Opinion | Parasitic landlords infect with no end in sight

By Samuel Rahman, Assistant Opinions Editor

In “The Lehman Trilogy,” the question “What makes good money?” commands an answer. “Money is made from what you cannot avoid buying.”

When you think of a parasite, what organism do you think of? Maybe a tapeworm? Fleas? Hookworms? Leeches? The immediate thought goes to a small organism that slowly and gradually drains its host of nutrients for its own use. There is no symbiotic relationship, just a continual leeching of resources from the host organism.

That’s a bit wrong. There exists a larger organism that avoids scrutiny for its parasitic ways. What might it look like if a parasite could infect hundreds at a time    exploiting resources, growing in physical proportion? A tapeworm drawing nutrients from enough humans that it could grow to a hundred times its normal size? That is the stuff of nightmares.

These are landlords.

The parasitic description still works for the small-time landlord with just a few tenants, but as C-U is currently dominated by big firms servicing thousands of college student tenants, the focus will stay on the big realty groups and apartment complexes such as those sitting on Green St.

Because these corporations have capital, they receive ungodly low-interest rates from banks or investors to either purchase new real estate or build new units on undeveloped land. In one way or another, these companies procure housing units with the end goal of making a profit. Here’s the problem: The housing market is such that real estate owners don’t have to rent out the property to make a profit.

Housing prices have increased faster, and will continue increasing faster, than general economy-wide inflation. So, what happens if you have a property increasing 3% in value every year, inflation is basically zero (before the pandemic) and if you’re big enough, your interest rate on your loan stands at only 1.4%?

After all is said and done, your property effortlessly increases at a true value of 1.6% every year. You don’t have to rent one unit to make a profit: Payments from renters are icing on the cake.

Shelter is a basic need. It is something you cannot avoid buying.

This spells double trouble for those who can’t compete with real estate investors: We have a commodity no one can avoid buying with a market not requiring renting for investors to profit. Landlords can charge any rent they desire because they don’t need to rent their units out. But you, as a human, either rent from a landlord or sleep on the streets.

Do you remember the scene in “The Matrix” when Keanu Reeves emerges from a vat of slime to discover the machine rulers are using him and all other humans as bioelectric batteries? Well, landlords are the machines, and if you are a renter, you are the bioelectric battery. My condolences to you. You are being taken advantage of: Your wages are siphoned off at a disproportionate rate.

Reported by Redfin News, people who were born into massive money or work for corporations that control more money than you speculate on housing, artificially increase the price due to scarcity brought on by speculation and charge you whatever they want because you need them — they don’t need you.

If you disagree, bring the receipts — or more specifically, the deed. Not a landlord yourself and you still disagree? You’re arguing against your interest.

Landlords have an inherently parasitic relationship with their tenants. Decommodifying housing and eliminating speculators from entering the market might be a solution. A government program to build middle-class public housing similar to those in Vienna might be a solution.

Whatever it is, the first step is to acknowledge a good deal of us are infected with a nasty parasite and to decide to take some sort of action to remove it.

Samuel is a senior in LAS.

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