by Brian Wojcik

hile Washington continues to address the crisis of people unable to pay rent, they have not addressed

our nation’s housing woes. Why the contradiction? The notion of low-cost rental housing as a business model within private industry is regarded as being part of an “extractive market.” This fallacy is an echo-cham- ber of groupthink perpetuated by many academics and renter activists with political support who believe govern- ment-run programs are the answer. This is patently false. In April’s Realty Matters Column, I revealed indisputable evidence to the contrary — that government-run programs are largely cause for the worsening problem. That unfortunate thinking crowds the space for inno- vation and pragmatic free-market solutions to supply the necessary demand for affordable housing (both rentals and retail) faster — and at lower net cost to the taxpayer — with improved Community Development programs. We have to think about both supply and demand. “Economic instability among tenants leads to economic instability among landlords” according to a HUD Office of Policy Development and Research Report (PD&R) (Gar- boden, Rosen, Greif, DeLuca, Edin, 2018). RETHINKING EVICTIONS Will circumstances of the pandemic offer a new lens for renter activists to finally realize that regardless of exter - nalities, unpaid rent places independent housing providers at risk too? In the midst of all this pain, both renters and housing providers are experiencing the effects of this pandemic. Lost jobs, lower wages, and unpaid rent provide a high- ly visible and contrasting story to the age-old narrative “Landlords are evil and are the blame for evictions.” In contrast, eviction is not the “fault” of the housing provider;


the issue of rental property owners who are unable to pay mortgages, which can create another “domino effect” of evictions and loss. The rental providers, therefore, sud- denly find themselves thrown under the bus carrying the financial burden of this crisis: they are in effect subsidiz - ing those who are not paying rent. Further, as a collective group, their burden lacks a representative voice in both federal and state governments. RETHINKING COMMUNITYDEVELOPMENT In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to un- derstand that the independent investor rental housing pro- vider (with one, or even a handful of units, who provides necessary market-rent units to low-income communities) is in the midst of this pandemic wave, too. All involved have concerns of staying afloat. The notion of Community Development must begin to address needs of the rental industry as a whole, understanding segmented market supply and demand dynamics. If the low-income renter is vulnerable and at risk of eviction, we must also address the vulnerability of the small-unit count low-cost housing provider (referred throughout as “Independent(s)’’), the majority of whom have one to three rental units. The impact on small business during this pandemic is making headlines — revered as the backbone of the econ- omy — and rightfully so. Independent housing providers, the backbone of low-cost market-rate housing, are also Small Business. Yet, it has become fashionable for renter activists and the politicians they support to vilify and blame rental owners, who are Small Business owners, for

26 | think realty magazine :: november 2020

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