Housing Is A Human Right
February 6, 2018 9:05 AM   Subscribe

 
Is this not the definition of excess and insanity? Even the phrase "2 houses for every homeless person" sounds nutballs.

I mean... Is it time to start taking guillotines yet?
posted by jonnay at 9:17 AM on February 6 [22 favorites]


This is such a fucking weird time. Unemployment is at a historic low, but we have a homelessness crisis. Cities like NYC are booming economically, but storefronts are empty.

This all seems like the result of having wealth concentrated in the hands of so few. Regular people are no longer the drivers of the economy - the super-wealthy are. And the rest of us are pretty much at their mercy.
posted by lunasol at 9:23 AM on February 6 [29 favorites]


I think there's a middle path somewhere between "guillotines" and "at their mercy".
posted by aniola at 9:24 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


This is a huge current issue in Orange County, CA, to the point that the county is being sued to stop the breaking up of homeless camps along a local river. They break up the camps and send the people who lived there... well, wherever, just not here.

The fact that there are empty investor houses doesn't have any bearing on the real issue, which is a tragic lack of mental health and other related services in this country. And really, really don't read the comments on these stories, which is I guess the reason there's no political will to address this in any meaningful way.
posted by Huck500 at 9:26 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Is the record low unemployment number including people who gave up looking for work?

I vaguely recall that looking for work was a criteria for being included as unemployed.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:26 AM on February 6 [20 favorites]


I think there's a middle path somewhere between "guillotines" and "at their mercy".

Maybe, but guillotines have to be our opening offer for negotiations, otherwise we're already giving up ground.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:30 AM on February 6 [70 favorites]


Is this not the definition of excess and insanity? Even the phrase "2 houses for every homeless person" sounds nutballs.

It's slightly less insane when you think about the distribution of homeless and investor owned vacant housing.

I'm sitting here in Los Angeles, a couple hundred meters from a homeless camp with 30ish people, and probably 15 min walk from a couple hundred people living on the street. Temperature today: low 70's Fahrenheit. In Youngstown Ohio, one of the cities called out with high investor owned vacancies: 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
posted by sideshow at 9:31 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


I vaguely recall that looking for work was a criteria for being included as unemployed

Unemployment numbers also don’t mean people are actually earning a living wage. Having a job doesn’t mean you can actually get by. My grandfather lived in a nice house and supported a big family on a teacher’s salary. Today it’s very different. Employment doesn’t mean what it used to.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:34 AM on February 6 [37 favorites]


Even the phrase "2 houses for every homeless person" sounds nutballs
If you look at the chart, the 2 houses for every homeless person is irrelevant because the majority of the homes are not where people live, they are in small southern towns and the rust belt.


This all seems like the result of having wealth concentrated in the hands of so few.
Check the difference for mean vs median net worth for proof of that. Median net worth (50% have more, 50% have less) minus vehicles is $1250, but mean(average, which is heavily skewed by the top few) is $76k.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:36 AM on February 6 [19 favorites]


I had a dystopian fever dream briefly about the next disruptive tech. Studio (or smaller) sized rooms in worker dorms, (crappy) meals provided as part of rent. "Family sized" rooms being two studios with the internal doors opened.

It solves the problem of homelessness, makes money, and entertains that demon ruling our civilization all at the same time.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:38 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


meanwhile, the City of Atlanta went on multi-decade crusade to shut down all of its public housing while paying 100+ million to a developer for mixed-income developments while also engaging in the process to remove funding for the largest homeless shelter in Atlanta that also happened to occupy a piece of prime real estate

and only 11 people have frozen to death this year! god bless Kasim Reed, so worthy of the praise Obama lavished on him and the DNC / Cory Booker for jumping in and endorsing the hell out of his chosen successor

first to the guillotine - developers, landlords, and house flippers. second to the guillotine - all of the elected politicians who let them run rampant
posted by runt at 9:39 AM on February 6 [20 favorites]


The fact that there are empty investor houses doesn't have any bearing on the real issue, which is a tragic lack of mental health and other related services in this country.

Yes, you're absolutely right. If people so rich they have houses on their houses and houses in their houses and houses they've never seen and houses they forgot about even as they bought them and houses built on manmade islands on top of clouds over Dubais were given the mental health and other related services they so desperately need, they'd perhaps be able to sense the Easter Island collapse of the planet they're driving in time for all of us to avoid it.

If you're saying that the reason unrich people have nowhere to live is that they're deprived of mental health services, then I'm sorry I misunderstood you. The service that solves homelessness is not "don't be crazy" sessions or "don't be drunk" sessions. It's housing.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:42 AM on February 6 [59 favorites]


I had a dystopian fever dream briefly about the next disruptive tech. Studio (or smaller) sized rooms in worker dorms, (crappy) meals provided as part of rent. "Family sized" rooms being two studios with the internal doors opened.

It'll have to be disruptive in the traditional sense (ie: heavily ignoring laws) because worker dorms are basically illegal in every city in the US. There are only like a half-dozen major cities in the US where individual apartments can be less than 500 sq ft.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:42 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Ah. It's not crazy because the houses are in different places from the homeless people.

Got it.
posted by jonnay at 9:42 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Ah. It's not crazy because the houses are in different places from the homeless people.

Got it.


Oh, no. It's crazy because instead of building homes where people are, we tell them to move some other place, which is difficult and expensive even if you are not homeless.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:44 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


I had a dystopian fever dream briefly about the next disruptive tech. Studio (or smaller) sized rooms in worker dorms, (crappy) meals provided as part of rent. "Family sized" rooms being two studios with the internal doors opened.

Black Mirror did something like this with their 'treadmill' episode.

It'll have to be disruptive in the traditional sense (ie: heavily ignoring laws) because worker dorms are basically illegal in every city in the US. There are only like a half-dozen major cities in the US where individual apartments can be less than 500 sq ft.

SROs still exist in SF and LA. Chicago and NYC too, I think.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:45 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Unemployment is at a historic low

Some people have two, even three jobs!

they're just crazy for labor
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:50 AM on February 6 [33 favorites]


I think there's a middle path somewhere between "guillotines" and "at their mercy".

Slightly smaller guillotines?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:51 AM on February 6 [33 favorites]


The fact that there are empty investor houses doesn't have any bearing on the real issue

so multi-billion dollar entities buying up hundreds of properties in my city for a pittance, forcing out their original owners by manipulating property taxes, cutting deals with city politicians, tearing serviceable houses down so they can invest massive amounts of equity turning those into bougie McMansions to sell above market price, only selling to people with good, white credit who then go on to join NPUs and HoAs that push through expensive, restrictive lawn and house appearance requirements, all while those self-same developers work on dismantling every single social service that could empower homeless folks like public housing, shelters, DoL job training centers, and so on because those spaces occupy prime real estate because they happen to be right in the middle of public transportation hubs and grocery stores, all that has less to do with the issue of homelessness than the homeless themselves not having better mental health services?

you think a well-adjusted person without a cent in his bank, limited job opportunities, no home address to which to deliver checks/verify identity/receive bills, who lives in daily misery, that all he needs are meds and some therapy to make it in this world?

if this isn't the neoliberal take on the conservative bootstraps theory then I don't know what it is. why blame corporations, our friends, when you can blame city social services while also subversively blaming the homeless for being too mentally deficient to afford housing?
posted by runt at 9:51 AM on February 6 [58 favorites]


It'll have to be disruptive in the traditional sense (ie: heavily ignoring laws) because worker dorms are basically illegal in every city in the US. There are only like a half-dozen major cities in the US where individual apartments can be less than 500 sq ft.

They'll call them something new, despite them being apartments, like buying a month long pass to a "FloorShare" of a building or buying "Efficiency Roomlet Access". They'll then try to spend as long in court as possible to make the things difficult/impossible to remove (the Uber/Lyft model).
posted by Slackermagee at 9:52 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I can’t see SV companies even bothering to make company housing. There’s currently no shortage of employees for them to chew through. Why provide an extra benefit, even one employees would have to pay for? Why even invest in housing? Their end goal is to make employees obsolete anyway.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:02 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


> SROs still exist in SF and LA. Chicago and NYC too, I think.
Across the U.S. an estimated 1 million S.R.O. units were destroyed between the mid-1970’s and 1990’s. The bulk of these demolitions happened in relatively short, intense periods. Chicago lost 80% of its 38,845 units between 1960-1980 (31,396 total units.) (Hoch and Slayton pg. 121) New York lost 60% of its units between 1975-81 (over 30,000 units.) Seattle lost 15,000 units between 1960-81, San Diego lost 1,247 units between 1976-84, Portland lost 1,700 units, and Denver lost nearly two-thirds of its S.R.O.’s during the period. (Wright and Rubin pg. 7)

In all of these cities, including San Francisco, there was concurrent demolition and conversion of many low-income apartment buildings. In San Francisco, between 1970 and 2000, almost 9,000 low-rent apartments were demolished or converted. Between 1980 and 2000, another 6,470 were converted to condominiums.
posted by rtha at 10:04 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


I can’t see SV companies even bothering to make company housing. They have tried actually. Shot down. Worth considering, but not worth fighting for I guess.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:04 AM on February 6


They'll call them something new, despite them being apartments, like buying a month long pass to a "FloorShare" of a building or buying "Efficiency Roomlet Access".

It's already here...

WeLive: convenient community or a dorm for adults?

The Rise of the Co-Living Startup
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:05 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


Regular people are no longer the drivers of the economy - the super-wealthy are. And the rest of us are pretty much at their mercy.

Truth. I feel this in my large, mainstream Protestant church. The priest is a jerk; most people hate him. But, he knows how to turn it on to the rich people to ask for donations, so the organization is financially healthy and the governing bodies allow him to stay. In the meantime, the rest of us try to ask for spiritual guidance and comfort when we need it (he was recently insensitive to the family of a loved one who died), and we walk away feeling upset and not sure what to do next.

Eating cake, indeed. One of these years, the people will rise up.
posted by sockerpup at 10:06 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Employment doesn't mean what it used to

Nearly all jobs created since 2015 are temporary, low paying.
posted by The Whelk at 10:06 AM on February 6 [25 favorites]


The fact that there are empty investor houses doesn't have any bearing on the real issue, which is a tragic lack of mental health and other related services in this country.

Is there a reason why they can't both be contributing to the problem?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:08 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Sorry, my comments were meant to be about the 33% or so of the homeless with severe mental illness, not those forced into homelessness in other ways. I phrased poorly.
posted by Huck500 at 10:08 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


before everyone dives in on doing Hong Kong-style 5x5' housing, The Whelk linked to the idea of the Community Land Trust that's people here in Atlanta have been working very diligently on making happen. from their linked article:
A CLT is a nonprofit entity that stewards the housing or other buildings on its property by retaining ownership of the land—a unique ownership structure that advocates say help ensure the buildings remain permanently affordable. The model is also believed to promote democratic and community-driven decision making, with CLTs usually governed by a “tripartite board,” in which one third of members are residents of the property itself, one third live in the surrounding neighborhood, and one third are other stakeholders like nonprofits, elected officials, or funders. The concept was originally conceived by Black farmers seeking to protect Black assets in the Jim Crow South but has in recent years become a strategy used in urban settings to help communities maintain affordable housing.
in NYC, a CLT would fill the gap between public housing and private rentals. give the people the democratic ability to regulate rent pricing in their own community and everyone benefits. in Atlanta, a sufficiently progressive CLT might include an effort to court section 8 housing development. even if it doesn't, that measure is far, far, far more of a possibility than going through City Councils who deal directly with the developers who have the time, money, and influence to talk to them all day long and less so with the citizens who are at work most of the time the council opens up their floor for public comments
posted by runt at 10:10 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


I think there's a middle path somewhere between "guillotines" and "at their mercy".

Mob Member 1: Pitchforks?
Mob Member 2: Little, smaller guillotines?
Mob Member 3: Social democracy?

[everyone stares at Mob Member 3]

Mob Member 3: —I mean, bayonets?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:11 AM on February 6 [29 favorites]


SV companies have gone the other route - have sprawling campuses with everything you need to live except beds, and have the occasional fits-under-a-desk cot for "late night programming." But you're not, technically, actually living there.

They don't want the liability hassles of legally providing housing, but they're happy to set up traps to keep the techies on-site. (Non-techies are considered interchangeable and disposable; they're not going to provide any kind of housing-like amenities for them.)
---
Any project to seriously reduce homelessness, is going to mean changing housing laws, and that's a delicate matter. On the one hand, "just give them rooms" is an obvious solution. On the other... the abusive landlords who currently squeeze people into permanent debt for crappy rooms in apartments would be ecstatic to squeeze three times as many in the same amount of space.

Any solution that means reducing some of the current restrictions on how people can get housed needs detailed regulations and a lot of oversight, or it's going to be corporate-CEO-gone-landlord, buying up abandoned gymnasiums and declaring they are now "shared dorms" for 700 people at $350/month each, with no storage for possessions and no management of "interpersonal problems," like rape.

(But hey! You can pay an extra $50/month to rent a school locker, if you provide your own lock. No, they're not going to provide security; that's what your lock is for.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:15 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


A visual catalogue of every empty storefront in NYC’s West Village.

I recently interviewed a man named Florent Morellet, whose restaurant Florent was a neighborhood institution in the Meatpacking District for over 20 years. He had to close up shop in 2008 because, although the restaurant was still perfectly successful and popular, the landlords wanted to raise his rent to $35,000 a month.

I think it's a Nordstrom's now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:21 AM on February 6 [17 favorites]


Mental health absolutely affects housing, but only for a portion of homeless citizens. I've seen numbers that range from 10%-40% for the percentage of homeless individuals who have significant mental illness, but the percentage within that of those whose mental illness totally prevents them from accepting housing will be much smaller. So we're looking at a very small number of people who fall into that category. We need a solution for them as well, but their visibility can be distracting when talking about the larger group of homeless folx as a whole.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:24 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


Serious policy considerations aside (and CLTs seem great! I’ve also seen some co-ops with income ceilings), I am absolutely 100% FINE with going after NYC developers with both guillotines and pitchforks. They don’t even have to be metaphorical guillotines or pitchforks, but I will also accept massive asset seizure as penalties for money laundering and all the horrible things they’ve done to tenants over the years.

Seriously, there are not many groups of people on the planet more deserving of mob justice than NYC real estate developers.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:29 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


corporate-CEO-gone-landlord, buying up abandoned gymnasiums and declaring they are now "shared dorms" for 700 people at $350/month each, with no storage for possessions and no management of "interpersonal problems," like rape.

You talk like that is some kind of terrible thing, but that is exactly what they do in disaster scenarios, and guess what? It's better than sleeping outside and the amount of crime is the basically the same. People in Houston who lost their homes lived in a gym for close to 3 months, and they had to kick the last few out. What happens to them? they probably become homeless.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:30 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Don't forget that millions of people with diagnosed mental illnesses are perfectly capable of owning homes and holding down perfectly good jobs, and they do. But major stressors (e.g., homelessness) can exacerbate otherwise manageable mental illnesses into, well, the sorts of behavior we often see from people who live on the streets.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:31 AM on February 6 [33 favorites]


I live in a rust belt city of ~150k that had a lot of homeless people. We have nearly helped everyone, and are helping new arrivals from Chicago, by building a little more public housing and coordinating care between all public and private orgs across the political spectrum. This saves a lot of wasted effort without reducing the quality of care or threatening funding. Other cities are looking at our model and the software it uses now, so I’m encouraged this problem can be solved, at least in areas with reasonable property prices.
posted by michaelh at 10:33 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


Unemployment numbers also don’t mean people are actually earning a living wage. Having a job doesn’t mean you can actually get by. My grandfather lived in a nice house and supported a big family on a teacher’s salary. Today it’s very different. Employment doesn’t mean what it used to.

This is true, and the BLS only considers people actively looking for work in the widely cited U-2 unemployment figure. The BLS also does not have a definition for underemployment, that I know of.

I imagine Medieval England would have a similarly low unemployment rate, but that doesn't mean the peasants were living a great life. It's time to move beyond this one metric as a core guiding measure of the economy. It says little to nothing about income, quality of life, benefits, or distribution. Like measuring academic potential with an SAT score.
posted by hexaflexagon at 10:40 AM on February 6 [10 favorites]


Speaking from direct anecdotal experience we're still really only talking about the visible homeless - because that's what people actually see and what actually inconveniences them and makes them feel uncomfortable.

And as much a the public political will want to "solve" the problem, it's pretty clear that by "solve" they really mean "make the nasty, dirty, scary visible homeless people go away so we can stop feeling shitty about being shitty, selfish people." and not "allowing homelessness to happen is a terrible way for society to behave."

It's kind of like the problem with unemployment stats not counting people who just gave up looking for regular work.

The people you can see on the street and congregating in camps are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There's almost always way more invisible homeless people. These people look like they have jobs and homes. They quietly sit in corners of coffee shops and libraries all day, and often have a computer and look like they are working or are actually working.

At night they sleep in cars, on friend's couches or tucked and hidden away on the streets or greenbelts - away from groups. I've seen these kinds of people sleep everywhere from rooftops to hiding in parking structures, anywhere they can fit a sleeping bag and effectively hide for the night.

While these invisible homeless may or may not be dealing with acute/chronic mental health issues, if they are it's - again - invisibly and quietly. They're not ranting in the streets in months-old dirty pants, panhandling or making a public nuisance of themselves. They're not making messes. They're not setting up tents on sidewalks.

But they're there and they're largely uncounted and invisible, and they likely vastly outnumber the much more visible homeless populations.
posted by loquacious at 10:42 AM on February 6 [47 favorites]


At night they sleep in cars, on friend's couches or tucked and hidden away on the streets or greenbelts - away from groups. I've seen these kinds of people sleep everywhere from rooftops to hiding in parking structures, anywhere they can fit a sleeping bag and effectively hide for the night.

I lived for a number of years in an apartment building in DC that had a fire stairway that ended in a landing near the roof that almost no one ever visited, and there was clearly someone camping out there at night. I've also stumbled on numerous make-shift camps in Rock Creek Park, and on a large vacant lot owned by Catholic University (which is near a patch of woods with a tent encampment). Homelessness in the 80s and 90s here was very much a masses of people on the downtown streets phenomenon, but I've seen a lot of evidence of the situation you describe. Endless harassment by the city and gentrification are driving people to the margins and to as much invisibility as they can muster as a survival strategy.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:50 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I also worry about the cultural shifts that have gone in hand with this kind of crisis. The tiny house thing terrifies me, because it sets the bar low for what should be considered a need rather than something frivolous. I remember complaining on this site about my shared, small (sub 450 sq ft) apartment, and people being all "well no one NEEDS a lot of space." On the one hand, I want to be self-aware and not simply expect luxuries... on the other hand, my apartment is really small and cramped. And the thing is, a bigger apartment feels luxurious; as uncomfortable as I am here, gosh, could I justify so much space if I could even afford it?

I feel like this is part of the battle, too, as more and more in our lives is successfully recast as frivolity. I've been reading a lot of historical newspapers to study certain people from 100+ years ago, and I read about someone taking a vacation. This was a working-class black man, who lived in a working-class part of town and earned a modest income. And it struck me that I no longer think of a vacation as a reasonable thing to do, like sure, everyone wants one, but it's not exactly a right, is it? (Coincidentally, that same day I saw an argument here on this site, with someone saying how stupid it is to complain about a total luxury like a vacation).

I don't know. I feel like we're sharpening our pitchforks, but letting our expectations be redefined in ways that primarily benefit capitalism. We all want fair housing, but that no longer seems to mean what it used to. Who stands to gain by giving up the expectation that one's apartment should be a certain size? I mean that as an honest question, because I'm probably too biased to know for sure.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:56 AM on February 6 [37 favorites]


Also

I imagine Medieval England would have a similarly low unemployment rate, but that doesn't mean the peasants were living a great life.

Fun fact! Medieval peasants, on average, didn't work more than about 150 days per year (depending on where they were) thanks to an abundance of holidays. Days were long, working conditions were hard, and living conditions were, not surprisingly, downright medieval, but they weren't working 3 jobs at minimum wage, either.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:05 AM on February 6 [23 favorites]


Is the record low unemployment number including people who gave up looking for work?

No, but that gets recorded too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports six unemployment statistics. The one that's The Unemployment Rate is U3, which is people who are looking for work and can't find it as a percentage of the labor force (people who are employed + people looking for work).

They also report U4, U5, and U6, which add different groups in. U4 is U3 plus people who say that they've given up looking because they don't think there's a job for them. U5 is U4 plus people "marginally attached" to the labor force (people who aren't looking for work but who don't specifically say it's because they think there's no work). U6 is U5 plus people working part time who'd prefer to work full time.

(The point being that these other numbers are not some dark secret that They want you not to know -- they're reported all the time and are freely available)

All of them generally move together. U5 and U6 are not at record lows but are definitely low.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:09 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Hey - that's my little sister suing Orange County, in that link Huck500 posted. I could not possibly be prouder of her or the work she's chosen to do.
posted by Stacey at 11:10 AM on February 6 [31 favorites]


I have a theory that this is time-bomb effect of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. That event decimated the net worth of the middle class and the working poor. Couple that with surging costs of living and medical care, and a lot of people have burned through their savings just to stay afloat. It's badly damaged the safety net effect of the social network. Many words have been written about what defines "middle class" or "upper middle class", but maybe one criterion should be: In an emergency, do you have friends or family with the resources to stop you from sliding into homelessness? Could they break your fall for three weeks, or three months, or three years? I suspect a lot more folks are now without that security than in 2005 or 1995.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:16 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


that is exactly what they do in disaster scenarios, and guess what? It's better than sleeping outside and the amount of crime is the basically the same

It is. It's terrific for short-term emergency relief. (They don't charge disaster victims for it, though.) It's a terrible plan for long-term housing for many, many reasons. Privacy. Storage for work/school clothes/gear. Health concerns. Getting sleep around crying babies. Accessibility. Heating/cooling control. Childcare. Visits from friends/relatives. And that's before you get into issues of people who don't treat each other politely.

College-dorm-esque settings would be fine for long-term housing. Multi-bed gymnasiums would not, and I would worry that allowing them for temporary relief in non-disaster-emergency settings would result in landlords trying to manage them for maximum profit.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:16 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


we have a park near our neighborhood that has homeless encampments. I've definitely seen brightly Columbia/Patagonia-vested hikers walk up to them and decide that their first and best reaction was to call the cops

there were also homeless camps under the overpass near my train station that were recently cleared out, the minor goods of their lives gathered in clear, plastic trashbags to be picked up by garbage trucks. their mortal sin was to set up under an overpass right next to newly constructed luxury condos 'starting in the upper 300s' that took a while to sell for reasons obviously unrelated to the fact that they were right next to an incredibly busy overpass and those prices are higher than what remodeled homes in my neighborhood are going for

the depth of people's selfishness knows no bounds particularly if their privilege entitles them to a utopian level of daily comfort. that's the suburban attitude brought to the city - all clean, manicured, and stuffed full of poke places

I no longer think of a vacation as a reasonable thing to do, like sure, everyone wants one, but it's not exactly a right, is it? (Coincidentally, that same day I saw an argument here on this site, with someone saying how stupid it is to complain about a total luxury like a vacation)

hi yeah, that was me specifically in response to someone who was indecisive about the role their multiple-propertied landlord friends who short-term rent their properties out on AirBnB had in displacement and white supremacy since the vacation to exotic locales bit was used as an example for 'struggling in society' in the same way their friends 'struggled' to afford to live in the middle of Brooklyn

people deserve an extended break from work. in the same way, people who are affected by multiple oppressions and face the worst capitalism has to offer should have their experience of the world centered over our own. because there's a bit of a history of systemic racism and such in this country, ya know?

I read about someone taking a vacation. This was a working-class black man, who lived in a working-class part of town and earned a modest income

this is tokenizing and anachronistic and has what to do with the amelioration of homelessness?
posted by runt at 11:16 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I feel like this is part of the battle, too, as more and more in our lives is successfully recast as frivolity. I've been reading a lot of historical newspapers to study certain people from 100+ years ago, and I read about someone taking a vacation. This was a working-class black man, who lived in a working-class part of town and earned a modest income. And it struck me that I no longer think of a vacation as a reasonable thing to do, like sure, everyone wants one, but it's not exactly a right, is it? (Coincidentally, that same day I saw an argument here on this site, with someone saying how stupid it is to complain about a total luxury like a vacation).

I think I know the thread you're talking about with your last sentence; was it the one about AirBnB? If so, I think there's a bit more nuance than "it's stupid to complain about a luxury like a vacation" (and I say that as the one who was being told I was stupid, and subsequently noped out of the thread as a result becaase I was getting too mad). The fuller context was that it was stupid to be complaining that taking away AirBnB would prevent you from taking a vacation, at a time when AirBnB was also jacking up rents and contributing to the housing crisis. (Which conveniently ties it in to this discussion.)

Ultimately, though, the AirBnB study concluded that there was a small percentage at the top that was doing the most damage; a small handful of people who owned entire buildings and posted individual units on AirBnB, running illegal hotels. Just like we have the very wealthy who own more than one property solely as a tax dodge, leaving them to stand empty.

And instead of focusing on the fact that it's this small group that is ruining things for all of the rest of us, we tear down each other with accusations that wanting vacations or avocado toast or whatever is frivolous. Being concerned about the homeless and working towards financial equity for all should not require the individual to deny themselves what they consider to be things that would enhance their quality of life.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


Just yesterday, I read that an encampment a block from my old apartment (in northeast LA) has been destroyed, and that a local business was - literally - salting the fucking ground to try to prevent people from reestablishing it.

I can't remember whether I read about this on Metafilter or elsewhere, but hundreds of of people are paying $1000 a month to rent RVs in LA because they are out of other options anywhere near where they need to be for work. A city council member has decided to spend his energy and political capital seeking to ban this practice, instead of trying to address the underlying issues or make it safer.

This kind of crab-bucketing feels more pronounced to me in LA than anywhere else I've ever lived. The distances - spatially, socially - between the people who are in a position to make and enforce housing policy at the city level, the people who own housing, and the people seeking shelter, much less affordable housing, feel overwhelmingly vast.
posted by Anita Bath at 11:18 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


Being concerned about the homeless and working towards financial equity for all should not require the individual to deny themselves what they consider to be things that would enhance their quality of life.

it also includes a cultural shift in what things people feel entitled to, how they go about acquiring those things, and what impact those things have on vulnerable populations. it also requires focusing on the lived experiences of someone who is decidedly not entitled to the same things you are instead of arguing, affirmatively, about how you deserve the right to go on vacation

the quote isn't 'locate the most effective population of people who should be changed in the world in an abstract, theoretical, inactive way', it's 'be the change you want to see in the world', right? that's what it means to have good praxis and to be accountable
posted by runt at 11:24 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


The rents in my college town have doubled in tripled in 10 years. It was $800 for a two bedroom apartment, and now it's $2000 for a two bedroom apartment. It's so disgusting. They don't really care about us.
posted by yueliang at 11:25 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Runt, if you will allow that people are allowed to have different yardsticks for how much they can contribute to the cause, I am happy to drop this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:29 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


We're talking about the US here; the only pitchforks being sharpened are intended for use against poor folks and minorities, and the average American is just fine with that.
posted by aramaic at 11:31 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


On the disruption and privatization of public services and goods: here's a startup that's attempting to charge for tap water by arbitraging the temperature.

Only $1.99/mo.

Unlimited chilled, filtered water from the Reefill network for about the cost of one bottled water!

Or access plain ole delicious tap from any
Reefill station for FREE.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:34 AM on February 6


different yardsticks for how much they can contribute to the cause,

if your yardstick is accountable to and in dialogue with others, sure. if it's set by how much you yourself are willing to infringe on your own privileges then no, that kind of unaccountability points to a dangerous cooptation by white feminists/neoliberals of movement spaces that I've seen suck money, energy, time, and participation right out of the scene
posted by runt at 11:37 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I read about someone taking a vacation. This was a working-class black man, who lived in a working-class part of town and earned a modest income

this is tokenizing and anachronistic and has what to do with the amelioration of homelessness?


and

it also requires focusing on the lived experiences of someone who is decidedly not entitled to the same things you are instead of arguing, affirmatively, about how you deserve the right to go on vacation

Look, I don't know why you're being so combative about this. Who was arguing that they, personally, deserve a right to a vacation? What I'm saying is that as access to this sort of thing has shrunk, we think of it less and less as something that one should reasonably want, to the point that I was initially surprised to read about a working-class black man taking a vacation in 1910. I took a step back and realized that it was because I had, without realizing it, recast my expectations for what someone like him could or should be entitled to. Many decades of messaging have driven home the message that vacations are a luxury, rather than something we can reasonably expect people to do. You bet that's linked to unconscious classism and racism.

I'm sorry for misremembering your comment, if that's even the one I'm thinking of (must be - it sounds like a couple of you remember the thread better than I do). I just remember seeing "vacation" and "luxury" together and thinking "huh."

I brought up vacations because this was something that just happened that made me think about how despite all my attempts to be self-aware, I've managed to let myself be tricked into thinking about certain things in certain terms that do an injustice to certain people. It relates to housing in that I think there's a similar cultural shift happening in that realm, where despite great awareness of the issue, we still might sometimes think about certain people getting housing, and picture something less than what they might actually want or reasonably need. Because anything less than the bare minimum can so easily be cast as frivolous. So we see very serious suggestions that we could house the working class in tiny houses, instead of providing more. My comment about the vacation was about how I very recently saw myself falling into that trap, and I'm sorry if I should have made that more clear.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:40 AM on February 6 [25 favorites]


> and that a local business was - literally - salting the fucking ground to try to prevent people from reestablishing it.

"The Department of Public Works has installed $8,700 worth of boulders as a defense against homeless “re-encampment” underneath the tangle of freeway overpasses at Cesar Chavez and Potrero Avenue known as the Hairball.

More boulders are on their way."

Stupid and shameful and wasteful and so fucking mean.
posted by rtha at 11:41 AM on February 6 [13 favorites]


Who was arguing that they, personally, deserve a right to a vacation?

the person referenced by your example

despite great awareness of the issue, we still might sometimes think about certain people getting housing, and picture something less than what they might actually want or reasonably need.


this is maybe true for broader society but people who work on housing justice issues are aware of this, trust me. there are, for example, efforts to implement AMI (average median income) based unit quotas on new developments - meaning that someone who makes below a certain AMI is entitled, by means of zoning that stipulates a minimum number of these units, to the exact same housing unit at the adjusted price that someone who pays full price does. we call this inclusionary zoning in my city, not sure what they call it elsewhere
posted by runt at 11:50 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


This is exactly the kind of thing Proudhon was referring to when he said "property is theft". He wasn't talking about your toothbrush, your clothes, or the home you live in (personal property); he was talking about people who "own" a building, whether a home or a workplace, and extract profit from the people actually living and working there (private property) - which in turn allows them to buy up even more property, drive prices up, and put more people out on the street.

And he was pointing this out in 1840. It's not a new concept, but it seems to be one we steadfastly refuse to learn. That anyone is homeless while there are people sitting on empty buildings that are prohibitively expensive to live in, or even bar people from living in them altogether, is going to be one of those things they teach kids in school many years from now that will make students shake their heads in disbelief and disgust.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:52 AM on February 6 [26 favorites]


I can't remember whether I read about this on Metafilter or elsewhere, but hundreds of of people are paying $1000 a month to rent RVs in LA because they are out of other options anywhere near where they need to be for work

It's not hundreds, and it's young people that want to live within walking distance of El Condor. The Echo, and the Thirsty Crow for as less money as possible. The specific woman profiled in that article is on a street with many people sleeping in the vehicles, and they definitely are not spending $1k a month to anyone. I know because I'm sitting one street over from where she is/was, although her RV went away after the article came out.

The woman could have taken her $1k per month and gone to the Valley and gotten a decent house with roommates, but then she wouldn't be able to walk to the five (5) vegan dessert places (if you count donuts as desert) less than .5 miles from her RV.
posted by sideshow at 11:52 AM on February 6


It is. It's terrific for short-term emergency relief. (They don't charge disaster victims for it, though.) It's a terrible plan for long-term housing for many, many reasons. Privacy. Storage for work/school clothes/gear. Health concerns. Getting sleep around crying babies. Accessibility. Heating/cooling control. Childcare. Visits from friends/relatives. And that's before you get into issues of people who don't treat each other politely.

Sure, but all those things are serious distant secondary factors towards no housing where housing needs to be, and just because they apply to some of the population *some of the time* doesn't mean they aren't a solution for housing any of the population ever. And it's not far off from how the used to house people in the army, so to declare it unworkable is straight up wrong. Truly solving homelessness may involve them sleeping in repurposed gyms for periods of time.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:53 AM on February 6


The woman could have taken her $1k per month and gone to the Valley and gotten a decent house with roommates, but then she wouldn't be able to walk to the five (5) vegan dessert places (if you count donuts as desert) less than .5 miles from her RV.

You know, this is pretty gross. It's been well established at this point that affordable housing is a systemic problem caused by a multitude of factors all stemming from predatory, cancerous capitalism, and I don't think we need to criticize individual people in unverifiable anecdotes as some sort of weapon.
posted by Automocar at 11:58 AM on February 6 [23 favorites]


The vegan dessert places are extremely verifiable. I'm about to walk by two of them on my way to lunch as soon as submit this comment.

I find it interesting that "poor young woman forced to pay $1k to sleep in RV on Rosemont near Santa Ynez because of no other options" is somehow taken for granted as something that is definitely happening, when "young person willing to sleep in an RV to be right in the thick of things and close to work in the coolest part of the city instead of living out in the burbs" is impossible. Guess what? In 7 months I'm marrying someone who did exactly the latter. Except she was in the Hillcrest part of San Diego, and the RV rent went to her father, not some dude.

But you are right, I don't know her story. Article said she was some sort of PA, so perhaps her current gig is at LA Center Studios and those extra 15 mins up the 101 from North Hollywood would just be a bridge to far.
posted by sideshow at 12:45 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


so multi-billion dollar entities buying up hundreds of properties in my city for a pittance, forcing out their original owners by manipulating property taxes, cutting deals with city politicians, tearing serviceable houses down so they can invest massive amounts of equity turning those into bougie McMansions to sell above market price, only selling to people with good, white credit who then go on to join NPUs and HoAs that push through expensive, restrictive lawn and house appearance requirements

That's not what's going on in Youngstown, Ohio, median house or condo value about $43K, mentioned above. Those houses are empty because no one else wants to live there (lost about 18% of its population in the last decade), for the very good reasons that economic opportunities are highly limited, a more stingy social safety net means picking up and moving to a place you don't know anyone is ever more risky, and places like Ohio have chosen to make themselves inhospitable to a lot of people.

Most of those residential trusts and PE funds actually have zero interest in doing what you describe. They are not investing additional funds in these particular kinds of properties. Your average detached or semi-detached house in a city residential neighborhood doesn't even have the acreage to support a McMansion. They just want to extract revenue from what they consider a cheap-to-maintain asset. That creates a whole other, different set of problems.
posted by praemunire at 12:46 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


It's not hundreds, and it's young people that want to live within walking distance of El Condor.

The article that I linked cited a count of more than 2,000 RVs "that have been turned into makeshift dwellings", and they're not confined to Silver Lake. It's not just young, single people living in them, either. Maybe they're not all paying $1k rent, but this is part of the housing crisis that the post is describing.
posted by Anita Bath at 12:52 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


You don't fix homelessness by making housing cheaper (which is fundamentally difficult) or providing public housing (which is often uneconomical or inhumanely awful). You fix it by making people not shit broke. As usual, the only real solution is wealth or income redistribution and a firm/generous anti-poverty net. Most other solutions ends up failing.

The fact that there are multiple empty houses per homeless person is not proof that the housing market *itself* is broken. It is proof that wealth and income is very unequally distributed. Anyway, the homeless person:vacancy ratio does not need to be low or 0 for society to be reasonably just. The idea that if there are n homes and n people then there should be 0 homeless people or everything is horribly broken is super naive—that sort of thinking doesn't translate into effective policies. Can't doesn't and won't.
posted by andrewpcone at 12:57 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]




Anyway, the homeless person:vacancy ratio does not need to be low or 0 for society to be reasonably just.

I would submit that yes, yes it does.
posted by Anita Bath at 1:10 PM on February 6 [11 favorites]


There were a couple RVs that used to park near our place when we lived in LA. I never saw who lived in there, but it's probably just as well not to make assumptions about them all being jerky hipster bohemians, just because there was a profile somewhere of some PA who did it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:13 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I would submit that yes, yes it does.


No. If the houses are not in the same part of the county as the homeless people, that ratio could still be high, and nothing is fucked. If the government owned all the land a bunch of people living in cars and working jobs were forcibly marched to Youngstown where there are no jobs, just so they could live in the vacant homes, that would not be remotely just.

That and like 5 other reasons the ratio could be >0. They are pretty easy to think of.
posted by andrewpcone at 1:16 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


Also, with a solid safety net, we could have a reasonable number of people who choose to live homeless - young adults traveling for a few years, doing pick-up work and staying in hostels; back-to-nature types who want to live in the open for most of the year; professional on-the-road people (truckers, musicians) who have no interest in a permanent house at the moment.

It's a sign of our society's crushing oppression of low- and no-income groups that we don't normally consider voluntarily homeless people. They're a small number, and it's always going to be that way. But a society could have quite a few no-fixed-residence people without being exploitative.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:29 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


That anyone is homeless while there are people sitting on empty buildings that are prohibitively expensive to live in

The empty buildings here are largely foreclosures in poor neighborhoods. (which you wouldn't have known if you hadn't clicked through the links about "investment property"). They aren't luxury housing and aren't prohibitively expensive.
posted by jpe at 1:37 PM on February 6


I lived for a number of years in an apartment building in DC that had a fire stairway that ended in a landing near the roof that almost no one ever visited, and there was clearly someone camping out there at night.

When I was in Belltown it was about every other night we'd find someone setting up camp under our indoor stairwells.

When I worked at a University of California campus there were definitely a number of people living in the nooks and crannies. Some of them weren't very good at blending in as either students or faculty and would eventually get rousted by campus police and issued no trespass warnings and all that.

When I was younger before I was an employee I actually did mainly live on that same campus, either at friends who had dorms on campus or later at the community radio station I volunteered at. The campus was a small city, and had lots of places to hang out, take a nap and survive. I definitely wasn't the only weirdo that effectively "lived" at that community radio station over the years. Like, a few people had lockers and stuff and it was pretty common to find someone asleep under a desk after hours.

Heck, there was a period later where I was working there and intentionally camping near by to save money. There was coin op laundry on site and a number of places to get free showers when you knew where to look. The RV park was one, but a lot of research buildings have bathrooms with showers for overworked researchers/students.

My boss and manager even knew, and would sometimes drop me off on the side of the freeway after work near the onramp so I could just hop a fence and take a short cut to camp instead of hiking there the long way via the access roads. I even had a work issued laptop and a small pile of extra batteries.

Hell, I currently live in a dark, cold basement/garage where I'm glad I have electricity, wifi, a hotplate, a 5 gallon water cube, and I'm quite happy to have it. It'd be utterly miserable for most people, but thankfully I like it really cold and my favorite floor type is probably concrete anyway.

Over the years I've seen people sleep in or live in some really surprising places, with very functional systems.

There's stealth campers and urban nomads out there that carry only a medium day pack who can camp/sleep anywhere from a couple of hedges to behind an electrical transformer or utility box, or even simply a low landscaping wall. Or they might stay up all night and sleep inside somewhere public but hidden during the day. These people can be indistinguishable from an office worker with a laptop backpack or a student.

I know a fellow who spent 6 months illegally camping in the local state park where I worked, evading the rangers for an impressive length of time. His camping system was as simple as a bivy sack and pad, but never more complicated than a simple ultralight sil-nylon a-frame rainfly with the bivy sack under it. All of this is in muted (but not camo) forest colors to aid stealth but still look and blend in with normal backpackers. I actually went looking for his camp and had a hard time finding it even when it told me where it was, because it was so well hidden and took up so little space. You essentially couldn't even see it until you crawled and ducked under the right bushes.

I've seen people in cars where you can't even tell they're living in their car because they keep everything so tidy and buttoned down that they had a system... like fold down back seats and sleeping mostly in their trunk, having black out curtains and tinted windows and more.

I've seen people sleeping up in trees, using climbers platforms and hammocks and actually camping way above people's head. In the right gear in the right trees and forests you can essentially vanish, and not just overnight but for days or weeks.

There's another fellow in town who I find taking naps in the weirdest places. Like tucked into small gaps between a sea wall and the sidewalk or boardwalk above it, or nooks and crannies between buildings or under docks or walkways.

I also know a Vietnam era vet who is fully nomadic in an RV around the area, and essentially lives in state/national parks because as a vet he gets free camping. He's one of about two dozen nomadic RVs I can point out around my small town, and this isn't even counting the ones lucky enough to be parked on private land somewhere.

One of my ex coworkers essentially lived in his conversion van, and split time between that and a small boat he had in the water on the harbor. A lot of times when he left work is was just to go paddleboarding or surfing or something and he'd come back to park in the parking lot and crash there overnight until work the next day.

Shoot, I know someone who once had a full ride scholarship at Cal Tech but no housing. She ended up living in some weird attic crawl space in Rickett's house without any official permission or funding for dorm housing. It was like something straight out of Real Genius, except not nearly as big as Lazlo's lair.
posted by loquacious at 2:09 PM on February 6 [17 favorites]


Tree stands! That's so smart...

Anita Bath, I think your story may be among the top ten most horrifying things I ever read on this site. I cannot believe they spread lime on the public sidewalk and are not now sitting in jail. If you approach other people as you would nuisance animals like rats or pigeons, it might be time to take a long, luxurious soak in those tragically scarce "mental health services" we were discussing up thread.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:24 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


The SF Bay Area in California has a residential vacancy rate that runs from .2% (where I live) to about .6%. That's not investors sitting on tons of property for tax writeoff purposes. The map says there are 815 available properties in my county of over 1.5 million people. I suspect a lot of them are in the midst of renovations and will be on the market soon. OTOH, Siskiyou County has a vacancy rate of 4.8%: 628 properties for a population of ~43,500.

These are good numbers to know, but it's not like we can ship the East Bay's homeless population to Mount Shasta and assume they'll be better off. Even if those 628 properties were made available at reasonable rates, there's no jobs - Alameda County ended 2017 with an unemployment rate of about 3%; Siskiyou had an unemployment rate of 8%, and that's before getting into public transit, schools, nearby shopping, and so on. (Where is all the available housing? Detroit. Over 50,000 residences in the county. 10k more in the Flint area.)

I like the idea of telling "developers," use it or lose it: people need places to live, and you don't get to sit on them, collect tax bonuses, and wait for rich white people to decide to pay you 40% more than all the nearby addresses. But the raw stats of "nationwide, X many homeless, 2X available residences," are not directly relevant.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:41 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]




Here in Minneapolis, the city has spent many hundreds of millions of dollars renovating historic industrial buildings into "artists lofts," which are then given away for free to developers who charge close to market rents. If that money were redirected into housing the homeless, you could probably house almost all of them. But it's more politically popular to give welfare to developers than to individual poor people. Most big cities have similar programs.
posted by miyabo at 6:16 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of telling "developers," use it or lose it: people need places to live, and you don't get to sit on them, collect tax bonuses, and wait for rich white people to decide to pay you 40% more than all the nearby addresses

Development is already really high risk, and we already don't have enough housing in the Bay Area. If you make it harder for them to make money, they will build less housing, so we'll get less housing, so it will stay expensive.

New housing is, given currently regulations, labor costs, and cultural standards, extremely expensive to build, such that rents that could be called "affordable" generally do not cover it without massive subsidy. I think it is a better idea to let the developers make whatever they can—and it *averages* a lot less than people on this thread seem to imagine—and keep existing housing stocks cheap.

Also, "tax bonuses" are not a significant part of most residential development in somewhere like the bay area, except for developments that qualify for the IRS affordable housing credit, which is damn few. Yes, there are some egregious stories. No, tax credits are not lining the pockets of the any significant number of developers on any significant number of new residential developments. In fact, developers in much of the Bay Area have to pay "in lieu fees" for affordable units they don't build, which is pretty much the opposite of a "tax bonus."
posted by andrewpcone at 6:21 PM on February 6


I don't think developers in the Bay Area are sitting on housing for weird tax purposes. I think some of them are likely trying to gentrify or "upgrade" housing, but mostly, we don't have unused housing.

I think there are areas that do, and areas that have a lot of landlords playing the AirBnb game, and we should have regulations that strongly encourage properties to be long-term rented or sold. I don't think "yank things away from developers" is the right way to do that - as mentioned, if they get upset, you don't get more available housing; you get people abandoning the industry.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:30 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


We spend a lot of time and money  in our political economy creating homelessness.  We pay for courts and sheriff's to enforce evictions, we demolish structures and shelters, we pay police to harrass people, we pay police to kick people out of vacant strucutures.  These homeless people were not born feral, through poverty, bad luck, ill health, or the same mistakes the rest of us make, they were targeted for this treatment. 

Every local government puts effort into "ok, so our lawyers say we can't kill the inconvient people in this town, so how do we make their lives so bad that they choose to leave."  Those people might be inconvenient because of their race, sexual identity, poverty, disability, union organizing, hot-headedness, drug related stress coping, history of trauma and ptsd, etc.

Also, every homeowner and their institutional allies try to make housing as "valuable an investment" and therefore as unaffordable, as possible.  Housing is a consumer good, not an investment.  Our society makes this problem, because it enlists  the financial  and social climbing aspirations of petty owners and rich capitalists in a war against everyone else.  If the victims fight back, they are given no rights, no justice, and few if any services.

I didn't realize i was so angry about this. I vote Guilotines
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 8:31 PM on February 6 [14 favorites]


Boarding houses used to house a lot of people in precarious circumstances. Unfortunately, they've been legislated out of existence:
A tightening net of ordinances and codes have helped squeeze rooming houses, and related housing choices, nearly to extinction. Removing certain of these restrictions on room rentals, bed rentals, and shared housing and ending building-by-building mandates for off-street parking could be the fastest, least-expensive, and most sustainable way to make housing more affordable. Doing so could also make homelessness less common; rental income more readily available to some property owners; settlement patterns dense enough to support neighborhood businesses, good transit service, and vibrant street life; and driving less necessary.
Boardinghouses: where the city was born

A Brief History of Co-Living Spaces

Bring Back Flophouses, Rooming Houses, and Microapartments
posted by MrVisible at 5:45 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Boarding houses used to house a lot of people in precarious circumstances. Unfortunately, they've been legislated out of existence

How is that unfortunate? Outlawing those and worker dorms are just some of the slightest pushback against the miseries induced by capitalism. You might as well say, "Child labor used to bring in money for a lot of families in precarious circumstances, but unfortunately it's been legislated out of existence." Or, "Payday lenders can provide valuable credit to precarious families, but unfortunately some states don't allow them to charge unlimited interest rates and fees".
posted by indubitable at 6:13 AM on February 7


Comparing the ability to rent a room in a house (subject to legal mandates as to quality & safety) with regular access to meals or a kitchen seems...not exactly equivalent to "child labor" or payday lenders.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:24 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


How is that unfortunate?
Because it's unfortunate? Rooming houses are great and cheap? I lived in rooming houses throughout college. You paid for your room and shared a kitchen and bathroom. Before we decided we needed to allow private developers to build more expensive, farther-from-campus private dorms everywhere for students, the model in college towns was to repurpose old ridiculously big singlefamily houses to serve students. This gave students and other lowincome people a decent option. You don't need developers to build new shitty plywood 'n' spraycrete crap all over everywhere that you then burn down in an exercise for the fire department ten or fifteen years later so that you can build even shittier crap in its place. You can use what you have. Or could or did, before we tore it all down everywhere for the same reason we tore out the railroad tracks, namely we are in a constant mad rush to enrich the worst dickhead rich people there are.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:29 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Development is already really high risk, and we already don't have enough housing in the Bay Area. If you make it harder for them to make money, they will build less housing, so we'll get less housing, so it will stay expensive.

spoken like someone who takes the free market as a given and believes that building luxury, 3000 square ft condos is really the only way to make sure everyone gets housing
posted by runt at 7:19 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


building luxury, 3000 square ft condos

Ok let’s keep it realistic

In NYC those condos are 1000 sq ft, come on. 3000 sq ft is for when you need to help a Russian oligarch launder some money
posted by schadenfrau at 7:35 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


It is worth noting that in many places the shortage of affordable housing is entirely a manufactured crisis, but one manufactured more for the benefit of older, mostly boomer, middle class people no the ultra rich.

In California, for example, various tax laws were passed which had the effect of letting boomer housing in LA increase in property value by thousands of percent while being taxed at a vastly lower rate than the actual value of the house.

Coupled with building codes all but explicitly designed to prevent the construction of anything but McMansions and the result has been an exploding population adding lots of value to boomers who bought houses 40 or 50 years ago, while squeezing anyone under 40 out of the housing market entirely.

It's also true that many homeless people have untreated mental disorders, but I think that problem would be vastly easier to address if we popped the housing bubble and stopped letting people who own homes and want to treat them as investments rather than places to live dictate things. Especially when they want it both ways. They get the price of their home to skyrocket to obscene heights, but they also get to pay taxes on the home's value from 40 or 50 years ago not its current jacked up value, which creates an incentive to jack up housing prices and keep everyone but the very rich out of homeownership and that in turn makes affordable apartments a fantasy rather than a reality.

There's also a good argument to be made for building some skyrise apartments and mandating X% be either free or close to it. Concentrating the destitute urban homeless into shelters and places explicitly earmarked as for the homeless will do little but guarantee that those places are underfunded, left to rot, and will soon become as bad as the Cabrini–Green. The sad fact is that the people who actually vote won't give a shit if it doesn't hurt them.

So, learn from the past. Don't build "projects" where the urban poor are herded into tiny, crime ridden, places and can be ignored. Integrate the urban poor with the urban middle class so the problems of the middle class are the problems of the poor.
posted by sotonohito at 7:41 AM on February 7 [9 favorites]


[One deleted. Just make your point about policy pros-and-cons, without making it about "what this says about" the personal worth of individual mefites in the thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:25 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Because it's unfortunate? Rooming houses are great and cheap?

There is an entire universe of options available for addressing the problem of housing everyone. This includes but is not limited to building public house that is freely available to everyone or seizing luxury residences and subdividing them to provide same. Deregulating rented spaces like this is one of the options that lowers the living standards of the housed; that decreases the amount of wages necessary to barely sustain the labor force on average and allows business owners to exploit workers even harder; that puts more money in the pockets of landlords by allowing them to pack even more tenants on a given amount of floor space. Presenting haphazardly built new construction by private developers as the only alternative is a false choice.
posted by indubitable at 8:32 AM on February 7


Comparing the ability to rent a room in a house (subject to legal mandates as to quality & safety) with regular access to meals or a kitchen seems...not exactly equivalent to "child labor" or payday lenders.

Because it's not the same at all. We didn't just outlaw child labor, we also instituted free public school of varying quality throughout the entire country. We didn't just outlaw child labor and then throw up our hands and say "good luck with your kids". It's a bit closer to usurious interest rates for payday lenders, but we didn't also outlaw banking for anyone not wealthy enough to pad the bottom line of the banks.

Deregulating rented spaces like this is one of the options that lowers the living standards of the housed Oh are housing standards for the poor super high right now? No they actually are not, and if most cities *actually* enforced code to the letter of the law on the places they live, a lot more people would be out on the streets. We are currently having conversations about living wages and minimum wages, which are completely divorced from how much housing directly costs, because there is not a 1-1 ratio of income to housing costs.

freely available to everyone or seizing luxury residences and subdividing them to provide same. How many kitchens vs bedrooms do you think the average luxury house has? You are describing creating boarding houses.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:41 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]




What's happening where I am is not deregulating housing to create flophouses. What they are doing is changing regulations to benefit developers and eliminate affordable, yet perfectly decent, housing. The new fad is to declare occupation by more than 3 unrelated persons illegal--so if you own a larger single-family house it now makes more sense to sell it than to rent it. And if it's in a student-y area, no single family is going to buy it. You're going to sell it to a developer, likely one from out of town, who's going to tear it down and build a big condo. The result is that a single lower income person will find it pretty much impossible to rent a room in town. That person will have to pay much larger rent on more real estate than they want or need, a one-bedroom or a studio, and then they'll have to pay for utilities.

This is happening and at the same time many many partly empty condo complexes with vacant first-stories (because the city has mandated that the first story is for retail--but nobody rents out the store space because the rent is of course astronomical) have sprouted all over town where the, you know, town used to be. The beloved Jamaican place that has been here since 1970-whatever had to close because they tore out the singlestory strip of stores where it was in order to build another multistory mostly empty condo complex. So did the beloved burrito place, the beloved falafel place, the beloved bookstore and so on and so on and so on. None of these beloved places can afford to stay, but we do now have a miniTarget, and we're getting a Wawa, yee to the fucking haw.

The purpose of the system being what it does and all, I've concluded that the purpose of the system is to raze old housing stock, drive out small local business, and hand the entire city over to out-of-town developers and chain stores. Because that is what is happening. Even the local despised real estate developer fatcats are getting driven out of the game. And the homeless population grows every year.

As a member of one of the generations that spent its low-income years in the exact type of housing they are rendering illegal, I resent this. Until I couldn't find one and had to rent a one-bedroom I didn't want and couldn't really afford, I always lived in shares. Two of them were legit rooming houses. All of them, not one exception, were lovely old things built before 1930. And all of them including the local-slumlord-managed rooming house one across from the hospital helipad were maintained more regularly and to a higher standard than that one-bedroom.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:45 AM on February 7 [7 favorites]


The new fad is to declare occupation by more than 3 unrelated persons illegal

This is horrible. I looked up details; apparently it specifically targets college students, on the theory that, I suppose, four of them renting a house together will have nonstop parties and debauchery. (Most places have special exceptions for roominghouses, dorms, and so on, but getting one isn't a matter of "just fill out the form and pay the license fee.") I recommend that groups of students rent a house together and become Pastafarians, and insist they need to live close to each other so they can all be touched by His Noodly Appendages at the same time.

Restaurants have always had problems with rentals - they'll rent a place in a busy area, and if they're really good and somewhat lucky (or vice versa), they'll survive their first few years... and then their lease will be up, and their landlord will notice that they're successful, and jack the rent up 35%. Or just double it.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:29 PM on February 7




I recommend that groups of students rent a house together and become Pastafarians, and insist they need to live close to each other so they can all be touched by His Noodly Appendages at the same time.

Housing court doesn't actually work like a National Lampoon spring break comedy.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:32 AM on February 8


ErisLordFreedom, yes, that's exactly it. And they WILL have nonstop parties and debauchery, of course, and then the "get off my lawn" types can use the time-honored method of calling the cops and saying, "They're partying nonstop and debauching," and the cops will come shut the party down. Or the other time-honored method of not moving into the student ghetto in the first place if they are enraged by houseparties. They don't have to force the kids out and destroy the landscape of the entire town.

We are talking restaurants that were there FOREVER, not just their first years. FOREVVVVEERRR. Happy, functioning, life-sustaining, job-creating small business of the sort that the city insists it's all about protecting, shaded out and made extinct by the condo monoculture.

Also, every new CVS or wait, is it Walgreens? I forget. Every one built has to be two stories with the store on the bottom and rental on the top. Every single one of these so far has a years-vacant top story. It's like the gross building practices that characterized the savings and loan crisis, but this time it's not cowboy renegades, it's actually mandated by the zoning code.

It is insane.
posted by Don Pepino at 5:47 AM on February 8




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