I’m an adult-life-long renter who would like to put down roots without owning a house (and who’s observed what heavy mortgages have done to home ‘owners’ trying to buy security for themselves and their families). Trying to hang on to communities we’ve built in Vancouver and the adjacent region has been desperate and at times heartbreaking, as people are priced out, sometimes gradually and sometimes with brutal evictions.
Current residents of a neighbourhood are not valued or protected at any political level once they are priced out, because the value of the neighbourhood has somehow been captured by the real estate market, not the ecology of life in its many dimensions [touched on well by Brenna Bhandar in yesterday’s panel 500 Years of Resistance to Debt, Racism, and Empire]. They get ripped out by the roots.
Or, some hang on. A few find good deals or get on the right co-op list early enough, or have access to personal loans that help them avoid pay-day lenders to make rent and avoid eviction. Some have that negligent landlord who gets them by on cheap rent, while cockroaches scuttle behind the wallpaper. They find ways to live in rhythm (or friction) with twelve roommates. They couch surf or sleep in their cars. It baffles me that this rental system is our status quo, in a time of abundance.
To cut through the tremendous, overwhelming grasp that real estate investment and finance have on public policy and media discourse, we can dive into the stories of people who actually live in the rental zone. This project will listen to stories of renters and tenant activists and amplify their themes and intersections; hopefully, it will also explore ways to reimagine housing norms.