Who Advocates for Renters?
Well, learn how the other half lives. As renters, my neighbor and I were subject to such increases two years in a row, despite issues such as lack of heat, no emergency contacts, then excessive heat that caused radiators to leak and damage ceilings, insufficient snow and ice removal and other problems.
Half of Plainfield households are renters whose living conditions exist at the whim of landlords, many of whom are absentee profiteers. There has been no organized tenant organization since a property managers’ association broke up the last effort in the early 1980s and bragged about it in a trade journal.
Mobility, survival issues and even language barriers contribute to the plight of renters. In our six-family, some units have turned over four or five times since 2000. A couple of us have been here throughout, clinging to the few plusses (location, secure mailbox and garage).
This building is accessible on foot to the Raritan Valley Line, numerous bus routes, downtown banking and shopping, City Hall, the high school where public BOE meetings used to be held, the Plainfield Public Library and even what remains of Muhlenberg for tests and such. On the other hand, all of our medical and dental practitioners, formerly within walking distance, have moved out of the city. I had to get a driver to take me to Overlook Hospital to see my endocrinologist, who moved from Muhlenberg.
Despite the plusses, we might not be too willing to recommend the building to others because of the minuses. So why do we stay? It’s partly a case of the devil we know vs. the devil we don’t know, and partly the high cost and hassle of moving.
In the affordable housing debate, we wonder where we fit in as renters. Sometimes legislators who say they address affordable housing are only looking at the issue from the landlords’ view. After all, rental profiteers can contribute campaign money, but individual renters can’t.
Among all the issues raised in the primary campaign, we did not hear about this one.
Perhaps those in the November general election race will give us renters a tumble.