+
upworthy
Democracy

Urban planner shares a simple and proven way to cut rents in half

“Housing is ultimately for people, not profits.”

uytae lee, co-op rentals, housing crisis

Why is one building so much cheaper?

Over the past few years, one of the most significant contributors to the increase in the cost of living in the U.S. has been skyrocketing rent and housing prices. A big reason for the rise is the lack of housing supply. Estimates show that Americans need to build around 6 million more housing units for supply to meet demand.

If we are going to build more housing units, About Here’s founder urban planner Uytae Lee, suggests that the U.S. and Canada focus on building more non-market co-op units.

He lays out his theory in a video entitled “The Non-Market Solution to the Housing Crisis.”

To illustrate his point, he highlights two apartment buildings side by side in the up-and-coming Olympic Village neighborhood in Vancouver, Canada. In one building, the average rent for a 2 bedroom is $4,500. However, in the building across the street, a 2-bedroom unit only costs $1900 a month.


“So how is this building so affordable? Well, it's really quite simple. It doesn't make money,” Lee says. “This building is owned by the Athletes Village housing co-op, a non-profit cooperative. Like the name suggests, the co-op isn't trying to make a profit from this building. So it sets rents that only cover the building's operating costs, things like heat, water, electricity, taxes, mortgage payments and maintenance.”

“The building next door is a condo that is owned by an individual or corporation who very much wants to make some money from their housing,” Lee continues. “So they can rent it out for well really whatever price they can get. Any money they make on top of their operating costs is the profit they can pocket for themselves.”

Co-ops are often owned by charities, churches and nonprofit organizations that understand housing is a need and want it to be part of their larger mission. There are co-ops for various demographics, whether seniors, refugees, or college students.

If a private building owned by a landlord were constructed simultaneously, their rents would be similar. However, a co-op can lower rent over time while market pressures and profit motives drive the private building upwards.

As market value in a neighborhood increases, landlords raise rent. However, co-ops keep rent at the same level as long as costs remain stable. Further, after the mortgage on the co-op is paid off, its expenses are drastically reduced so that the rent can be lowered.

“Non-market housing promises a home at a stable price right now and an affordable price in the long term,” Lee says.

When there is an abundance of co-ops in a given area, they also have a positive effect on market housing. Lee cites Vienna as an excellent example of non-market housing keeping market rents low. “Private landlords have to compete with non-market housing for the same tenants. They can't afford to inflate the rents because people will apply for the non-market housing next door, where rents can be as low as €551 a month.”

Just as there are barriers to building large private housing projects in North America, building non-market housing also has its problems. The first is cost. Finding non-profits or government agencies willing to fund an entire apartment building is tough. It’s also hard to get housing projects approved when co-ops have to go up against NIMBYs and housing zoning regulations.

“I think first and foremost we need to change these rules and make it easier to build housing in general,” Lee says.

In the end, Lee believes co-op housing isn’t a magic bullet that will solve all our woes. But it should be an integral part of a larger solution. “I think we should be treating all market housing as an important counterbalance,” Lee says. “Something that limits people's ability to exploit the housing shortage in two key ways: adding more supply and setting rents that help to stabilize the overall housing market — sending a reminder to all of us that housing is ultimately for people, not profits.”


Pop Culture

Here’s a paycheck for a McDonald’s worker. And here's my jaw dropping to the floor.

So we've all heard the numbers, but what does that mean in reality? Here's one year's wages — yes, *full-time* wages. Woo.

Making a little over 10,000 for a yearly salary.

I've written tons of things about minimum wage, backed up by fact-checkers and economists and scholarly studies. All of them point to raising the minimum wage as a solution to lifting people out of poverty and getting folks off of public assistance. It's slowly happening, and there's much more to be done.

But when it comes right down to it, where the rubber meets the road is what it means for everyday workers who have to live with those wages. I honestly don't know how they do it.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

LeVar Burton shares thoughtful reaction to finding out he has a Confederate ancestor

“There’s some conflict roiling inside of me right now, but also oddly enough I feel a pathway opening up…"

James Henry Dixon was a North Carolina farmer with a wife and children when he fathered Burton's great-grandmother.

The United States has long been seen as a "melting pot," a "nation of immigrants," and a country where people of diverse backgrounds mix and mingle together under the common banner of freedom and liberty.

It's a bit more complicated than that, though, especially for Black Americans whose ancestors came to the U.S. by force as part of the "peculiar institution" of human chattel slavery. Through the cruel system of buying, selling and breeding human beings for generations, many people's ancestral knowledge was stolen from them, a historical reality that prompted "Black" with a capital "B" as an ethnic and cultural identifier for people of the African diaspora.

Curiosity about the varied backgrounds of Americans is the basis of "Finding Your Roots," a PBS series hosted by Harvard professor Henry Gates, Jr. The show has revealed some surprises in some famous people's DNA, including the beloved "Reading Rainbow" host, LeVar Burton.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Married couple swears by the '3-Hour Night' as a relationship game changer

"If you’re stuck in a rut with your evenings — try this!"

@racheleehiggins/TikTok

Want out of a relationship rut? The Three hour night might be the perfect solution.

Almost every long term relationship suffers from a rut eventually. That goes especially for married partners who become parents and have the added responsibility of raising kids. Maintaining a connection is hard enough in this busy, fast paced world. Top it off with making sure kids are awake, dressed, entertained, well fed, oh yeah, and alive…and you best believe all you have energy for at the end of the day is sitting on the couch barely making it through one episode on Netflix.

And yet, we know how important it is to maintain a connection with our spouses. Many of us just don’t know how to make that happen while juggling a million other things.

According to one mom, a “three-hour night” could be just the thing to tick off multiple boxes on the to-do list while rekindling romance at the same time. Talk about the ultimate marriage hack.

Keep ReadingShow less

Pauly Shore as Richard Simmons.

Even though Richard Simmons dropped out of the public eye in 2014, the world clearly wants more of the exercise guru. That was made clear when a new teaser trailer for “The Court Jester,” a short film where Simmons is played by Pauly Shore, dropped before its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

On the first day of the trailer’s release, it received over 230,000 views on YouTube. The top commenter does a great job of explaining why people are so interested in Shore as Simmons.

“Richard Simmons is an incredibly fascinating man and I'm very eager to see how this turns out,” Dilapsor wrote. “I also think Pauly Shore is long overdue for some sort of career revival and I really hope this helps him achieve that.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Response to person grieving for friend might be best internet comment of all time

“I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to.”

"My friend just died. I don't know what to do."

Upvoted, an online publication from Reddit featuring the most compelling content from their site, recently republished this "classic" piece originally posted around 2011. The beautiful piece of writing was done by a commenter in response to a poster asking for advice on grief.

The original post simply read: "My friend just died. I don't know what to do."

Here was Redditor GSnow's moving advice:

"Alright, here goes. I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not. I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Listen to this organ in Croatia that uses the sea to make hauntingly beautiful music

It's a 230-foot-long organ that turns the rhythm of the waves into actual music.


In 2005, a Croatian architect designed a 230-foot-long organ that turns the rhythm of the waves into actual music.

Nope, not nonsensical bellows or chaotic tones. Real, actual, music.

Keep ReadingShow less