That’s one takeaway from a paper sent to me by one of its co-authors, Andy Garin, at MIT, on the effects of the end of rent control in Massachusetts in 1995 on property values in Cambridge. Fascinating topic, and much thanks to Andy for sending it to me – it’s always nice when other people write my blog posts for me!
Andy assures me that they “went through great pains to make sure our results do, in fact, have a causal interpretation, and meaningful,” but as always, I don’t have the statistical background to fisk its methods, so feel free to go at it in the comments.
Here’s the abstract of the working paper, available on NBER, called “Housing Market Spillovers: Evidence from the End of Rent Control in Cambridge Massachusetts”:
Understanding potential spillovers from the attributes and actions of neighborhood residents onto the value of surrounding properties and neighborhoods is central to both the theory of urban economics and the development of efficient housing policy. This paper measures the capitalization of housing market spillovers by studying the sudden and largely unanticipated 1995 elimination of stringent rent controls in Cambridge, Massachusetts that had previously muted landlords’ investment incentives and altered the assignment of residents to locations. Pooling administrative data on the assessed values of each residential property and the prices and characteristics of all residential transactions between 1988 and 2005, we find that rent control’s removal produced large, positive, and robust spillovers onto the price of never-controlled housing from nearby decontrolled units. Elimination of rent control added about $1.8 billion to the value of Cambridge’s housing stock between 1994 and 2004, equal to nearly a quarter of total Cambridge residential price appreciation in this period. Positive spillovers to never-controlled properties account for more half of the induced price appreciation. Residential investments can explain only a small fraction of the total.
Here’s an earlier (?) version of the paper. If you’re sufficiently motivated, you can find one of their email addresses online and ask for a copy of the latest version, and I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige.