Policies spawned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have had myriad deleterious effects, not the least of which is the abrogation of the fundamental property rights that every American citizen inherently has a right to. Throughout the pandemic, the government used forceful and unreasonable approaches to “solving” the crisis. “Government officials aren’t wiser than the rest of us, so when they tried to deal with a serious public health problem, they did so in a forceful, ineloquent, and unreasonable manner. Unfortunately, many of its worst approaches leave permanent scars.”
Ultimately, COVID-19 left us as a “nation of rulers, not laws.” Governors across the country, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), bypassed the normal legislative process and used their emergency powers to issue edicts. Some were understandable, but many were expansive and only tangentially related to public health.
The worst example? Anti-eviction orders. These orders destroyed property rights and left landlords with no rental income. Despite still having mortgages, taxes, insurance, and repair costs, property owners could no longer rely on receiving rent.
I don’t expect much sympathy for landlords. But the result of these policies is obvious: fewer available rentals and fewer well-maintained properties. Investing in rental property used to be a way for middle-class people to build wealth, but now, people are afraid to buy rental houses, fearing that the government can suspend rent payments at will. And, that fear is far from unfounded.
Tenants often outnumber property owners, particularly in larger cities. With rent control, property rights are eliminated, and decisions shift to city councils and tenant-dominated rental boards. This makes property owners’ livelihoods dependent on the political system. Democracy is, after all, two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.
Long before the pandemic, many cities embraced strict rent control, which essentially destroyed their housing markets. COVID-19 added a new level of uncertainty, as seen in how Los Angeles extended its anti-eviction provisions.
Politicians like Newsom will almost certainly return to their CCOVID-19 anti-eviction playbook in the event of future “emergencies,” whether real or manufactured. The lasting legacy of COVID-19 is that we no longer have property rights when officials can eliminate them by executive order, legislation, or regulatory fiat. That is not a pretty picture.