I’ve never met Robert Murphy, but he is a reprehensible person. I don’t know if he’s as bad as Michael Wolfensohn, but he’s definitely a sorry excuse for a human being.
For all I know, Mr. Murphy goes to church every day, volunteers at a homeless shelter, reads books for the blind, and picks up litter in the local park. But he’s still a crook being because he thinks it is perfectly okay to steal so long as the government is the middle man.
You can tell me whether I exaggerate after reading these details. Mr. Murphy has been living for 30 years without a lease in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco. Every day he remains in the unit, he is stealing value from the owner, Wayne Koniuk, who would prefer to exercise his property rights by letting one of his sons live in the building. Here are the pertinent details from a local news source.
By trade, Koniuk fashions artificial limbs for amputees. By habit, he fits prostheses at no charge for people who cannot pay. This has left him a less-than-wealthy man. But he does have one substantial asset: a Divisadero Street building that his father, Walter, an orthotist, bought in 1970 and gave to his only son in 2001 so Wayne could run his business on the ground floor and Wayne’s adult children would always have a place to live. …Koniuk desperately wants to move his younger son into the building’s other four-bedroom apartment, he cannot. He is exploring legal options. Robert Murphy, who has lived there for 30 years without a lease, remains, paying $525.82 a month. Last spring, Koniuk offered Murphy $45,000 to move out. Murphy’s lawyer demanded $70,000, a sum Koniuk says he does not have. Meanwhile, the city’s Rent Board notified Koniuk that he was allowed to increase Murphy’s monthly rent this year by $2.63.
Not surprisingly, the government intervention that allows Mr. Murphy to steal from Mr. Koniuk is having terrible effects on San Francisco’s housing market.
In San Francisco, one of the toughest places in the country to find a place to live, more than 31,000 housing units — one of every 12 — now sit vacant, according to recently released census data. That’s the highest vacancy rate in the region, and a 70 percent increase from a decade ago. …Increasingly, small-time landlords like Koniuk are just giving up. One of his Divisadero Street neighbors has left two large apartments on the second and third floors of her building vacant for more than a decade, after a series of tenant difficulties. It’s just not worth the bother, or the risk, of being legally tied to a tenant for decades. …Perversely, that is hurting the city’s renters as well, as a large percentage of the city’s housing stock is allowed to just sit vacant, driving up rents that newcomers pay for market-rate housing.
I’ve mocked San Francisco in the past and I certainly enjoy a heaping dose of Schadenfreude when I see the failure of statist policies. But I also hate when big government and greedy interest groups screw over ordinary people. If I was Mr. Koniuk, I would visit this website to get some ideas on how to make life more…interesting…for the thieving Mr. Murphy.
(h/t: Greg Mankiw)