The issue of Rent Control in the 1950s. Same old story - same old arguments. At least there was a war on.

Rent Control And The American City: 1950 – Past Daily Reference Room

The issue of Rent Control in the 1950s. Same old story – same old arguments. At least there was a war on.

American Forum Of The Air – Should We Repeal Rent Control? – November 26, 1950 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Rent Control – a familiar phrase in just about every city in America. During World War 2 Rent Control came under Federal law largely because the increase in War workers coming into the cities created a housing crisis and, same old story, an opportunity presented itself to escalate rents in order to take advantage of the new demand in housing.

It was a way of guaranteeing housing for the great influx of workers, and guaranteeing housing would be available since all rents would be the same under these federal guidelines, while new housing was being constructed.

When the war ended in 1945, Rent control was extended because, instead of workers, the housing situation was critical because of returning military personnel. Only in this case, there was a legitimate shortage of living space, forcing many former soldiers and their new families to get creative, and landlords were turning to renting any possible space suitable for living, even if it was temporary.

Again, the Rent Control laws were extended, largely because the then-current housing shortage would make for the perfect scenario to price-gouge and make a bad situation worse.

In this episode of American Forum Of The Air, the issue was whether or not to extend Rent Control yet again, knowing there was the Korean War and a return of the need for war workers and the potential shortage of adequate living quarters as well as the threat of price-gouging in order to take advantage of the situation.

Of course it’s a hotly contested issue even in 1950, with Rent Control advocates warning the loss of controls would open up the flood gates to abuse and skyrocketing rents. And Rent Control opponents using the well-worn mantra of “no-controls/more housing”. And even the well-worn scenario of Mom & Pop landlords being forced into bankruptcy because much needed housing improvements were being neglected because there wasn’t sufficient profit to enable those improvements. Despite the fact that, even in 1950, the majority of rental units were held by large Real Estate concerns.

So, with our current (as of 2022) housing crisis being brought on by skyrocketing rents (most cities don’t have rent control, hence; open season on renters) and any attempts to reign in these out of control figures being met by well-financed campaigns, using much the same arguments that were used in 1950 in order to insure livable space for the majority of people is rendered unlivable to those who can’t afford it. Only now the subsequent lack of “affordable housing” is actually a lack of housing that is affordable by virtue of unchecked and skyrocketing rents and subsequent large swaths of urban landscape overflowing with empty unrented apartments and houses.

But that’s 2022 – for a glimpse of what it was like in 1950, 72 years ago, here is that episode of The American Forum Of The Air from November 26, 1950.


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