It reared its head again in a recent Dyersville city council discussion: the fear of low-income rental property or, more specifically, the “undesirable” people who use such properties.
Such fear-mongering always prickles my skin a little, because I’m one of the people they’re talking about. I choose to rent, and I was lucky enough to find a very affordable apartment that is beautifully refurbished and lovingly maintained.
Of course, not all landlords or tenants care for property so well. And I’m not an idiot—I recognize that affordable housing attracts lower-income residents, and that poverty begets crime and other social problems.
Rentals also, by nature, allow greater transience. However, there are good reasons why people choose to rent instead of buy, even if they’re not planning on going anywhere.
• Affordability: renters may not be building up equity, but those who find a good deal can pay significantly less in rent than they would for a house payment on a similar residence.
• Ease of care: as friends and family are grumping about their broken washing machines, all I have to do is call my landlord.
• No debt: I grew up with admonitions not to live beyond my means and, a few years out of college, I watched the housing bubble burst. My decision to rent means that I’m not $100,000 (or more) in debt, and I’m very thankful I was never tempted to take out a loan for more than I could afford.
I will admit, though, that my recent Facebook feed has been full of proud pictures of my peers’ first homes. A year ago, it was babies. Two years before that, weddings. Clearly, this house-buying trend among my friends has more to do with my specific age than a national economic recovery or trust in the housing market.
Many of the people who are renting now will, hopefully, become our next generation of community leaders. Regardless, beware of demonizing them: they are already your constituents.