Landlords, the worst kind of cockroaches

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When your landlord literally paints over a cockroach @chellzyeah

Taking advantage of those who cannot afford more and who do not realize that they deserve better makes you the worst kind of bastard.

Canada is in the middle of a housing crisis. Just this summer, police in Toronto, which is infamous for the highest housing prices in Canada, brutally dismantled tent communities in Trinity Bellwood Park, Alexandra Park, and Lamport Stadium Park. They beat, throttled, and pepper-sprayed residents and their allies. This August in Halifax, where rental vacancies are less than two per cent and rent has increased exponentially in recent years, police demolished wooden shelters that had been built for homeless people in that city, destroying many people’s belongings in the process. They arrested protestors and deployed pepper spray against the public, including a 10-year-old child. Just last week in Vancouver, park rangers and park staff began evicting residents of a tent community in CRAB Park. Meanwhile, tenants who have managed to hold on to their apartments are facing dramatically rising rents, with nearly half of Canadians (44 per cent) overspending on rent and 15 per cent spending more than half of their income on rent. The waiting list for social housing in many Canadian cities is years long and the numbers of homeless and “hidden homeless” (people who are couch-surfing or who have found temporary shelter with family or friends) is difficult to calculate and likely much larger than official numbers indicate.

There are many reasons for this crisis, and they’re primarily policy problems rooted in the logic of capitalism. Real estate accounts for around 12 per cent of the nation’s GDP (which is a huge chunk), meaning that politicians and policymakers are reluctant to make any moves that could potentially lead to the devaluation of real estate property. Any intervention in the housing market that would make life better for renters (like non-market housing or massive hikes on capital gains taxes on second homes) will prompt the ire of homeowners and the wealthy who hold tremendous power in both political and private life in this country. There are many interventions that can and must happen to ensure that everyone who lives in so-called Canada has access to housing. They require the organization, cooperation, and mobilization of tenants, poor folks, and their allies to be implemented. I have a limited word count here, and a limited amount of energy (I’m working four jobs so I can pay rent to the owners of the building I live in, who paid off the property before I was born and are making pure profit off of me and my neighbours) so I want to talk about something simple, easy, and fun that we can do to make life better for renters: we need to blame and shame landlords.

Longtime readers will know my feelings on cops – but did you know that all landlords are bastards, too? That means the faceless real estate investment trust that owns the townhouse you grew up in where rent went up $100 every year and the walls were thin enough that you were alerted every time your neighbour had diarrhea. That means the Benz-driving failson who was gifted half a dozen properties across the city that he never checks in on, who you’ve called five times to complain about the wasp nest in your bedroom wall, who made you live off microwave meals for six months before he changed out your stove. It means the guy who converted his basement into a shoddily wired, illegal suite that he rents to people too new to the country to realize they have a right to an apartment with windows and a closet. It means the guy who evicted a single mother because her baby cried too loud, and it means the guy who evicted a 102-year-old woman so his daughter could move in. It’s easy to identify these landlords as bastards. They are callously hoarding a precious resource, enriching themselves off the labour of others, and condemning people to houselessness without a second thought.

But the first “A” in ALAB means “all”. It means that people who buy houses with basement suites and rent those suites out to their friends so they can pay off their mortgage are bastards. It means that landlords who are attentive to your complaints and who only raise the rent marginally every decade are bastards. It means that your loving parents who bought an “investment property” that they keep having to repair when tenants trash it are bastards. Landlording is cruel and violent, no matter what the intentions or behaviour of the individual landlord are. Housing is a human right. Every person on Earth deserves a safe, comfortable, secure place to live. They deserve it without cost, without condition. They deserve it in perpetuity. They deserve it whether they use drugs, whether they are likable, whether or not they work hard or at all.

When people become landlords, when they purchase (or inherit) property with the intention of making a profit off another person’s need to access the human right to shelter – they’re not actually providing housing. They’re perpetuating a violent system of dispossession, where people without access to enough capital to purchase their own home are forced into submission to those who do. Landlording reinforces inequality and social stratification, and individual landlords are not passive participants. Property ownership is not a job, and people who argue that it is are not people to be taken seriously. Every inch of Canada is stolen land, and if you buy a piece of that stolen land and use it to turn a profit (or even just pay off your mortgage) through renting, you’re a bastard. If you buy a home and rent to your friend and your friend helps you pay off your mortgage and then you sell that home without giving your friend a cut of the money you made, you’re the worst kind of bastard. If you’re a landlord who has been struggling to make ends meet throughout the pandemic because your tenants haven’t been paying rent, that’s justice. And one day soon, when people rise up and seize what belongs to them, what has been bought with their sweat and their labour, that will be justice too.

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