The New York Times Declares War on Renters

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Wednesday, 28 August 2013 19:01

A homeowner down the street from me left his dog outside all day in the mid-summer heat. The dog died. Is this supposed to mean that homeowners are irresponsible people who can't be trusted to keep up a neighborhood and use basic common sense? Apparently in the pages of the NYT it does.

The NYT devoted a whole article to complaints that renters who have moved in to homes that were formerly occupied by owner occupants were bringing down the quality of neighborhoods. The piece is full of anecdotes, including one about a dog being tied to a post in the hot summer sun by a renter.

Many of the comments are absurd on their face. For example, the article has a quote from one complaining homeowner:

"Who’s going to paint the outside of a rental house? You’d almost have to be crazy.”

The obvious answer to the question is the landlord. She should want to paint the outside of a rental house since her property will lose value if it is not properly protected from the elements. There are certainly many landlords who do not properly maintain properties, but there are also many homeowners who don't properly maintain properties.

The underlying story missed in this article is that the neighborhoods being discussed have become less desirable. That is why house prices have fallen sharply.The renters who are moving in are likely to have lower incomes and less stable jobs than their neighbors. However if the homes were not rented, then they would either sit vacant, or eventually be sold to homeowners with lower incomes and less stable jobs than their neighbors. The piece wrongly implies that the problem is that the people moving in are renters. (Btw, the story about the dog dying in the heat is unfortunately true.)