Throughout the nation where people can no longer afford to rent apartments while working on the minimum wage, local government officials and activists alike are trying to solve the problem, and few people are coming up with good answers. In theory, federal housing vouchers would be best because the federal government is supposed to have the biggest budget and the least bias, as composed to the states. In practice, the partisan wrangling has distorted the conversation to one about “freeloading” and “personal responsibility,” of which both parties are guilty of pathologizing the distressed. This is what actually needs to happen to fix the housing problem: local governments need to start changing the narrative of what goes on within their borders and stop letting private entities control cost of living increases.
Despite the hand wringing that has continued over the rising cost of housing, everyone knows that segregation is the biggest factor behind the bloated infrastructure. In short, if some people refuse to live next to other people, and the government is managed by the former, the infrastructure is designed to keep certain kinds of people away from the rest of the “general population.” This goes for roads, sewage, electricity, and all of the other amenities that combine to create a life for the general public; in fact, the size of the infrastructure is one of the reasons that the digital divide exists. Failing to acknowledge segregation as a cause perpetuates the dehumanization of marginalized communities, and also perpetuates segregation.
Even though it is often the sentiment of homeowners, developers are also the cause of rising housing costs based on their unwavering belief in the inalienable right to make excessive profits–not just profits, but excessive profits. Instead of reviewing the salaries of the majority of local governments, developers have chided their naysayers by holding up a global market while refusing to take responsibility for disruption and displacement. Taking a risk to flip one house for the random six-figure owner is expected; clearing out communities in favor of a preferred population is social engineering. Until private entities express remorse for eschewing the local markets in favor of the global elite, housing will never be seen as a right, but a privilege.
What is finally happening is that people are refusing to accept the dominant narrative’s excuses for why several people cannot afford to have reasonably comfortable lives. By “reasonably comfortable,” I mean more than being able to simply go to work and come home. I mean the personal empowerment of individuals to expand their social worlds beyond their immediate families and work environments and gain skills for the purpose of expression, not to be monetized. Also, I mean the freedom to traverse their communities and the world without having to forfeit their sense of well-being, such as food, healthcare, or shelter.
The City of Minneapolis just took a step to change the narrative of people making money off people needing to live. A landlord made excuses for why a situation had to remain the same, and the city could have done studies, created task forces, submitted applications for federal grants, or waited until elections–all while people were forced out on the streets. Instead, local government officials reviewed the situation and made a decision that helped keep communities together, proving that it is possible to reduce displacement and housing trauma. While turning thoughts and attitudes is difficult, it is not impossible, and it is time to express the political will of the populace.