Please no more second-person essays throughout the Awl network! The style is always grating and navel-gazey and writing-workshoppy in the worst way—even when the underlying story is good, as with this piece. Editors, please: let's stop this madness.
I don't understand the argument that affordable units need to be interspersed with non-affordable units and no one should be able to tell the difference and everyone should have the same access and privileges. Why is it so essential that folks who are already receiving an extraordinary deal on an apartment (in comparison to the market rate) use the same door as market-rate tenants?
I find it amusing that this article — which started out as a kind of tribute to finding happiness where you are — ends with the author being overwhelmed by FOMO and moving somewhere expensive and tenuous. How very Billfold!
My take: If you're even a little responsible and can set up auto-pay transfers between your bank and your credit card company, you should have a credit card and use it all the time. Capital One offers a no-fee credit card with 1.5% cash back, Amex offers a no-fee credit card with 3% cash back on groceries, and I am sure there are many others. I just couldn't imagine leaving this kind of money on the table, for fear of...losing self-control? If you are not using a credit card for these purchases, you are really adding 3% to every grocery bill, and 1.5% to every discretionary purchase. It adds up.
@deepomega Well, of course hotels are going to lobby to protect their interests. But in this instance, their quasi-monopoly is also good public policy. In any case, the presence of other 'causes' (though I think causality here is extremely confusing and unclear) doesn't make the behavior of these people any better, in the least. They are breaking laws that are in place for really good reasons!
@deepomega On the part of whom?
I have absolutely no sympathy for New Yorkers whose Airbnb income is threatened—particularly those who rent their entire apartment—and I hope they end up owing huge fines. It's really very simple: In a supply-constrained housing market with tons of tourists, it's always going to be more lucrative to rent space to transients than to residents. I work in real estate, and I can assure you that if this continues, professional landlords will quickly shrink the arbitrage, at the expense of normal renters like you and me. If I rent an apartment to Jane and she re-rents the apartment to Adam for twice as much, it won't take me long to cut out the middleman. Operating an apartment building as a vacation rental isn't so hard; new consultants and service providers will rise up to make it more seamless for landlords, and annual leases will become both more scarce and expensive. Turning attention to Airbnb renters who reside in rent-stabilized apartments, it's hard to see their actions as anything other than completely immoral. These renters are paying below-market rents to begin with, which prevents supply and demand equilibrium, puts pressure on landlords faced with rising expenses, and raises everyone else's rents. This is an incredible gift to these tenants; that they would use it as a profit-making opportunity spits in the face of all those with housing insecurity in the city. It also makes a joke of a valuable program, implicitly threatening it.The more the landlord lobby can collect examples of rent-stabilized apartment abuse, the easier it will be to say, "This program is done, it's obviously outlived its usefulness." This is by and large incorrect, but never underestimate the power of perception. Fuck Airbnb and their transparently self-serving lobbying effort, and fuck you if you're pulling apartments out of the city's stock in order to operate an illegal hotel.
As someone who believes the economy’s structural changes are rendering the whole notion of 'work' somewhat outdated, I’m not one to demand people’s appetites for consumption be tied to their employment or lack thereof. So the fact that someone is on “welfare” versus having a day job isn’t really relevant to the point I’m about to make. Basically: I find very strange this idea that with the very poor, we cannot begin to understand the value of the things they desire, and so we should simply let them be. This seems inapposite for the Billfold, a community where authors and commenters, in part, explore money: our desire for it, the way it affects our psyche, and the best strategies for saving and spending it wisely. When a young (probably white) post-collegiate professional writes in about financial issues, commenters love to offer suggestions. Some of them involve financial planning: open an IRA, get your company’s full 401k match, reduce credit card debt. Some of them involve behavior: drink less fancy coffee, cut the cord, check out vintage stores. In both cases, commenters assume the letter-writer’s attachment to the status quo is less important than the need for improved financial security. No one ever chastises commenters for daring to offer suggestions to strangers. I never read comments that say: “Maybe without that daily walk to Starbucks, the letter-writer wouldn't get fresh air, and she would be super- depressed, so stop being so judgmental about the coffee.” On the Suze Orman show, there’s a segment where callers ask Suze if they are in the financial position to purchase a coveted good, like a car or a fancy watch. The answer is usually ‘no’. And even though Suze may not fully understand the depth of the person’s desire for a fancy watch—even though she may never know how much the watch could “provide a boost of self-esteem”—that doesn’t mean she’s wrong. Maybe the very poor are indeed very different than you or me, but I don’t think that’s the case. If someone receives a welfare check and spends the total amount on fancy sneakers, I think it’s fair to say, hey there, wait, that’s probably not optimal. If a friend with a salary blows her whole paycheck on a pair of sneakers when she has a perfectly good pair, I think it’s fair to say, hey there, maybe that’s not the best idea. Poverty doesn’t mitigate short-sighted decisions; in fact, it amplifies the consequences of those decisions. There’s something infantilizing about this "leave them alone" attitude, almost a sense that these people are hopeless cases. I don't like that so much.
@Mae What you've listed are all good ideas for improving the job prospects of those entering the workforce (and those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder). But with the exception of ending unpaid internships, none address what seems to be a big bugaboo on the Billfold: entrenched nepotism, and the need for connections for a resume to rise to the "top of the pile." I believe that even in a hypothetical system that allows for far more social mobility than our current system does, the issue of affinity advantages will still remain. I guess what I am saying is, "knowing someone," either because of your parents or friends or Ivy League school or whatever, is here to stay. Unless it's not. In which case, I would be interested in hearing how that will change.