I got kicked out of my house a month ago. I was renting a little three bedroom house tucked into the armpit of a highway in southwest Saint Paul. I paid my rent on time and did all the repairs the house needed myself as things broke. I’d bill for the repair out of my rent. Mechanics make for good tenants. I described my landlord as “My favorite person I never talk to.”
Then my landlord who lives in Plymouth stumbled across an article describing the ‘hot’ market for housing in the Twin Cities and it was simple math for him after that: Sell the house for a good chunk of money and lose the liability/responsibility of being a landlord. He offered me a sporting chance to buy the house before putting it on the market, but buying a house isn’t a decision you make on someone else’s schedule. I moved. The house had bids the day it hit the market.
I quickly discovered a blood thirsty market for rentals, even with all the college kids in my college neighborhood home for the summer. I was beat to three rentals before I realized that if you don’t close the same day you get a showing, you don’t get the rental. The time between my viewing of my current home and having my application approved was six hours.
It’s not a marketplace where renters choose where they want to live. It’s a marketplace where renters bounce from showing to showing until something meets their standards and they pounce. Praying their application is approved before the other prospective tenants lined up right behind them.
I’m lucky enough to afford a place in southwest Saint Paul. When the rug was pulled out from under me I was able to pivot and land on my feet, but I’ve watched a couple of friends who work full time in the neighborhood get pushed out, either north of the highway or south of the river, by rents creeping ever upward.
This bloodthirsty market, these creeping rents are the symptom of a city serving the suburban mindset of low density and car supremacy. Apply this mindset to a growing city, and it breeds exclusionary zoning policy out of necessity. While exclusionary zoning policies can raise property prices, it does so without adding actual tangible value to the place the policy exists to serve. What exclusionary zoning produces are guarded enclaves doomed either to die a slow smothering death or to exist as a parasite, siphoning strength from the growth of neighboring accessible spaces. All this is without even broaching the dubious morality of exclusionary zoning.
So consider this a nudge.
Write a letter in support of an apartment building or an op-ed in favor of up-zoning.
Support a road diet.
Get on the phone and ramble incoherently at your representatives about increasing transit funding, bonus points for calling while using public transit.
Vote for people who support these things. Just do it, because when we don’t say yes to sensible governance, those who govern only hear the “No’s,” and when they govern based on the “No’s,” there are serious damaging consequences. Hell, I got kicked out of my house.
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