A breath of sanity

Great op-ed in today’s paper:

Saskatchewan had rent controls in the 1970s. These were abolished in 1992 by the Romanow government. The legislation was dormant through most of the 1980s because ample rental supply kept rents low. The reason for the ample supply we enjoyed 25 years ago was an incentive program to build multi-unit apartment buildings.

The multiple unit residential building program (MURB) provided a tax benefit to encourage investment in rental blocks. The market responded with a frenzy of building that actually created an excess supply of new apartments. The surplus kept rents very reasonable for an extended period.

MURBs were far from perfect, but they demonstrate two important lessons. The first is that the best answer to price is more supply, not more controls. The second is that the most effective use of tax dollars is not to spend them on government-owned housing, but to put them to work as incentives to leverage private dollars into the market, multiplying their impact.

These lessons are important for Saskatchewan. We can do much better in housing, but not by repeating the disproven formulas that gave us today’s problem. As Saskatchewan starts to realize its potential, it is to be hoped our political parties will rise to the occasion with fresh thinking.

Ugh. Thank you.

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