Housing Inequality

First I read that housing affordability had gone down. Less people can now afford to buy homes. Young people who have school loan payments can’t afford both that and a mortgage. And aside from the fact that after the 2008 crisis, banks are more careful about loans, the chief cause is that property prices are increasingly out of the reach of many.

Then I read that rent is taking up larger and larger proportions of individual earnings. It used to be that 30% was a reasonable expectation. It is now about 50%. What that means is that for those renters there is less disposable income for other necessities. It also means that many in the lower income brackets can’t afford existing rents. They double up and that tends to create family and other problems. In my, as in many, neighborhoods doubling up is not a viable alternative. Most municipalities have occupancy limits per given number of rooms, or property owners balk at the idea of more people using their buildings than those they rented to.

Later I read that there is a ban on living in a vehicle, that police have arrested people when it looked that they were living in their vans or trucks or RV’s or cars. Some property owners in the Venice Beach area of Los Angeles, for example, succeeded in having the ban passed thinking those people a nuisance. There are efforts underway to overturn the ban but it is not yet clear how successful that will be. People who live in their cars (with some exceptions of course) do so because they can’t afford to pay rent. Where do we as a society think people should go when rents within their budget are too high? And not to forget that more and more cities are not allowing the homeless to sleep on benches and other public places.

Meanwhile I also read that luxury apartments and condominiums are in such demand developers are scurrying to meet it.

The fact that inequality is ensconcing itself in something as critical as housing is to say the least troubling. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies has recently released a study outlining the problem in alarming, if concrete, terms. It’s good to know there are those who noticed and apparently care, and while it underlines how far we need to go before the problem can be on its way to a resolution, it also implies that the stage is being set for that resolution to begin.


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