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Jun 8, 2019

Rent control, redux. Back in 2017, Steve interviewed Nathan Tankus, of the Modern Money Network, shortly after the 1st MMT conference where Nathan spoke of the heterodox approach to planning housing affordability. With renters now the majority in major US cities, and homelessness on the rise throughout, we are re-releasing this as a podcast to introduce it to a whole new audience.
The US is plagued with problems of housing insecurity, gentrification, and rents that are too damn high. Nathan guides us through the ins and outs of the faux rent control laws in urban centers like New York, where landlords avail themselves of more loopholes than a crochet needle.
Modern Monetary Theory allows us the policy space to deal with unemployment, public health, and student debt. But how do we navigate the labyrinth of federal, state, and municipal issues that affect the cost of housing? US cities and states cannot literally create dollars but they can come surprisingly close by creating monetary value through zoning policies that can elevate or reduce trillions of dollars of land value overnight.  
Peering through the lens of MMT, Nathan lays out the two major types of obligations that governments impose. The first is familiar to fans of this podcast: the direct monetary obligation to pay taxes, fines and fees. The second is the obligation to respect property rights. In the US this refers almost entirely to private property. So, if the lack of sufficient federal spending and planning are responsible for both joblessness and homelessness, then the government has a dual obligation to the public. Just as a job guarantee will eliminate unemployment, using the public planning and regulatory apparatus can eliminate housing insecurity and homelessness.
Nathan Tankus is Research Director at the Modern Money Network and Research Fellow at Clarke Business Law Institute at Cornell.