Jimmy McMillan is a really weird dude, but he was right: The rent is too damn high!
Things have gotten much worse in the nearly 30 years since he first started running for office, campaigning around this single issue and even founding a political party focused on it. Buying a home is a pipe dream for many of us, so renting a place for too damn much is the only option. Good luck finding said rental, though. High demand for apartments in major cities across the United States has caused bidding wars. Middle-class and low-income workers are in the throes of a grave housing crisis. One such solution is employers subsidizing housing for employees.
A feature story from the New York Times paints a picture of what subsidized housing looks like in New York’s rapidly gentrified Hudson Valley. Since affordable housing is rare like Mr. Clean with hair, David Schneider, owner of a restaurant called Tabla, has been buying up property and renting to employees for dirt cheap. In June, he paid $500,000 for a four-bedroom home for this purpose. His head chef, Junior Taylor, pays $500 to share a three-bedroom apartment with another employee. Sure, the price is right, but it’s a tricky arrangement. Taylor’s home is across the street from the restaurant, so work-life balance can become murky. He says he doesn’t mind, but would you? Would your boss expect you to be on-call to work at a moment’s notice if they’re giving you cheap housing and you live seconds away?
What’s most concerning is what happens when this employment ends. Restaurants are famously tough businesses to keep afloat. If Tabla closes down, his living situation becomes very precarious. Schneider may have the best intentions and a heart of gold, but if you believe most bosses will treat you with dignity if your employment comes to an end, you should send me pictures of your credit and debit cards so I can invest your money in the very best NFTs.
Too much of our livelihoods are already tied to employment—health care being the most significant. When you lose your job, you lose your healthcare, unless you want to pay for something else that’s too damn high: COBRA premiums. Going down the road of being told you have to leave your home immediately after losing your job is a frightening one.
Housing security is primarily the responsibility of local municipalities. Most of our bosses can’t sign a law or ordinance to ensure rent stabilization laws, and they’re not greedy realtors. What they can do, instead of renting out an apartment to you on the low, is just pay you more money.