A new report on a “housing crisis” in Pennsylvania’s northern-tier counties has just been released by The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, a research partnership among Keystone College, King’s College, Luzerne County Community College, Marywood University, Misericordia University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, The Commonwealth Medical College, University of Scranton, and Wilkes University. A copy of the 200 page study is available to download below.
The study purports to show that when counties attract a lot of shale gas drilling activity, they also attract a housing crisis because workers in the drilling industry make more money than non-drilling industry residents and are willing to pay more to rent housing.
The executive summary of the study says this: “Looking only at the data in the most active counties, we cannot conclude with 100 percent certainty that housing is in crisis.” A few sentences later after explaining why they can’t know for certain, we get this statement: “…we find that in the most active drilling counties a crisis exists.” First they can’t know, then they can. How can they know when they don’t know? Only when they don’t look at their own data but go “off data” and factor in anecdotal evidence (stories) found in the interview process. That is, when they violate their own methodology, and use anecdotes, then they can confidently claim, “There’s a crisis.” Such is the way with academe (and politicians).
The biggest problem identified is affordable housing. The study claims that rents have gone up 100-150 percent in some areas, making it difficult for “locals” to find affordable housing. Worse yet (for the study’s authors), people on welfare can’t find affordable housing and have to move out of the area. In one area social services has been giving out tents for people to live in, and (gasp) the money is almost gone to buy tents!
Yes folks, you see, the problem is, when gas drilling comes to town, it just brings too much prosperity, and God help us all if we actually have too much prosperity goin’ on out there.
The report’s recommendations to fix the problem? Socialist rent control policies to force those nasty landlords to take less money. Let’s take what has failed in other places like New York City—rent control—and try it here, because it sounds good and makes us feel good about ourselves.
MDN’s view: From the obvious sarcastic tone, you know we think this is bunkum. Are there legitimate concerns that housing becomes tight for a time? Sure. What’s the answer? The free market! Although the free market doesn’t work fast enough for some, give it a year or two and entrepreneurs will see there’s an opportunity and new housing will become available. New apartments and homes will be built, older facilities like abandoned schools and warehouses will be converted, some will even rent out spare bedrooms—in other words, supply will catch up with demand. What we don’t need is more failed central planning. We see how well that’s working out on the national level.