Sunday, June 28, 2020

Yet Another Open Letter to My Landlord

The suspension on evictions in the state of Oregon has just been extended until September 30th, and our rehearsal for a rent strike continues.

Dear Randall Group, all it's many corporate investors and subsidiaries,

We won't be paying the rent in our apartment once again, for the fourth month in a row.  I expect you will ignore this communication as you have ignored every other one, and I expect you will send us a receipt telling us that we now owe you another $1,175 for July's rent for our two bedrooms in this ageing, shoddily-built, badly-maintained apartment complex.

I believe I'm legally obligated to write you at the end of each month and give you the reasons why we're not paying the rent for the coming month, depending on whether you're looking at new emergency laws passed in the state of Oregon, the city of Portland, or the county of Multnomah.  So, as a friendly reminder, here are some of the reasons:
  • The state of Oregon has, just last week, extended the suspension on evictions until September 30th.  Your power to make people homeless if they don't agree to your rental contracts is the main reason any sane person funnels their earnings into your coffers in the first place, as you may realize.
  • I am a professional musician, with diversified sources of income that involve touring multiple times a year in multiple countries.  With the borders closed and the venues in this country not functioning either, I have zero live performance work.  That is to say, my profession has more or less ceased to exist in this and many other countries, as a direct consequence of the pandemic.
  • Despite promises that gig economy workers now qualify for unemployment compensation, my application was rejected by the state of Oregon.  I've been advised I need to talk to someone there now.  All the numbers are always busy, and I haven't received a cent from the state since I applied in early April.
  • Regardless of ,my own employment situation, there are so many people all over this state and this country in a worse situation, facing worse consequences than me and my family.  The solution needs to be a collective one, and it starts with a rent strike (or a practice rent strike with a certain degree of support from the state legislature, the county commissioners, and the city council, like this one).
  • As a homeowner myself with a renter who isn't paying their rent due to the crisis, I have sympathy for other homeowners in similar situations, just as I have sympathy for other renters, whether they are also homeowners or not.  However, I have no sympathy for you, because you are very, very rich, and you are a corporation, not a human.
  • It's very obvious that you make too much money, because you have to donate millions of dollars to charities in order to save money on taxes, and make yourself look good, because everybody hates you.  If you don't know how hated you are, look at your reviews on Google.
  • The money you donate to charity comes out of the pockets of your tenants, and we can't afford to donate millions to charity.  Not nearly.
  • Since we moved in to this building, in 2007, you have increased our rent by almost 250%.  This is so unconscionable a thing to do, I have no words to insult you with that would possibly match the anger I feel towards you and your class of scum.  In doing what you have done to me and your other tenants up and down the coast and wherever else you own buildings, you are waging a class war.
  • You raised the rent in late March, weeks into the pandemic shutdown and the clear beginnings of nationwide and global economic decline.  Since then, you have retracted this rent increase, but you have made no effort to forgive your tenants of any of their rent-paying obligations -- unlike some, less tone-deaf landlords, who have at least canceled the rent for a month or two for their rent-burdened, wealth-producing peasants, I mean tenants.
  • Given that real wages in this country have been stagnant or in decline for decades now, your constant, massive rent increases are completely unsustainable and basically downright evil.  What you need to do is not freeze the rent, but lower it -- dramatically.
  • Although you supposedly care about children so much that you donated enough money to the local children's hospital that they changed their name to Randall, at the same time, your constant, unsustainable rent increases are making more children homeless every year, while your workers sicken children, other tenants, and themselves by going around on all your properties with gas-powered machinery, when electric machinery is easily available.
  • Your lobbyists bribing politicians in Salem and other state capitals, in combination with your unfettered greed, have largely been the cause of the vast and rapidly growing disparity in wealth in this state between the rich and the poor, and between the races as well.  The gentrification you are engineering and carrying out is a policy that is inherently inhumane as well as blatantly racist.  This city has lost more than half of its Black population between the last two censuses.  You and your wealthy, white, real estate speculating, house-flipping colleagues are very directly responsible for this.  And how much do you want to bet, you have Black Lives Matter signs in your corporate offices on Barbur Bourlevard.  To paraphrase a prominent minister with the AME church in Seattle, if Black lives matter, then so does the cost of housing.
  • In all your annual rent increases, you have never once explained why you are raising the rent.
  • The rug that I'm sitting on as I type, which my baby lies down on and buries her face in every day, is toxic, and should have been replaced years ago.  Not with another toxic rug, but with a non-toxic one, that isn't made of plastic.
  • Every year, you send a survey to your tenants asking them questions, which never include what they think of you or your rent increases, but always include a question about how things could be improved around the apartment complex.  For years, we requested that the grassy areas beside each of the buildings include a picnic table and a covered bike rack.  After years of ignoring these requests, you installed one plastic picnic table beside one building, and one small, non-covered bike rack beside the other building.  That would be fine if our rent was $500, like it was when we moved in.  For what we pay now, we might expect a bit better, no?  (Maybe a nice wooden picnic table made in Oregon, perhaps?)
  • When we stopped paying the rent, you sent around a form letter telling us about how you might have trouble paying the workers who go around spraying us with toxic chemicals every week, or the nice, underpaid folks who go around repairing our appliances with duct tape.  This was a pathetic effort and divide-and-rule, and if you had any shame, you should be full of it, just for that bit of ruling class-warrior nonsense you sent out, to say nothing of the rest of your many crimes (or what would be crimes, if you hadn't already bought most of the legislature).
  • Another Portland is possible.
Not yours,
David Rovics

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