Last night, John Oliver took on a subject near and dear to my heart: The rent is too damn high, and corporate real estate buyers like it that way. Via Rolling Stone:
John Oliver began his main story by defining housing in the United States as “the thing that 16-year-old TikTok millionaires can afford, and you can’t.”
This week’s episode of Last Week Tonight only got more infuriating from there. More than a third of U.S. households are currently renters, which is a problem for a whole bunch of inequity-related reasons. But as many news stories in the past couple of years have pointed out, being a renter is hard and getting harder — in the past year alone rents have risen 15 percent nationally, 30 percent in mid-sized cities like Nashville and Seattle, and a whopping 50 percent in Austin, which is not a great way to maintain weirdness.
Rents were already unaffordable before Covid. Personal finance gurus say that you shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of your income on rent. But for years in cities all over the country, the average percent of income devoted to rent has been higher than that, and rent continues to rise faster than wages — though to be fair, pretty much everything has been rising faster than wages for decades.
New rental housing is being built all the time, but the vast majority of that new housing is relatively expensive. Since 1990, the total number of U.S. rental units has risen by more than 13 million. The total number of very affordable rental units, however, has dropped by almost four million. One result of this bullshit is that landlords are now able to charge more money because there’s too little housing available. Another result is that landlords are increasingly not individuals, but serpentine companies and investors who have seen U.S. rents trending skyward and purchased housing so they can keep jacking those rents even higher, happily bleeding more money out of society’s gradual collapse.