Unaffordable cities: this criminal lack of housing is a global scandal

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Unaffordable cities: this criminal lack of housing is a global scandal

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Unaffordable cities: this criminal lack of housing is a global scandal

A basic lack of homes is taking a terrible urban toll – affordability is social justice. Our only choice is to build, build, build.

The first time I heard the story, I have to admit, I didn’t believe it. A friend was apartment hunting and – despite being employed, personable and trustworthy – was having a difficult time finding a place. After a few weeks, she was invited to a “pre-showing”, where landlords show the apartment to a select group of prospective tenants before having an open house.

The apartment was perfect, if expensive: think hardwood floors, lots of light, high ceilings. She was smitten. As she was strolling through what she thought might become her new home, however, a man in hip clothes walked up to the landlord and said, “I’ll give you a year’s rent, in advance”. Needless to say, she did not get the unit.

As I say, I was sceptical. Then I heard basically the same story again, from a completely different source, about a completely different apartment. Then I heard a version of it about a flat in London, another about a competitor bribing a rental agent in New York, and another about the strategy of the pre-listing offer, where deep-pocketed tenants make generous bids to the owners of buildings where workers are making major repairs, to secure places that may soon be available before other tenants can even see them.

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