The neighborhood I live in is changing fast. Developers are pouring in, and life-long residents are being priced out. M and I have given up on trying to stay here. Sometimes we just look at real estate prices and marvel that *anyone* can afford to live here!
The whole situation seems a bit hopeless, so I was intrigued to find a flyer, translated into four languages, tucked into my mailbox one day. The flyer was an invitation to a meeting where community members could form a council that could work together and have a voice as the city evolves. I was interested to learn more, so about a week later I found myself standing in the back of a high school cafeteria, watching a presentation along with a small crowd. The presentation was very hopeful and energized—if disorganized at times. And then… the floor was opened to questions.
Very quickly, the tone of the meeting changed. There were a lot of harshly worded questions and criticisms of the meeting’s organizers—some warranted, some completely uninformed. It quickly became clear that there were two opposing groups: renters and property owners. I feel naïve that I didn’t see it coming, but I was stunned by how quickly tempers flared, held back only by a façade of civility. It makes sense, right? Of course renters don’t want to be priced out, and it’s equally clear that property owners only stand to gain if the neighborhood becomes more expensive.
I left the meeting feeling more demoralized than before. It’s not just the conflicting interests, or the rancor—it was the inability of people—neighbors—to work together in a meaningful way. It was the way people were so eager to tear down an institution that didn’t even exist yet, instead of giving it a chance.
About a month ago, one of my neighbors told me that overnight his landlord had raised his rent by 50%, and that he was being evicted at the end of the year. He said that he was retired, that he could barely afford rent as it was, and that he had nowhere else to go. I can’t help but feel that this is happening everywhere—not just in my neighborhood, but in cities everywhere. I know it’s not a new phenomenon, but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with. And I feel helpless.
And it makes me all the more determined to buy a house. Renters can’t compete with developers. And if you can’t beat them…