Housing: Right or Commodity

Discussion in 'The Red Room' started by Spaceturkey, May 2, 2019.

  1. Spaceturkey

    Spaceturkey you can't spell hatred without "red hat"

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    In cities around the world, housing is becoming a dwelling place for money rather than people.

    Toronto is no exception; for buyers and renters finding somewhere to live here grows harder every day. As costs go through the roof, an increasing number of Torontonians, especially the young, find themselves forced out of town.

    In London, U.K., whole neighbourhoods have been hollowed out as they are bought up by foreign investors and private equity firms. The new owners, who have little or no interest in letting their properties, would rather leave them empty than deal with the hassle of tenants and their endless demands for basic services.

    As Swedish director Fredrik Gertten makes clear in his compelling documentary, Push, the financial sector has turned housing into a commodity, one that can be bought and sold dozens of times in the course of an hour. The notion, established by the United Nations, that housing is a basic human right now seems an antiquated nicety, a leftover from a more ambitious age. What remains now is the right of the rich to get richer.

    “Finance is an extractive sector,” notes Dutch-American sociologist Saskia Sassen in one of several on-camera interviews. “It might as well be mining.” Finance, she points out, exists to squeeze every last drop of value out of any given asset.

    “This is not at all about housing,” Sassen explains. “Buildings function as assets.” Gentrification, she points out, is the least of it. “It’s much deeper than that,” she argues. It’s more a wholesale appropriation of cities and the accompanying displacement of the poor and the middle classes to make way for the wealthy.


    Sassen’s dire insights are echoed by economist, author and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who also speaks on camera. As he said recently, since the 1980s, “…the income share of the top 0.1 per cent has more than quadrupled and that of the top 1 per cent has almost doubled, that of the bottom 90 per cent has declined. Wages at the bottom, adjusted for inflation, are about the same as they were some 60 years ago. Wealth is even less equally distributed, with just three Americans having as much as the bottom 50 per cent.”

    As incredible as these figures are, what’s less obvious is governments’ role not only in allowing this massive shift of wealth, but enabling it. The 2008 financial crisis, for instance, was a disaster for millions of homeowners, yet it turned out a gold mine for large fund management firms. There’s no better example than Blackstone, a private equity company that controls assets worth $512 billion — more than half a trillion dollars. It acquired thousands of properties lost in the fallout of the subprime mortgage scandal.

    As Push documents, Blackstone entered Sweden in 2015 and just four years later is the largest private owner of low-income housing in that country. In Uppsala, its modus operandi has been to buy public-sector housing estates where it can evict tenants, renovate units and raise rents as much as 50 per cent.

    The same thing happens in Toronto regularly, with landlords who view their properties as little more than money mills and treat tenants with casual indifference.

    “They’re not intrinsically evil,” Stiglitz says in the film of these corporate property owners, “but they are intrinsically amoral. So amoral, they are, I would say, evil.”

    As Gertten follows a special UN housing rapporteur on her research trips around the world, it becomes clear that similar scenarios are playing out in every corner of the planet. Globalized financial markets mean capital moves at the speed of an electrical impulse. From Berlin and Barcelona to Valparaiso and Toronto, corporate actors are turning cities into enclaves for the rich.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. Berlin, for example, has started to buy land in vulnerable neighbourhoods. Vancouver has implemented a vacant home tax.

    Across Canada, however, let alone Toronto, many governments would rather sell “surplus” land to developers than use it for affordable housing.

    But, Stiglitz notes, “You can make money by destroying the world.”

    That’s why change is so necessary and so hard.
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  2. Amaris

    Amaris Princess of Love

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    Housing is a right.
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  3. Marso

    Marso High speed, low drag.

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    In the world we live in today, commodity.

    At some point in the future, perhaps in some post-scarcity society when 3D printers can stamp out living units affordably at taxpayer expense, then we can talk about it being a societal bennie.
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  4. Dayton3

    Dayton3 Wonderful, Loving Husband & Father

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    commodity
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  5. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    "Bennie"? :wtf: The grownups are talking about people who pay rent, numbnuts.

    So if you rent anything and pay for it, the original owner can take it away from you at any time? :wtf:
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  6. Tererun

    Tererun Magical Girl

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    only if you are black, Hispanic, Muslim, GLBT, female, or any non male WASP or jew from Israel (American or european liberal jews don't count to them). I am not sure why the jews from Isreal are in there, but they are.
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  7. Ten Lubak

    Ten Lubak Salty Dog

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    I would probably call basic shelter a human right. However what isn't a right is wanting to live in whatever location you want at the price only you can afford to the specifications you desire.
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  8. We Are Borg

    We Are Borg Rey of sunshine

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    As much as I'm sympathetic to the housing issue, it shouldn't be a right.

    Lack of affordable housing is a symptom of greater societal issues, and making it a "right" doesn't address those underlying issues.

    Possessing or owning a thing should never be a right. (Just look at the U.S.'s Second Amendment to see what a clusterfuck that's created.)
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  9. GhostEcho

    GhostEcho Christian Conservative (Republican)

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    Your complaint hardy logically follows Dayton's comment.

    If you have a lease, and you're paying rent according to the terms of the lease, then you're protected by your contract. But if you're paying month to month or whatever, or if your lease expires, then certainly the property owner has the right to not renew the deal.
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  10. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    Obviously.

    But even with a lease, in the absence of rent-control laws (:ohnoes: Gubmint Intervention -!), the landlord can offer the tenant a new lease the following year for an outrageous increase.

    Or, more often than not, decide to either tear the building down (if it's older) or go condo, in which case tenants are SoL.
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  11. GhostEcho

    GhostEcho Christian Conservative (Republican)

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    If the propery is worth that new outrageous price, someone will pay it. If it's not, no one will. Why should a landlord be obligated to renew a lease on the renter's terms? It's not the renter's property. Leases have an end date for a reason.

    It's the owner's building. If he wants to tear it down and build a new one, or sell parts of it (make it into a condo), why is that anyone's business?
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  12. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    So, let 'em eat cake.

    This, boys and girls, is why there are rent control laws. Sometimes.
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  13. Elwood

    Elwood I know what I'm about, son.

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    Because, at the end of the day, renters want the benefits of ownership without the associated hassles that go along with it.

    I want a beachfront house in Pinellas County, Florida. Unfortunately, I can't afford a beachfront house in Pinellas County, Florida. Therefore, I do not live in a beachfront house in Pinellas County, Florida. I live in a place I can afford and my lifestyle is adjusted accordingly.
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  14. Spaceturkey

    Spaceturkey you can't spell hatred without "red hat"

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    Fortunately my building is old enough to fall under some of the older rental increase laws and other tenant protections. They can't raise my rent so long as I live here by more than 1.6 percent annually.

    I live in a heritage district with very specific zoning and building restrictions that is on the way to becoming a UNESCO heritage site-caveat emptor.
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  15. GhostEcho

    GhostEcho Christian Conservative (Republican)

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    So you think property owners should be economic slaves to the people they (are foolish enough) to rent to?

    Why have privately owned property at all?
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  16. Spaceturkey

    Spaceturkey you can't spell hatred without "red hat"

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    that's a VERY good question. why have privately owned property?

    America has almost twice as many empty houses as homeless people I've read... why is that?
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  17. GhostEcho

    GhostEcho Christian Conservative (Republican)

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    If you owned an apartment, would you let someone live in it for free, indefinitely? You're still responsible for all of the maintenance and the insurance, since it's yours.

    That's a serious question.
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  18. spot261

    spot261 Fresh Meat

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    Because it's perfectly possible to make a respectable profit without forcing someone out of their home?
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  19. Spaceturkey

    Spaceturkey you can't spell hatred without "red hat"

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    Depends on if its a derelict or functioning property.

    As it stands, at least four of the 20 some people who live here are in construction trades and can usually do it cheaper and faster (as we always did for the previous owners).


    But we're getting off topic of gentrification.... nobody wants a free ride here, just affordable housing. THis is stretching up into the middle classes now where even two income households are paying over half to rent/mortgage on a condo not designed for families...
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  20. GhostEcho

    GhostEcho Christian Conservative (Republican)

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    Their home?
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  21. Spaceturkey

    Spaceturkey you can't spell hatred without "red hat"

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    My building sold for 3.5 mill
    15 residential units, three ground level commercial tenants
    brought in 250K per year

    more now, as they kicked out oneof the stores to double the rent on that space, and have another thing going on in the basement..
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  22. Spaceturkey

    Spaceturkey you can't spell hatred without "red hat"

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    Got a neighbour here who's been in his place for 45 years...
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  23. Captain Conspiracy

    Captain Conspiracy Making Frogs Gay Again

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    Surely you can easily point to this right in the constitution?
  24. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 light & lethal

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    perhaps - but if a "right" is not enforced is it even a right at all? In other words if these rights are never invoked then they are only pipe dreams, and only exist in theory if at all.
  25. Spaceturkey

    Spaceturkey you can't spell hatred without "red hat"

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    So let's make one thing abundantly clear:

    "Right" in this discussion means financially accessible to the majority of consumers.

    If the private market will not provide for low to middle income consumers even the most basic, is it not necessary for the government to intervene?

    So as government is instituted by and for the people for their general well being, would maintaining a price ceiling or otherwise ensure adequate housing not be within that purview?
  26. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 light & lethal

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    but the thing is in many locations we have enough "living units" in the form of entire office buildings that could be converted into apartments but they sit vacant, underutilized. :(
    The square footage is there, but often the absentee building owners are waiting for a "gentrification" wave (that may never come) when they can turn the buildings into serious money-making upscale apartments. :brood:
  27. Amaris

    Amaris Princess of Love

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    That right is older than the Constitution, as is the right to breathe, and the right to eat. It is essential for human survival. That it is not specifically enumerated doesn't take away from that.

    On a similar note, if you're lying in bed, dying of ketoacidosis, your blood being acidified until every nerve in your body burns, may your pleas for help never merit the response, "surely you can point to this right in the constitution?"

    Rights are stepped on every day. If someone cannot defend their right due to the oppression of others, that doesn't make the right any less valid, or the oppressors any more legitimate in their oppression.
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  28. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 light & lethal

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    slippery slope there Spaceturkey! Would you appreciate government "intervention" if they told you "spaceturkey your apartment is big enough for five more people. Get ready for some room-mates buddy!"? Maybe the government thinks "universal basic housing" is a sleeping bag in a gymnasium for everyone - who decides what is acceptable housing and what isn't?
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  29. Captain Conspiracy

    Captain Conspiracy Making Frogs Gay Again

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    Just because someone can’t afford housing , doesn’t mean the government should provide it.
  30. Captain Conspiracy

    Captain Conspiracy Making Frogs Gay Again

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    In other words,”I, John the dictator declare housing a right that has always existed because I say so.”