We Need Refugee Camps for Renters Who Can No Longer Afford to Support Their Landlords
Leo Tolstoy’s last words have always struck a deep chord in me:
But the paupers… how do the paupers die?
I ask myself a similar question on a nearly daily basis: How do the poor live?
Because the math makes zero sense.
- Minimum wage hasn’t budged in years.
- Average wages have stalled compared to skyrocketing real inflation.
- Rents are increasing rapidly.
- Real estate is skyrocketing.
- And debt never stops compounding.
So how do the poor live? And where do the poor live?
Last week on LinkedIn, I saw this abhorrent post:
I couldn’t not respond.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? The rich are far too removed from the poor.
We’re all guilty of this, of course.
Think: child-mined minerals in electronics.
Think: emissions-emitting cars.
Think: sweatshop-made clothing and sneakers.
But let’s not pretend the rich aren’t guilty of ignoring injustice on a far greater scale.
I hate Airbnb.
The initial model of having someone crash your couch or spare room was fine, but now — let’s face it — hosts are turning residential family homes into full-time clerkless hotels.
But with a grow-forever business model, where does Airbnb stop?
The answer: When every house on earth is an Airbnb.
Now that they’re a publicly-traded company, they have a war chest to fight democracy on a city-by-city basis. In their public offering document, they say they’ll do just that.
I live in a cute little village that’s being destroyed by holiday lets. Recently, I was sick and tired of seeing all these empty houses just sitting there all week long, then being filled with rowdy, messy, uncaring strangers on the weekend.
So I wrote four letters.
I humbly asked them to sell their houses to real families, so that our local school won’t get shut down.
One lady wrote back, furious. She told me that she inherited the house and knew it was detrimental to the village to keep it as an Airbnb but didn’t care.
But do you know what?
She did the right thing.
A few weeks later, a real family moved in.
Within a month, three of the four houses became homes for families.
Maybe we can write our way out of the housing crisis.
Can we be honest? We’re facing one of two futures:
- All the people own all the houses.
- Landlords own all the houses.
Between Airbnb, vacation rentals, small-time landlords, real estate companies, REITs, and hedge funds, we’re leaning hard toward the latter.
Now toss in automation, which will eliminate hundreds of millions of jobs in the next few decades.
Where do the underpaid, underemployed, and unemployed live when they can no longer afford to buy or rent?
And why are the rich surprised that Los Angeles is covered in houseless people? They mathematically engineered the economy to do just that.
And they’ve done so globally.
1 million people.
That’s how many people are moving into slums around the world every single day.
Right now, 1 billion people live in slums.
Within 30 years, that number is expected to rise to 3 billion.
3 billion men, women, and children. In poverty, for life.
But don’t worry — we’ll have 5,000 billionaires by then.
There are those who would argue there’s a market solution to this problem: To allow more rentals to be built so supply outstrips demand and the price of rent falls.
While I certainly think we should build more owner-occupied eco-houses, building a market-moving amount of landlord-controlled properties obviously won’t work for at least two major reasons:
- With holiday rentals growing exponentially and the global population projected to add 3 billion more people, we’d need to at least double the current global housing stock to put renters in the power position to negotiate for cheaper rents… which would be an environmental nightmare, if even doable from a resource perspective, nevermind the near-impossibility of getting zoning boards to approve the expansion. Landlording is profitable precisely because it’s a rigged game.
- Even if we did double the global housing stock, if automation wipes out 40% of jobs in the next 15-50 years, there’s no way the social security system will be able to support everyone, and I don’t know any landlords who are willing to rent to people with zero sources of stable income. I’ve been to Transnistria… plenty of empty apartment buildings… and plenty of houseless people because they have zero fiat money.
In all likelihood, society will continue with the current status quo, thus, the need for creative people to do the right thing and strip the profit motive from basic human needs like shelter.
So how do we fix this?
Do we write letters to landlords and bankers and ask them to do the right thing?
Do we keep voting for Democrats and Republicans and hope they’ll suddenly turn their backs on their corporate backers and do the right thing?
Or do we just do the right thing?
We need “refugee camps” for renters who can no longer afford to support their landlords.
We need groups and individuals of means to create zero-fiat-currency places for billions of us to live.
- Not-for-profit private cities.
- Modern monasteries.
- Co-op condo towers.
- Work-for-housing initiatives.
- Farms and kibbutzim.
- Low-tech eco-villages.
- Intentional communities.
There won’t be much profit in it, aside from saving society from collapse.
These planet patrons will almost certainly be motivated by faith, generosity, or goodwill.
They’ll be the real heroes of the 21st century, and we’ll need more of them than there are Marvel characters.
It’s either that or the slums.