Rent such as smoke or water damage. The

Rent control in and of
itself is not a part of the underground economy, however, the implementation of
rent control laws has led to activities such as arson for hire that do
contribute to illegal activities within the underground economy. Throughout the
last few years, many studies have been done to link the economic policies of
rent control to arson for hire within larger cities across the United States. Arson
is a serious and dangerous crime and a part of the underground economy contributing
in large proportions considering in 1981 “‘large loss’ arson fires resulted in
over $1.5 billion in structural damage” (Brady, 1983). That amount does not
take into consideration other costs of damage discovered during repairs from things
such as smoke or water damage. The cost of arson and danger it poses to society
make it an important topic to explore.

            Rent control is put into place within urban areas,
therefore arson for hire typically takes place in bigger cities, such as Boston
and San Francisco. In these types of cities, the United States is seeing
gentrification with people and business practices wanting to move back into the
cities. Communities are now being driven by profit and this leads to
abandonment within the lower income areas and ultimately “neighborhood decline destabilizes
urban communities” because inner city areas lose the local support they once
received (Brady, 1983). Most arsons are seen in abandoned buildings within the
cities compared to buildings occupied within the same neighborhoods (Brady,
1983). In a study done in San Francisco, it was discovered that arsons were on
the rise for older buildings in the districts of the city that are increasing
in property value (Kukura, 2015).

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            Landlords are abandoning low income housing to make large
profits in areas with people willing to pay more for rent. Certain areas of the
cities are being built up for wealthy professionals, while others are slowly
decaying due to practices such as redlining. The banks policy of not extending
credit to lower income city areas to invest in higher income real estate areas is
a large contributor to the abandonment of buildings (Brady, 1983). It should be
noted that redlining is “illegal”, however, no consequences are generally enforced
for partaking in the practice. Arson is found prevalent in these areas where
redlining is present due to the housing scarcity for lower income families and
lack of small businesses that may take part in typing the community together
(Brady, 1983).

            Arson for hire is an important issue to be resolved
because it is a crime of greed involving no passion or motives besides money. It
now “outstrips all other ‘index’ crimes in terms of injuries, deaths, and property
losses” (Brady, 1983), meaning that it is a senseless crime that could be
decreased in prevalence with adjustments to rent control laws. Arson accounts
for excessive amounts of deaths within the United States considering “each year
between 1977 and 1980, about 1,000 civilians and another 120 fire fighters were
killed in deliberately set fires; an additional 30,000 civilians and 4,000
firefighters were injured” (Brady, 1983). Although those numbers are high, it
only captures a partial amount of fires since the fire must be investigated and
if not determined sketchy at the time it is set. (Brady, 1983).

             The legislation in
place requires no check of financial means, therefore, it could simply be helping
the rich keep their rent down in some cases. For example, in San Francisco
where the number of low income housing units is in extreme shortage, it was
discovered that over a quarter of the tenants in rent controlled properties
made more than $100,000 a year (James, 2012).  If rent control must be imposed, there should
be some type of check in place to ensure that the person is of financial need. An
example can we seen where the state of Massachusetts is trying to help the poor
with the condo reform law stating they must be allowed extended periods of time
if they cannot find housing (Feldman, 2012). There are a few groups in place attempting
to fix the issues within citied and one is called the Housing Justice Program.
They “seek to negotiate leases with rent increases tied to incomes and just
cause eviction procedures” to benefit the people who have financial needs for living
in the lower income housing areas (Cantor, 1995). If more of the city areas
supported groups like this one, there would be more secure and affordable
housing for those in need.

            The link between rent control and arson is heavily
supported with evidence across the country. Although rent control may have had
good motives in helping the poor find housing, the legislation has led to more
harm than good. With proper support and resources, urban areas in decline could
be helped with a change in the legislation. Currently, the system is set up to
fail allowed abuse by “racketeers” who acquire properties and continuously collect
insurance on them (Brady, 1983). If cities worked together with the landlords
and tenants, they would get closer to a solution that benefits both parties.




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