Do “scholars” actually ever interview landlords who pay for property taxes, local licenses, maintenance and repair, not to mention the cost of capital (i.e., mortgages) so that they can own a decent property and make it available to tenants? Nowhere in this one-sided analysis is a prediction of what will happen to property owners, and the taxes they pay to local governments, if tenants stop paying rent.

I know many small-time landlords who rehab and offer modest, livable homes to tenants by spending $50,000–$70,000 of their own (and lender’s) money per housing unit.  For comparison, nearby government-built public housing often costs $200,000+ per unit.  Renting these properties out at a market rate of $600~$900 per month can lead to modest profit over the cost-of-capital if everything goes well. This kind of investment has turned many blocks of otherwise blighted Trenton into sustainable, affordable tax-paying housing. Making our units nice so we can attract and keep good tenants is in our self-interest.

If a tenant has a temporary problem, we try to work things out as stability is in everyone’s interest. It is only when there is damage and abuse to the property, and/or many months of non-payment that eviction is considered. For good reasons, it is not easy to accomplish. Has Professor Desmond ever gone to Small Claims court and sat in on a landlord-tenant negotiation as the landlord attempts to get a “Notice to Cease”?

Whether housing is a right or not (and who would pay for it) is beyond my letter. But I do know that this kind of research on the effects of eviction usually comes with recommendations that do not consider the investment and effort required to provide market-based housing in the first place. The unintended consequences have previously been experienced in many cities, 40 to 50 years ago.

Douglas Rubin ’81
Princeton, N.J.