Looking for a place to live is almost as frustrating as looking for a place to work. Everyone needs a home, but people are actively creating barriers to solving that problem. Homeownership is out of reach for many because of the predatory nature of the real estate industry, but apparently, owning a home was not enough for the industry to control. Now, searching for places to rent is just as predatory and emotionally exhausting for most people, and there are no signs that governments are interested in addressing the issue.
To start, most apartment complexes are run by property management companies, and each has a different application. Depending on where someone lives, those fees can be anywhere between $100 and $400–per apartment. “Per” meaning that before anyone says yes, before anyone even states the amount needed for a deposit, a potential renter has paid the amount of money most people are unable to save. This application fee also adds an incentive to keep bothering renters who may have chosen a different location, or pressure people to submit multiple applications, increasing the costs to move. Consider that such costs can also keep people in abusive situations. If someone is moving with a roommate, applications are per person, which means that each person needs to be able to shell out a minimum of $40.
Another issue with applications includes credit checks. Generally older populations like credit checks because 1) many people had steadier income in the past, 2) things costed less, and last but certainly not least, 3) credit was invented by them. Like stalking college students to give them a frisbee–telling you the age of the author–many institutions demand credit checks, which requires that people have credit. Global populations often come to the United States to earn money, but their potential credit is at home. Limited financial history means that people are effectively segregated, and service workers have limited access to “amenities” like public transportation, health care, and employment.
While some rental properties offer specials, the dominant narrative will offer the explanation of “the market” for the constantly fluctuating rental prices. Because “the market” is based on rainbows and kittens, no one can actually predict what rent will be or how much it could rise at renewal. Sometimes prices are determined by algorithms, which could significantly distort the affordability of certain areas. As most people understand, property appraisal is sketchy at best, since the Appraisal Foundation was born out of market speculation during the savings and loan crisis in 1989. Remember, the potential renter still has no keys in hand, but already has a mountain of competing agendas to consider.
Some would argue that people can simply rent from private landlords–like the people who bought up affordable property to become “business owners.” Without further discussion, one can already see that private landlords are a red flag of displacement in historic communities of color. If a property management company demands information from a landlord before approval, said landlord can either hold people hostage or make people homeless with the capacity to destroy rental history. Racial bias already makes it difficult for non-white people to live in most places, but displacing landlords simply add insult to injury. Absentee landlords make scamming possible because bots can demand personal information and cash without even offering a tour–and desperate people have little time for scrutiny.
During leases, private landlords can renegotiate contracts during the contract, and renters have little recourse. For example, if an appliance breaks, a landlord can refuse to fix it, claiming that the tenant should be responsible. The tenant can either a) pay to have it fixed or b) replace it. Remember that the tenant is living a life, and most people live paycheck to paycheck, so time actually is money; repairs require appointments and most tenants simply lack the time. Thus, a private landlord can effectively force the tenant to make improvements to the property in addition to paying rent–and this behavior is perfectly legal.
How can these problems be fixed to end homelessness and reduce the cost of living? Remember, the right people have to see these issues as problems before they can be fixed. Also, most politicians own property portfolios, so they would rather tell everyone that more property should be built to make developers more money instead of making housing affordable. Sure, a token investigation will take place, but the findings will be slim since developers and brokers fund campaigns. All those renters should expect things to get worse, not better, because a lack of ethics in real estate means that the dragons will continue hoarding for years to come.