cost of living


Nonprofit exposes 'housing cartel' behind sharp rent increases across the country

"In Phoenix alone, you've seen rent increase 76% since 2016."

Photo by Daniel Tadevosyan|Canva

Nonprofit exposes reason behind sharp rent increases

It's no secret that there's a housing crisis in America. That's not to say that there aren't enough houses for people to live in, there are plenty of houses and apartments available, they're simply unaffordable. Over the past several years the cost of housing has increased to an amount that is so out of reach for the average person, that homelessness is on the rise as people unable to pay their rent are evicted.

While the housing prices continue to climb, wages have essentially stayed the same. This has led to people across the country making difficult decisions in an attempt to keep a roof over their heads. But most people have no idea why rental rates have skyrocketed in less than a decade. One nonprofit is exposing where this unexplained increase is stemming from with the help of the attorney generals' of Arizona and Washington D.C..

More Perfect Union is a nonprofit media organization aimed at empowering working people. Recently, the organization tackled the American housing crisis with a pretty shocking discovery.

There's a singular company behind the exorbitant housing prices in Arizona and D.C. though the states are thousands of miles away from each other. The attorney general of the District of Columbia calls the company an illegal housing cartel due to the tactics used and the money made. The company is called RealPage, which uses an algorithm that pulls from renters confidential information to skew the housing prices.

Landlords sign a contract to work with RealPage, but according to documents uncovered by the investigators, if a landlord pushes back against the rates, the company can expel them from the program. But what about all the empty units? There doesn't seem to be a concern because the rates are so high that the landlords still increase their revenue even when some apartments are empty for long periods of time.

This may feel a bit like a movie plot, but it's not science fiction. RealPage may be operating in multiple states across the country contributing to the unaffordable price of housing for American citizens.

a view of a city with tall buildingsPhoto by Gabriel Valdez on Unsplash

"We're talking about an algorithm that aggregates otherwise confidential information that the landlords have that ordinarily they would not share with their competitors," Washington D.C. Attorney General, Brian Schwalb says. "That allows then the algorithm to spit out a pricing recommendation. All designed to keep the overall market at its highest peak."

Arizona Attorney General, Kris Mayes explains, "they're not charging what the market can bear they're controlling the market. It's leading to the exacerbation of our affordability crisis, our housing crisis here in Arizona."

RealPage's practices are so concerning that the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice stepped in to remind landlords and companies of antitrust laws. "Your algorithm can't do anything that would be illegal if done by a real person," the text reads on the screen, in part.

Landlords who sign up are bound by the rules set by RealPage, which state RealPage sets the rental rates, leaving landlords little option to opt out. They company even sends out "policing agents" to enforce these prices by physically checking on the landlord and leasing agents. Landlords are lured in with the promise of increased profits, some may not realize at the outset that the prices their renters would be expected to pay would be unaffordable causing some to become homeless.

But with RealPage working with landlords across the entire state, every rental property would increase nearly simultaneously, leaving renters no choice but to pay more than they can afford. In reality this may mean getting second and third jobs, foregoing important medications, pulling children out of afterschool care to allow them to care for themselves and more just to afford housing.

The problem with algorithms setting rental prices and anything else that has to do with human needs is that computer codes are not human. They don't know that Alice living in 3B is a single mom out of work because she just had a mastectomy. An algorithm doesn't factor in that Marc in the split level is having to drive an hour every day to help care for his elderly mother or that Carol on the first floor left an abusive relationship and this was the only place she could afford.

Leaving the lives of people up to an algorithm can have disastrous affects, and the lawsuit the attorney generals are bringing will highlight that concern using RealPage as the example.

Mel Robbins at the TEDx San Francisco event.

There are a lot of reasons for people to get discouraged these days. The cost of living is through the roof. We’ve entered the early phases of an election year that Americans of all political stripes are dreading and an increasing number of people are dealing with mental health issues.

That’s why we’re sharing a simple piece of advice from Mel Robbins that can hopefully uplift those feeling down by providing them with a simple tool to help when they feel hopeless.

Mel Robbins is a popular podcast host, author, motivational speaker and former lawyer who caught the public’s attention with her 2011 Ted Talk, “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over.”

“If you’re feeling really discouraged right now or just in survival mode, I have some counterintuitive advice to give you and it's based on research. I didn't believe it when I first heard it, but it actually makes a lot of sense,” Robbins starts her video.

Feeling discouraged? Here is my counterintuitive advice. 


Feeling discouraged? Here is my counterintuitive advice. #melrobbins #dailyinspiration #mindsetmotivation #negativethinking #overwhelm #positivechanges #findyourhappy #spotlighteffect

“See, when things in life feel very hard, our brain tends to focus on what's not working,” she continued. “It magnifies the negative in your life and so it's all you see. And when all you see is the negative, it impacts your energy, and you feel tired, drained, and exhausted by the negative in your life.”

Her solution? Add “one thing” to your life that you love that’s positive. Many people are struggling with money these days, but there are a lot of positive experiences people can enjoy that cost very little or are free.

“Go paint this weekend. Go to an Art Museum. Go hang out with a friend. Sign up for a class. Start running again,” Robbins says.

According to Robbins, adding one positive thing will help divert your attention from your problems and focus them on the things that make life worth living. “You have something to look for, and the positive energy starts to wash away all of the negative things,” she said. “It doesn't make sense, but boy, oh boy, does it work.”

Psychological rehabilitation specialist Kendra Cherry agrees with Robbins in a piece she wrote for Verywell Mind. “When you find yourself ruminating on things, look for an uplifting activity to pull yourself out of this negative mindset,” she wrote. “For example, if you find yourself mentally reviewing some unpleasant event or outcome, consciously try to redirect your attention elsewhere and engage in an activity that brings you joy.”

One of the commenters on the video agreed with the importance of adding a little positivity to one's life because they ahd experienced the benefits first-hand. "My boss had us journal 3 positive things that happened each day. Did it for 3 weeks and it changed my life for years. Need to start it again," Kiki wrote.

“That’s amazing! Your boss was definitely on to something!” Robbins responded.

"Adding 1 positive thing instead of forcing everything to seem ok is great advice,” Eleni added. “You cannot ignore the reality, instead add positive moments.”

Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Can flying to college twice a week really be cheaper than renting?

Some students choose to live at home while they go to college to save money on living expenses, but that's generally only an option for families who live in college towns or cities with large universities where a student can easily commute.

For University of British Columbia student Tim Chen, that "easy commute" is more than 400 miles each way.

Twice a week, Chen hops on a flight from his home city of Calgary, flies a little more than an hour to Vancouver to attend his classes, then flies back home the same night. And though it's hard to believe, this routine actually saves him approximately $1,000 a month.

How does that math work? Well, each round trip flight costs around $150, so twice a week puts him at $1,200 a month for flights. Meanwhile, according to CTV, rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is around $2,100 (though according to reporting in the Vancouver Sun, the average 1-bedroom apartment has actually hit a whopping $3,000 a month). Chen had actually been living in Vancouver previously, but gave up his rental when he went on vacation. When he returned, the price on the place he'd been renting had gone up to $2,500.

"I thought, why don't I just stay at Calgary and then just fly here, it’s like a one-hour flight, that’s like the same as taking a bus,” he told CTV.

Chen lives with his parents in Calgary and only pays a small amount for utilities, so despite the cost of flights, commuting by plane is ultimately far cheaper than living in Vancouver.

Plus, imagine how many frequent flier miles he's racking up.

Chen is not the first student to commute to college by commercial airplane. An engineering student who was accepted to a one-year master's program at University of California, Berkeley, flew to school from Los Angeles, where he had an affordable place to live and where he planned to return when his program was finished. Once he crunched the numbers, he realized it would actually save him money to commute by plane to the Bay area and take the train from the airport to campus three times a week rather than live in Berkeley.

In all, that student spent $5592.66 over the 10 months it took him to complete his program, which was less than what he would have paid for just two months living in Berkeley.

We're living in some strange economic times, where people are having to get creative about where and how they live. Some people have discovered that unconventional lifestyles, such as living on a cruise ship, in vacation rentals or at an all-inclusive resort can be less expensive—or just as expensive—as traditional rent or mortgage payments (plus relevant living expenses). And now that more people are able to work remotely—one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic—such alternatives are more doable than ever.

Of course, the "time is money"consideration is real, and the hassle of going to the airport twice a week in the morning and evening like Tim Chen does might not be worth it for some people. But with rent prices nearly 30% higher than they were before the pandemic, more people are in need of creative solutions to cost-of-living conundrums.

Even if that means living at home and hopping a flight to school several hundred miles awaay.


Man breaks down how living in an all-inclusive resort is cheaper than his average apartment

"I just might find myself on a beach somewhere sucking down cocktails and WHAT OF IT."

Representative Image from Canva

Are resorts the new retirement homes?

Don’t know if you heard, but the cost of living is pretty high these days. Prices for groceries, restaurants, gas, and other necessary items just to, you know, live in the world, reaching an all time high is already making what used to be a decent wage barely enough to get by.

And let’s not forget the biggest financial whammy of all: rent prices. According to Zillow, the average rent price in the US was $1,958 ( recorded in January 2024). That a whopping 29.4% price jump since pre-pandemic times. And of course, that not even taking larger, more expensive cities into account.

It’s enough to make you wonder: “Is it actually cheaper to just live in an all-inclusive resort at this point?”

This question was certainly on Ben Keenan’s mind. In a now-viral TikTok, the 31-year-old compared the cost of living in a resort to that of his Seattle apartment. And let’s just say…it sparked a conversation.

Keenan broke down how much he spent each month on essentials like rent ($2300), utilities ($300), WiFi ($40), car/insurance ($320) and groceries ($400), plus nice-to-haves like dinners out ($300), drinks ($300) and his gym membership ($40). All totaling to $4000.

The first all-inclusive resort that Ben showed, located in Mexico, was priced at $4,500. For a little more, Ben could get everything he was used to having, minus any chores.

"Yes, that's $500 more than what I normally spend on rent, but bear in mind, I'm not paying the most expensive rent out there compared to, like, what other people in Seattle might be paying, for example. Also, is that $500 worth me never having to do a single ounce of laundry or any of my cleaning or whatever?" he said in the clip.

The next resort in the Dominican Republic would be $3,100, already cheaper than what he currently pays. And if he were to, say, split a double room with a roommate, well…you don’t have to be good at math to know that’s a lot less.

In the video's caption, it seems pretty clear that Keenan might be tempted to abandon it al fo that sweet resort life.

"I just might find myself on a beach somewhere sucking down cocktails and WHAT OF IT," he wrote.

@ivebentraveling Honestly, kind of a joke but kind of serious - I might just find myself on a beach somewhere sucking down cocktails and WHAT OF IT 😩 #allinclusive #allinclusiveresort #resortlife #livehack #mexico #dominicanrepublic #travel #travellife #travelmeme ♬ Funny video "Carmen Prelude" Arranging weakness(836530) - yo suzuki(akisai)

Down in the comments section, Keenan’s video struck up a conversation about another affordable alternative lifestyle: cruises. A few even referenced Nancy and Robert Houchens, the retired couple who famously began living on cruise ships because “it’s cheaper than a nursing home.

Not to mention…it inspired some pretty funny (if not a little bittersweet) jokes from millennials.

“New retirement plan” rent our house and live at an all-inclusive resort with a butler til I die,” one person wrote.

“All inclusive resort aka millennial assisted living,” another quipped.

And perhaps the most millennial joke of them all: “‘Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ got it right all along.”

It’s no secret that many working adults can’t foresee a future where they’d be able to afford the same “American Dream” that their parents achieved. And if having a forever home isn’t a possibility, traveling the world or enjoying a relaxing retirement very well might be the next best thing. And even if finances aren’t an issue, this kind of lifestyle just might align with current values a bit more.