Humanity's Housing Future: Five Families to One House With Four Empty Airbnbs In Between
All thanks to three economic corruptions
A friend emailed me last week to say he had a conversation with the vice president of a school board whose teachers are seriously struggling.
Not with rowdy students.
Not with overcrowded classrooms.
Not with budget cuts or a lack of time off or educational support.
Her teachers are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
As my friend reported:
“She works with teachers who can’t afford anything and are getting evicted and are struggling to do their job because of the uncertainty of where they live. At minimum they’re making $40k — at max they’re just shy of $75k. She said she has colleagues that both husband and wife are teachers and can’t afford a thing in their area.”
Friends, I will keep saying it until everyone on Earth accepts reality:
When working people can’t afford to stay alive, society is dead.
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Why shelter is getting more unaffordable every single year
We, as a global family, need to ask WHY house prices are rising and rent prices are soaring globally.
Because house prices don’t just rise by magic.
Inflation doesn’t exist in nature.
Wood is wood, brick is brick, dirt is dirt.
As a thought experiment, let’s compare some apples to apples. Today’s corporate builders construct massive McMansions because they “need” to deliver unearned profits to passive shareholders, but even if someone was to build an exact replica of a 1950s post-war bungalow, it wouldn’t cost anywhere near the same price. Back then, a family could buy that house at a cost of 2–3X the annual median income of a single earner. The average income was just over $10K/year at the time, and a new house averaged $25,200.
Today’s median income is $44,225. But good luck building that identical house for $110,000! Where most of today’s jobs are, it would cost 10X the median income. (Unless it’s in Toronto or Vancouver. Then it’s 20X.)
So what gives?
The answer, as it turns out, is pure economic corruption.
Three economic corruptions, actually:
Corruption #1: Inflation
A replica 1950s post-war bungalow costs the exact same in real wealth — it requires X board feet of lumber, X number of bricks, X yards of bright yellow, highly-toxic, shockingly flammable shag carpet, and X number of wo/man hours to erect.
Despite the real wealth cost being the exact same, the dollar price is 10+X. One of the main reasons why house prices are rising is that the value of the dollar is plummeting.
Inflation doesn’t account for all of that rise in a house’s price, but it’s certainly a factor. Adjusted for inflation alone, that $25,200 house from 1950 would cost $284,000 today.
In other words, every single dollar from 1950 has lost 91.1% of its purchasing power.
Put another way: the corporate-controlled US government stole the lion’s share of all the wealth created by all working savers within their own lifetime.
And it’s shaping up to be far worse for our generation.
Corruption #2: Constricted Supply
Let’s take a look at the supply side first.
(Right-wingers are obsessed with supply-side economics because they worship corporate profits.)
Over-building supply would certainly help. If we took every person in prison, every homeless person, every unemployed worker, and every member of the military, and forced them to build, say, a billion houses at true cost without any corporate profit, we’d not only destroy the planet, but we’d have so much housing supply that house prices would probably drop to a tenth of their current cost and homelessness and housing hardship would evaporate.
In other words, banksters and builders and land-lorders would be out of business.
So naturally, all three groups fight hard to constrict supply. Near-nil supply means top dollar for new build sales, chunky interest hauls on massive mortgages, and sky-high rents for desperate tenants. That’s why corporatists invest so much money in renting politicians — it pays big profits to constrict housing supply.
Not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) homeowners actively aid in the process of constricting supply — and understandably, because construction corporations purposely only build hideous neighborhoods that ruin any sense of place and community.
Corruption #3: Investor Demand
If you systematically restrict the supply of houses, house prices and rents skyrocket, providing wads of unearned profits for parasite investors. It’s the biggest wealth transfer in history, as active contributors toil to create real wealth, only to surrender their suppressed wages as interest and rent.
So we find ourselves in a feeding frenzy, with buyers and renters bidding up house and rent prices every year. It’s the #1 reason why minimum wage rises or Universal Basic Income won’t work.
Imagine if everyone on Earth got an extra $5,000/month for free or from a pay raise. It would take about fourteen seconds before usurious land-lorders raised the rents and builders raised the price of houses. No matter how much we give people, predators will devour it. Introducing Universal Basic Income without eradicating the underlying exploitation is like trying to fill a bathtub while simultaneously expanding the drain hole with a sledgehammer.
We can’t outbuild parasite demand. They can borrow an unlimited amount of freshly-printed money from banks to outbid families for new homes. Supply-siders refuse to accept the reality that this is an arms raise they are guaranteed to lose.
Corporate demand is the #1 reason why house prices are soaring.
And it’s not just residential land-lorders who are killing affordability. Tens of thousands of villages, towns, and cities around the world are reporting an increase in vacant houses due to predator holiday rental sites like Airbnb. My wife and I actually got price-pushed out of a village when our land-lorders decided to turn our house into their fourth holiday let in the village of just a few hundred homes. Each year, the village becomes more of a ghost town, and it’s only a matter of time before the local school closes. Good job, Airbnbers.
It’s not just small towns that are getting hollowed out by holiday rental investors. Cities like Paris are now seeing a marked decrease in population, which is a disaster for the economy and for all the precious people who have to leave their beloved hometown, only to see their former homes sitting empty until selfish tourists want to use them as clerkless hotels.
Land-lording has destroyed affordable shelter.
Until very recently, the overwhelming majority of demand for houses was created by cute little mammals called homo sapiens. Human beings in need of shelter were the primary entities that bought houses.
But all that has changed with the invention of the unfathomably corrupt limited liability corporation and the financialization of shelter.
House price limits used to be determined by the maximum amount a local working family could afford to pay.
Today, house prices are set by the maximum amount that a trillion-dollar global hedge fund can afford to pay with maximum leverage.
The Smiths could afford to outbid the Joneses and pay $25,300 for a house. Now, Blackrock can afford to pay $1+ million because they’re only risking $100k, and know they can squeeze out enough rent to make a small return.
Between private equity and hedge funds and banksters and land-lorders all buying up houses to rent-trap people, almost no one currently under the age of thirty will ever be able to own a home.
The question is: where does this end?
House “sharing” is a colossal scam
Earlier this month, I saw an ad from a “Christian” church offering “affordable” housing to people in need.
It was a basement apartment with 8 rooms, each being offered for $1125 per month.
In other words, people who claim to love Jesus are going to rake $108,000 off the poorest working people in society.
And churches aren’t the only people trying to rent-enslave the poor.
As a former realtor, I keep up on the housing market in several countries, and am seeing more and more rentals listed not by unit, but by bedroom. I’ve seen multiple listings where the land-lorder has turned both the living room and dining room into 1–2 bedrooms apiece, so suddenly a three-bedroom house is a 7-bedroom house, with each tenant-serf surrendering $600–1000/month to stay sheltered. When you can make $84,000/year off of one former family home, what local working family can possibly afford to outbid you?
The answer is: They can’t. They have no choice but to rent. That’s why more and more people are squeezing into fewer and fewer houses, with a bunch of empty holiday lets in between.
We’re back to George Orwell’s Down and Out In London and Paris, where all that separates people from their neighbors is a thin sheet of plywood as leeches turn one house into ten and one room into two. We’re already seeing situations where nineteen people are living in one house.
Friends: In 50 years, the average house will cost $10 million.
It seems crazy if you don’t know math, but if you actually calculate the velocity of inflation, supply constriction, and investor demand, you quickly realize that housing is going to eight figures.
Five families will share a house, and the next four will sit empty until a selfish family wants to use them as an Airbnb.
Three changes to permanently fix the purposefully-broken housing market
Inflation, constricted supply, and especially corporate demand got us into this mess. Luckily, we can reverse-engineer our way out of it:
1. We need democratic inflation-free money.
No, not Bitcoin. Sorry Bitboys, but a privatized append-only database won’t solve inflation while increasing collective well-being.
Democracies need democratic money, where we all decide the rules of our medium of payment.
My vote? A glass-transparent and jailably-accountable government that creates money, invests it in creating new commons assets (like tidal power and geothermal and hyperloop between walkable eco-cities), then taxes the money back from the rich and destroys it. That way, we get ever-increasing levels of communal wealth and well-being while simultaneously seeing our money increase in value thanks to glorious deflation.
This sort of democratic money would ensure house prices would actually fall over time, and deflation has the added benefit of discouraging debt, which would force a ton of banksters to, you know, get real jobs that actually contribute something to society.
2. We need proper supply.
We need to build, build, build. But not these hideous corporate towers that darken cities nor the corporate sprawldivisions that blight the countryside and ruin rural villages. We need right-sized, long-lasting, highly-affordable eco-houses for human beings.
Never forget that previous generations used to build sustainable, debt-free 1,000-year houses of stone in a matter of weeks.
We need to radically reform planning and zoning departments. If housing is a human right, no application for a safe and environmentally-sustainable owner-occupied home should ever be rejected.
But focusing on supply-side only won’t fix this. Nothing will change until we address the root problem:
3. We need the total destruction of parasitic investor demand.
We must enshrine shelter as an unconditional human right.
Human shelter must take precedence over corporate profit.
Corporations work for us, not the other way around.
As right-wingers know very well but will never admit publicly, we cannot build our way out of this problem. There are cities in Canada where over 90% of new builds are purchased by investors. Every new build goes to the highest bidder, and the highest bidder is almost always an investor.
Investors will push house prices so high that no one you know will be able to afford to own a home. They will get outbid every time. And those who already own their homes will lose them, because sky-high valuations will boost their property taxes until they, too, have to rent a room in a “shared” house.
We need to ban for-profit land-lording. It’s the only way. Democracies should create a system where 95% of people can easily afford to buy homes, and then invest heavily in not-for-profit rentals for the 5%, encouraging and incentivizing co-operatives, foundations, almshouses, etc.
If we re-introduce righteous money and sufficient supply while destroying rent-seeker demand for human shelter, homelessness would disappear, as would the stress and struggle to afford to keep a roof over our heads. Instead of slaving for 25–40 years to pay interest to a bankster (or slaving for life to pay rent to a land-lorder), we’d save decades of life and precious time that could be used to love and serve each other and restore our broken planet.
Sadly, such a vision has massive enemies.
The many enemies of affordable shelter
Say it with me: NO ONE will fix the housing crisis.
Builders want house prices to stay high.
Banksters want house prices to stay high.
Investors want house prices to stay high.
Land-lorders want house prices to stay high.
Homeowners want house prices to stay high.
Central banks want house prices to stay high because otherwise, they’ll have to bail out the overleveraged commercial banks.
Governments want house prices to stay high because it ensures floods of property tax money. House prices rising gives consumers the illusion of growing wealth and a healthy economy, which boosts consumer confidence and spending.
Politicians secretly want house prices to stay high because the vast majority own at least one property. And since the slim majority of voters are still homeowners, politicians need to keep house prices rising to stay in office.
Even working people like you want house prices to stay high because they’re sometimes homeowners, often land-lorders, and nearly all own pensions/401ks/RRSPs/etc that are heavily reliant on exploiting people in need of shelter via bank stocks, REITs, and bonds.
Our whole corrupt financial system is a house of cards that needs to get burned to the ground and rebuilt from the ground up.
Sadly, almost everyone you know has a vested interest in keeping things exactly the way they are. You probably do too, even if you don’t realize it or refuse to accept it. Why else would you keep voting for right-wing Republicans and right-wing Democrats?
Only when things get so bad that 5 families are crammed into 1 house, slaving night and day to pay rent, while 4 houses sit empty waiting for selfish holidaymakers to use them… that’s when everyone will wake up and suddenly magically want to do the right thing.
But by then, it will be far too late.
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