If you haven’t heard about #abolishlandlordism yet, you may soon. As interest rates in Canada continue to rise, more Canadians struggle to keep up with inflated mortgage payments. Some homeowners are left with no choice but to sell their homes in search of affordable rental units. Unfortunately, they’re met with a shocking reality; they can’t afford rent either.
Canadians have been screaming from the rooftops for years about the lack of affordable rental housing across the country. The average rent in Vancouver now reaches $2263 for a one-bedroom apartment, contributing to an average increase of over 18% in the past year for new tenants across Canada.
In an on-air interview with CBC News, Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants Association in Toronto claims, "There's an incentive for them [landlords] to try to illegally evict people and raise the rent," Dent says that he hears stories every day about people only staying in unlivable conditions out of fear and desperation. "They're afraid that if they get kicked out of their current place for a new one, rent's going to be like $1,000 higher." Dent proclaimed while giving a grim look on the state of the rental market in the GTA.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. released a report in June 2022 stating that an additional 3.5 million housing units will be required by 2030 in order to achieve housing affordability for every Canadian. Deputy Chief Economist, Aled ad lorwerth, claims that Canada is in need of a drastic change in the housing sector and that more government policy is required in order to meet demands.
“… Canada’s approach to housing supply needs to be rethought and done differently. There must be a drastic transformation of the housing sector, including government policies and processes, and an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to increasing the supply of housing to meet demand.”
— Aled ab Iorwerth, Deputy Chief Economist, CMHC
The idea of owning a home is a dream shared by many people, but it remains out of reach for far too many. The high costs associated with buying a home and the increasing rental prices have left many people without a stable place to live. In recent years, the idea of abolishing landlords and socializing all housing has gained traction in some circles, raising questions about the role of property ownership and the housing market. To understand the potential impact of this proposal, it is useful to look at historical debates and current discussions.
Historically, debates about property ownership and social justice can be traced back to the early days of communism and socialism. Karl Marx, for example, famously argued that private property was a form of theft that deprived workers of the value of their labor. In his view, the only way to achieve true equality was to abolish private property altogether and establish communal ownership of all resources, including housing. This idea resonated with many socialists and communists throughout the 20th century, who saw private property as a source of inequality and exploitation.
In more recent times, the discussion has shifted somewhat, but the underlying concerns remain the same. Many advocates of abolishing landlords argue that private property ownership is at the root of the housing crisis and that socializing all housing is the only way to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and stable housing. A common phrase in the anti-landlordism movement has always been, "Landlords are parasites that suck the lifeblood out of working-class communities. They contribute nothing but make profits off of other people's basic needs." Though the origin of this quote is unknown, its sentiment echoes throughout the movement.
Proponents of this idea point to the success of socialized housing models in countries like Sweden and Finland, where the government owns most of the housing stock and rents are based on income. They argue that this model ensures that everyone has access to affordable housing and that it reduces income inequality by ensuring that everyone pays a fair share. Some also argue that socialized housing can reduce crime and increase community cohesion by fostering a sense of shared responsibility and ownership.
However, opponents of abolishing landlords argue that socialized housing is not a panacea and that it can have unintended consequences. Some argue that socialized housing can create a disincentive for property owners to invest in their properties, leading to a decline in the quality of housing stock over time. Others point out that socialized housing can be difficult to manage and maintain, and that it can create bureaucratic inefficiencies that drive up costs.
Moreover, there are concerns about the impact on the economy and the housing market as a whole. Some critics argue that the housing market is a critical engine of economic growth, and abolishing landlords would destroy that engine. Claiming that landlords are critical investors who provide liquidity and create opportunities for others. If landlords were to be eliminated, we risk destabilizing the entire housing market.
Despite these concerns, the idea of abolishing landlords has gained traction in recent years, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the precariousness of the current housing system. The pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of the current housing system, which seemed to respond to the crisis, primarily in a position based on profits rather than human needs.
The debate about abolishing landlords and socializing all housing is a complex and contentious one, with valid points on both sides of the argument. While the merits of the idea are debated, it is clear that something needs to be done to address the housing crisis. We need a fundamental rethinking of the role of housing in our society, and discuss ways to remove profit from the necessities of life without disrupting an already volatile economy.
For example, one proposed step toward eliminating the profit incentives of landlords would be increased taxation on multiple properties. This would reflect primarily on groups of landlords and companies buying up as much property as possible to drive up scarcity and prices and could be set on a scale based on the number of units owned. This would also prevent landlords from cramming several dwellings on one property. Increased taxation and penalties on empty properties that aren’t being utilized, prevent property squatters from stopping new housing developments, creating artificial scarcity. And eventually, a buyback program where the government can acquire the land back at a fair market value so that landlords can exit their investment at a profit. Such a program could be funded through a combination of programs such as government housing bonds and multi-housing taxation.
There are other ways to combat this issue while not necessarily eliminating landlords as well. For example, a state mortgage program, where the government offers mortgages at a low fixed interest rate when buying state-owned property. This would eliminate the profits of already wealthy bankers and put them back into the public system. This system could be in combination with a rent-to-own program on government-owned properties, allowing renters to build equity toward becoming first-time homeowners. This method could also use a renter’s payment history as a measure of their ability to pay a mortgage, rather than just their credit history. This would more accurately reflect their ability to manage their mortgage payments. The rental payments and interest on mortgages would then fund the buyback system while removing the need for our current housing programs and subsidies.
In addition to the solutions already mentioned, there are other measures that could be taken to address the root causes of the housing crisis during a transition into a social-based housing system. For instance, rent control could be implemented to keep rent prices from skyrocketing, and zoning laws could be relaxed to allow for more affordable housing developments. Moreover, the government could invest more in public housing, by providing incentives to companies to develop faster and greener building methods such as concrete 3d printed housing, modular building, and tiny homes.
It is important to recognize that the housing crisis is not just an economic problem, but a moral one as well. While these solutions may not be perfect, they are important steps toward addressing the housing crisis and ensuring that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and stable housing. As Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University, notes, "Housing is a human right, and a society that fails to provide it for all its citizens is one that cannot claim to be just or humane."
As a society, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and stable housing. Abolishing landlords may not be the solution, but it is a call to action to address the underlying issues of inequality and exploitation in the housing market. As the hashtags #abolishlandlordism and #abolishlandlords surpass 10 million posts, and continue to gain momentum on social media platforms like TikTok, it is clear that this debate is far from over. There is a growing demand for a new approach to housing that prioritizes human needs over profit.
Whether or not to abolish landlordism is a complex and multifaceted one, with arguments on both sides. While the idea of abolishing landlords may seem radical to some, it is a call to action to address the underlying issues of inequality and exploitation in the housing market. What are your thoughts? How do you feel about the #abolismlandlordism conversation currently trending?
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