Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who Advocates for Renters?

If you were a homeowner and discovered that the city had raised your taxes by $900 a year, would you be upset?

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.

--Bernice Paglia


Blogger Rob said...

I feel for renters without a doubt. I have rented many times and it was always a shot in the dark hoping the next one was as good or maybe even better than the one you were leaving. Unfortunately here in Plainfield people who rent aren't required it seems to keep the property decent looking or stay on top of maintenance. It always amazes me when cities, and especially Plainfield do NOT use the tools at their disposal: zoning, courts and fines to strong arm landlords into keeping the properties appealing and updated. Sad really...

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just the Facts, OR Supply and Demand rule: What do you/others pay??

9:58 AM  
Anonymous joanna cassidy said...

yes ,it would be nice if someone in cityhall,code enforcement,or such.or all the people running for mayor.would look in at the renters plight.greedy landlords,or should i say slumlords.out of town landlords,who only show up 2 collect the rent.its just ceilings are falling down. the bathroom is leaking from the tenants upstairs.its a total shame.i would love 2 move,yet as bernice is saying,who has the money 2 move.i certainly all you people running for about you help the renters out.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I did not have the money to buy a house, I had very few things. I moved several times, and all it took were a few friend and a morning. So as long as you continue to stay and whine and not take your money elsewhere - you are part of the problem. Every month you give you check to that lousy landlord - you tell him/her: I love you.

Alternatively I suspect Plainfield has an inspections department. In NY they would come out in a day.

So take some responsibility and some ownership. Else, you are really very happy where you are.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous PubliusNJ said...

Politicians don't care for renters in suburbia because they are generally less well off and don't contribute to campaigns, and because they don't vote nearly as often as homeowners.

Homeowners don't care for renters because, well, they're not homeowners. Homeowners lives are centered around their houses, and if you don't have one, not only are you not on their team, your not in their league.

Talk to your neighbors, organize, get strong.

11:17 PM  

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