The Landlord Is A Boss
March 5, 2020 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Rent strikes — in which tenants aim to withhold rent until their grievances are addressed — have grown more common in several cities contending with the impact of gentrification on affordable housing. When Tenants Take On Landlords Over Bad Conditions: A Rent-Strike Explainer (WAMU) “ What are the implications for a tenant’s union? We are currently involved in both building-level landlord fights but also in larger city or even province-wide fights for improved tenant policy.” “Organizing 4 power”, from workers to tenants (Spring Mag) Jane McAlevey talks at The Strand about tenants and collective bargaining (YouTube)
posted by The Whelk (8 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't just a concern for cities: the financialization of single-family homes after 2008 has changed homeowners to home-renters and the new private-equity landlords have been squeezing them for all they've got.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:02 AM on March 5 [9 favorites]

Here in Indy, the city council has passed measures to protect renters' rights, but the republican state legislature is trying to pass laws forbidding cities from doing anything for renters' rights. Indiana has some of the highest eviction rates in the country.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:29 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

moreover, even in the areas where the laws are allegedly friendly to tenants (certain california cities, for example) even in these areas the law is skewed heavily toward favoring landlords.

perhaps it’s not fixable. perhaps the landlord/tenant relationship is inherently abusive. perhaps in a reasonable world being a landlord would be entirely illegal.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:05 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]

Disclaimer - I work for a nonprofit company that develops, owns, and manages affordable housing in the US. So, technically, I am a landlord. I am also a liberal who has spent the vast majority of my adult life trying to create, preserve, and/or improve affordable housing options for low-income folks.

I keep seeing comments here suggesting saying "maybe we should do away with landlords" or, as above, "being a landlord should be illegal". I am genuinely curious about how housing would be developed and operated in a world without landlords.
posted by qldaddy at 2:16 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

I am genuinely curious about how housing would be developed and operated in a world without landlords.

I mean, if you're that curious you could google it. Collective ownership of housing isn't exactly a novel concept, for example.
posted by klanawa at 3:03 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

perhaps in a reasonable world being a landlord would be entirely illegal.

I've considered that, and it was pointed out to me that there is a real demand for temporary housing: Student housing, vacation housing, moving to be near a job that will last 6 months or a year, moving to be near a dying relative for anywhere from a month to two years, etc.

But this thing with lifelong renting has got to go. (I've lived in the same apartment for more than 20 years. I can afford it - but we can't afford to move; we don't have a down payment and could only save first-last-deposit by spending several months in privation.)

Maybe a law that the renter is allowed to buy the dwelling when they've paid a certain amount, so that every rental essentially becomes rent-to-own. People who want short-term housing wouldn't bother. Of course, the anti-eviction laws would need to be strengthened or landlords would work to throw people out before they could buy the place.

And make some laws about leaving places empty in places where housing demands aren't being met: a tax of ~50% of the expected rental value of the place should work. Let the landlord set their own tax level, with the caveat that anyone can look up the amount and demand to rent the place at 2x the level of the tax. (Once a request to rent has been filed, landlord has 60 days to pick a tenant, or the tax and all property taxes in the site triple for the next year.) Throw in an exemption for work/renovations being done.

That should work to kill the Airbnb places, too; they'd be officially "not rented" and available for anyone to put in a request.

Basically: Make renting a marginally profitable activity, instead of an extremely profitable one. Encourage people who own multiple properties to sell it by making it expensive to own more than you live on.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:33 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

But this thing with lifelong renting has got to go.

It can actually work, if the laws and culture were different. In Germany, people do rent for decades. I know someone who's family has essentially rented the same apartment since the 1800's (the apartment keeps going to a different family member when the current tenant dies or moves). But there are very strong rent controls here, so rent cannot be increased at crazy rates like in the US.

So the culture of renting is different since so many people rent for decades at a time. Most people own their kitchens in their rental apartments. It is very common here that an apartment is offered with just an empty room for the kitchen and the tenant either buys a new one or brings their old one. Also, no light fixtures, just the wires hanging out of the ceiling. People really make the spaces their own here, which I would too if I was planning on staying in the same place for decades.

From the time I moved out on my own until now, I have averaged moving about every two years. The Germans I know are horrified when they hear this.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:39 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]

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