These are my contributions to an FB conversation with one of our city council members and others involved in discussion concerning housing issues in Reno, Nevada where housing prices are going up rather quickly and wages for working and middle class citizens remains flat. Reno is in the midst of economic recovery; there are new jobs, more jobs and for this reason, more people coming into the area to take those jobs. As more people come into Reno, there is greater need for housing and, as happens when there is greater need and less to be had, the price of whatever it is that is in short supply. The problem here is that the stressed commodity is an essential for living a decent life, a decent place to live and many are finding it harder to find decent housing that is affordable. A considerable number of people, many of them elderly people on fixed incomes and children of parents whose incomes are relatively low, low because of that same economy that is pricing them out of their places of residence. More jobs, more people, greater competition for jobs, lower wages, more people in need of housing, fewer residences available, up goes the cost for a roof over one’s head.
As I say in the posts below, the problem isn’t something that will be solved by the marketplace because it is market forces that are causing the problem and have been causing the same problems in varying degrees throughout our modern capitalist times. The answer is not market adjustments—they are long in coming, always partial in solving the problems they cause in terms of people rescued and the goodness of the fix—and short lived as entrepreneurs figure out ways to milk whatever the new reality may be in order to profit better.
So, here are my comments that no one wishes to discuss, the reason for the silence obvious in the fact that the solutions I propose are far too radical. Of course, it has to be said that PEOPLE LIVING ON THE STREETS OR IN PLACES WHERE THE CONDITIONS ARE HORRIBLE OR ABOUT TO BE KICKED OUT OF THEIR DWELLINGS TO MAKE WAY FOR THOSE WHO CAN PAY MORE THEN THEY, is radical in terms of its effects on those affected.
We will get nowhere in making the society a better one until we do away with what is rotten in it and what makes it rotten.
I will take R J up on his suggestion to watch the video. In the meantime, I think it needs to be said that there are ways to have nice and livable cities that are affordable for those with modest incomes. To have such, there needs to be serious consideration of when it is that the market economy does not work, when the market creates circumstances for a good many people that make it impossible to live decent lives. If the ethos of a place is humanity first before profit, then there is a chance that a place can become a truly nice place to live, where most, if not all, of those living there can afford to live decent lives. One way to make the humane city a reality is to enforce living wage requirement–no profits before those who are doing the work are paid enough to be able to afford the decent life. Or, if that is “impossible,” as some in the business community would have it, then serious controls on the prices charged for those commodities that are essential to living a decent life. In general, what has to happen is that we need to be thinking about one another, seeing one another as worthy members of a community in a community that is about, first and foremost, caring about and for one another. I am well aware that this goes against the current capitalist ethos and it is just that ethos that keeps us from making progress on making the places where we live nice places for all who live in them.
[suggested once for San Francisco, one respondent to this post thought doing such might be a good idea, if I would pay for their being build] Maybe we can build low cost housing for teachers, fire fighters, social services workers? Project style housing to keep them nearby? Such has been proposed from time to time in places like SF where those who serve vital needs cannot afford to live on what they make.
Took R J’s advice and watched presentation to council that was quite good. A lot of take-aways and some really important facts to consider in doing what is needed to build a community that is truly by and of the whole of the people. The figures on manufacturing job wages–average $23 per hour vs gaming wages–$11 per hour and the fact that manufacturing jobs are growing in the percentage of jobs they represent, these are tricky because region may be experiencing rise in latter but this is against something close to non-existence that was characteristic of our very recent past. That the great turner arounder of things, Tesla, is paying only $13 is, very disappointing, and what that $13 allows one to pay in rent if he or she is to eat and pay for medicine and clothing isn’t going to be much if the average rent on a place is $1,100 dollars.
Response to my post:
Interesting comment, it’s not the City of Reno only in this issue. What about the Washoe County Commissioners and City of Sparks Council-members. There are several governmental entities in our community. That’s why I realized it bigger than most realize. You need to identify the specific problems before you can find a solution. Watch the video, interesting to say the least.
Actually, the problem of people being priced out of their lives is a global problem as distribution of wealth grows ever more unequal. This is really only partly about government and mostly about a global economic system that is not very considerate of the needs of a majority of the planets human inhabitants. That even a few MUST live in poverty, live impoverished lives is a sign that it is a problem of inhumanity, the inhumanity of an economic system that has historically proven itself to inspire inhumanity. I realize that some will see this as far afield and it is within the context of the current dominant sensibility. But most do know, at least have a sense of the kinds of cruelty that are excused for the sake of market and market values. Until we, as human beings, come to care so much about our fellow human beings as to sacrifice some of what we have for the sake of others having enough, we will continue to fail at being truly good beings.
[Tiny houses are very small spaces in which to house the homeless until they can afford something better] I think that tiny houses and rent subsidies are needed but they are not solutions. The real solution is that all have access to the equivalent of a living wage and that life essentials, the essentials for living decently (we can talk about what that means) are available to accommodate the living wage. If a business cannot pay its employees a living wage then it is a drag on the community, a promoter of indecency. There are a few places in the world that subsidize businesses trying to get a foothold so that employees can receive the wage they need to live decently. Perhaps there does need to be public investment in housing to make sure that there is enough available as to keep prices for rentals from going through the ceiling, a hedge against those who would benefit from shortages, make a killing off of the misery of those forced out? The same old ways as last time didn’t prevent this time from coming around and if we do again what we have done before we are bound to just get more of what we’ve got. Out of the box is not a bad thing when what’s inside the box is beginning to smell like one of those rooms in the renters’ motels.
The economy is built on the idea that it is okay to take advantage of others as long as it is in the context of the law. We are still living—pretty much–under the same system which allowed the plantation owners to kidnap and enslave thousands—the same system which allowed our government to make its money through land speculation: the stealing of Native American land and selling it. At present the reason why some are so rich and some are so poor is that those with the power charge more for their products and services and pay less to their employees than they should. The very fact that some are so wealthy and some are so poor is the plain evidence that the rich could have been more fair in business. And then there are those who say, “Well, life is not fair and that is the way it is!” Well, we all know life is not fair! But the question begs another, “What is moral?” If maximizing profits means creating lives of desperation for others such a system must be judged immoral. Rather than maximizing profits for those at the top, why can’t we have a philosophy of maximizing profits for all; rather than feeding off of and creating lives of desperation, why can’t we build businesses with the goal of creating better lives for all?