NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Rent Control in San Francisco

February 12, 2002

Rent-control laws, which are supposed to help the poor, contribute to the problem of homelessness and often end up helping upper income renters instead, says economist Thomas Sowell.

In San Francisco, for example:

  • A recently published study found that 26 percent of the households living in rent-controlled apartments have incomes of $100,000 or more.
  • Rents today are more than five times what they were in 1979, when rent control was instituted.
  • The average apartment rent in the city today is $2,100 a month, and even for a studio apartment, the average rent is $1,500 a month.

Meanwhile, the people who were expected to benefit from rent control are leaving the city:

  • Although San Francisco's total population is growing, the number of children in the city has declined absolutely.
  • More than three-quarters of the households in rent-controlled apartments have no children at all.
  • The black population of San Francisco has also declined -- by 23 percent -- in just one decade.

Nearly half the working population still remaining in the city are in professional or managerial occupations, indicating that working families with more modest incomes cannot afford to live there.

Studies show that rents are usually higher and homelessness is greater in cities with rent control. And housing shortages have followed rent control in cities across the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Source: Thomas Sowell, "The housing farce,", February 7, 2002.


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