FEBRUARY 1, 1949
HYDE PARK, Monday—One wonders why any property owners' association should have behaved in the way that certain Midwestern groups are conducting their affairs. If there are real hardships for the landlords, then, without question, they should reach the proper authorities. But I think they have created very bad feeling and a sense that they are interested only in the money they receive and care nothing about what happens to the tenants when they resort to wholesale evictions.
The first group of property owners who banded together and decided to go on strike against rent-control legislation was in Nebraska, and the idea rapidly spread that if the property owners simply refused to rent at all and withdrew their property from the market, then in some way they were going to be spared having to comply with the law. Apparently they did not realize that their action would bring about widespread protests.
I think most authorities want to be fair to both property owners and tenants. A situation such as I saw in France, however, is really intolerable. The rent-control laws there were so severe that the property owners did not make enough to pay taxes nor to make any repairs. This resulted in a loss to the government, a lowered standard of housing and no new building except in areas that had been completely destroyed in the war and where the government was helping the townspeople to rebuild.
The cost of food was so high that workmen in the cities were paying about 80 percent of their income for food and these low rentals were a salvation, but in the long run it was poor economy. Overcrowding and deterioration in the condition of the houses were bringing about bad sanitary situations.
In our own country there is no reason for this. If there are cases where people are not able to make a reasonable return on their property, they should be allowed to raise the rent.
I think it is entirely reasonable, however, to look into the situation for I have known landowners who have tried to make more on their investment than was reasonable, just as I have known tenants who destroyed the landlord's property through carelessness and lack of interest.
The action in the Midwest, however, looks like one of the cases where the property owners are going to suffer. If you withdraw your property from the market, you make nothing on it. And if you take such arbitrary action against laws which the majority think are fair, you are apt to find yourself very unpopular in the community.
Judging from what I hear on the air and read in the papers, these property owners have alienated a good many people. The human element must be considered as more important than the material, and that is a principle that every group in this country should bear in mind.