October 29, 1862, Galveston Weekly News
Our neighbor of the Telegraph makes the following remarks upon the disposition of some property owners in this city to charge extortionate rents to the people of Galveston who have been driven from their own homes:
We hear of miserable shells, with no conveniences whatever, and as could not, in ordinary times, be rented for more than $5 to $8 per month, being held at $40 or $50. Other places are held in somewhat the same proportion. Such things are wrong. Their effect upon the public morals is terrible. We do not say that those who are guilty of them would, under other circumstances, be guilty of highway robbery; but we do say that we would dislike to fall into their hands without the protection of the law. The cases we have heard of are but two or three, and we don’t affirm the city cannot be judged by them. We hope to hear of no more of them. Let such greed be frowned down by public opinion.
We hardly know what are called extortionate rents in this city, but we have had occasion to ascertain the charges in many instances and we believe that most of the small houses with all the improvements belonging to them, can be built and paid for in ordinary times exclusive of the ground on which they are situated for 18 to 24 months of such rent as is now asked for them. We suppose rents have advanced largely since the people of Galveston have recently been compelled to leave that city. But our residence here has not been long enough to enable us to speak positively on this subject. We can only say that we now find it difficult to get a house at any price, and certainly not without a considerable advance on previous rates. But we do not know that those who demand all they can get for rent, are any more chargeable with extortion than those who charge the highest price to be had for the necessaries of life. The truth is, the price of everything is regulated by the demand as compared with the supply, and we conclude this explains the high rents at present in this city. Even before the people of Galveston were compelled to leave their homes, there were very few vacant houses in Houston, and the effect of so large an accession of families seeking to find some shelter, is easily seen. To what extent the people of Galveston may be considered as having a claim on the hospitality of neighboring cities on account of their present unfortunate situation and past heavy losses, it does not become us to say. We will merely remark that this is a consideration entirely distinct from the laws that regulate prices. What may be a fair and reasonable price for rent or an article of necessity is one thing, while the claims of any community on our hospitality present a very different question. Heretofore Houston and Galveston were considered rival cities engaged in an honorable, and as we believe, a praiseworthy competition for the trade of the country. That rivalry is now at an end, and if there was ever any bitterness of feeling we hope that too is buried in oblivion.