Renters Rise Up


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Andrew Oliver
Staff Writer

The landlord profession, by its very nature, is a problematic one. The landlord, whether their morals and intentions are in the right place or not, thrive off of and sustain an immoral system in which tenants are seeing less and less control over their living spaces due to being more financially burdened and more desperate to find places to live, according to research by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

In a landlord-tenant relationship, the power dynamic is skewed tremendously in favor of the landlord, who is not only allowed to raise rent every year, but is expected to as the cost of living increases, no matter how much or little money the tenant may be making themselves.

This creates a huge problem when wages have largely remained stagnant in the United States for years, according to Peter Coy, Economics Editor for Bloomberg. As landlords continue to raise rent for themselves, tenants, who occupy almost 44 million U.S. households – 37 percent of total households in the country – find themselves in a difficult position.

In these situations, the tenants can do little as their stagnant paychecks are being eaten away. According to the 2017 National Rent Report by Apartment List, with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, rents been rising steadily, and fairly steeply, since January, at a rate of three percent, well ahead of the current inflation rate 1.7 percent. Even if tenants decide to move, they will be unlikely to rent a place much cheaper than where they are currently living, according to the Wall Street Journal, which found that monthly payments are the highest they’ve been in 30 years, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median rent has almost doubled since 1995, even when adjusting dollars for inflation.

This, of course, means that across the country, landlords are raising rent prices, not just to combat inflation, but for extra profit. This is made even worse when one considers that, according to Mike Fratantoni, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, that the mortgage rates which landlords have to pay on the properties they own are at a record low. This kind of greed at the expense of tenants should not be stood for.

Indeed, the landlord profession should not be legal at all. Landlords derive their profit not from working, laboring, or producing anything meaningful, but by simply owning property which they can lord over those who often desperately need it.

Further, it is insulting and demeaning for people to be largely at the mercy of a property-owner who dictates rules to them about the place in which they will be residing. The landlord-tenant relationship is one of inequality by its very nature, in which tenants do not have autonomy over their own personal living spaces. Working people, who, according to the U.S. Census, largely make up the renting population in the United States, should no longer be subjected to this form of intimate and personal tyranny which landlords, good or bad, force upon them.

The political and social culture in which the landlord profession thrives would make it, by its essence, difficult to get rid of, but to do so is essential if we hope to know true class equality in this country. A possible solution would be to, of course, ban the profession all together, making it illegal to be a landlord in the United States. In its place, a free public housing program will be established so that people no longer have to pay just to live, and those who previously had worried about housing insecurity or even homelessness will worry no longer. After that feat is accomplished, the country’s landlords should be put on trials held with tenant juries.

These juries will be able to assess their landlords. Those who were abusive in any way will be subjected to, at the very least, forced immediate monetary compensation for their previous tenants. The good landlords will be fine, and will be able to make more forgiving and gradual payments to their previous tenants.

These trials, or something like them, are necessary to instill confidence in previous tenants that real change has occurred, and that they finally hold real sway and power in their communities and in regard to their living spaces, both of which are severely lacking as it stands today.

Good or bad, landlords are an appendage of a Capitalist machine which helps to subjugate working class people. If this appendage is cut from the body, the fight for class equality is made that much easier. This is something for which we all should be fighting for.

Categories: Columns, Opinions


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