal in American life, and it seems pretty unshakeable.
Dean: It’s interesting: I’ve had a lot of debates with people, because I don’t think wealth is necessarily a good measure of anything. This is kind of front and center, because for the vast majority of people, most of the wealth they’re able accumulate in their life is their house. Well, suppose that you had security in your rental, security in your tenure, that you knew the rent was going to go up more or less with inflation but not beyond that; and that your landlord couldn’t throw you out—then what’s the big advantage of homeownership? We think of it like, “Oh, I want to be able to know that I could live in my place until I die.” Well, if you had rental regulations that gave people security of tenure, then you’re able to do that in a rental unit.
Alex: I worked for a little while with a financial journalist who made a lot more money than I did. He rented, and the entire office made fun of him because he was redoing his kitchen himself in a rental unit, but he had calculated, “I can rent, I’ll redo my kitchen, and all of my extra money I’ll just throw in my Vanguard account or whatever—it’ll accumulate there instead of having to like accumulate in the value of the property I own.”
Dean: Well, that could be a very reasonable decision. You know, a lot of people have crazy ideas. I remember back during the bubble years, you know, people were saying, “Oh, you don’t have to worry if prices are high, because you could always live in your home,” and I wanted to pull all my hair—I had more hair back then. Sure, you can live in your home, but how many people could afford to live in a home that is worth $200,000 that they just paid $350,000 for? It literally made no sense, but you had a lot of people—and I don’t mean just someone off the street, you had people writing in the business pages of major news outlets saying, “Oh, you can always live in your home.”
Alex: What do you think? Do you think that we’re just going to see in all of these cities these prices just keep rising and rising and rising, or do you think that it’s going to stabilize at any point in the near future?
Dean: I think we’ve peaked. I think what you’re going to see is a lot of people that might’ve been getting a bigger house, a lot of people that might have been moving out from their parents, or maybe they have a roommate, they are not going to do that. What that’s going to mean is freeing up housing. In effect, someone who would have otherwise taken up five rooms, they’re taking up three rooms. That will put some downward pressure on the rental market. None of this is overnight, and we’ll probably see more of a downward movement in house sale prices than rents for the same reason that we saw more of an increase in house sale prices than rents: They’re more volatile. But I think we will see some downward movement in rents. Now, one of the things that I would love to see—and the Biden administration has, for whatever reason, not moved on—I’d like to see efforts to convert a lot of the vacant office space to housing units. To my mind, that’s just an incredible waste. A lot of these office buildings—in New York City first and foremost—are 30, 40 percent occupied. People are not coming back. Why have these places sit empty when many could be residential?
Alex: Thank you very much for talking to us, Dean.
Dean: Thanks a lot for the interview. I enjoyed it.
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