Land/home ownership dreams are equally valid

Land and home ownership is a dream of people who have it and those who don’t. This is a reality rarely reflected in conversations, articles and social media. The tragic stories about families being evicted paint the legal land/home owner as the perpetual bad guy. In fact, the anger over evictions of poor families is misdirected.

The ‘bad guy’ in this reality is successive governments that have failed to provide enough quality, low cost housing. We have masses of people who can never buy a home and will never earn enough to consistently pay rent. They need free or subsidized housing. The government plan to tackle this long-running conundrum is missing in action.

The lessor/lessee relationship is a potential battle ground. The contract between them is the rule book. People become unable to pay rent for a variety of reasons. Though there are people who make bad financial choices and face eviction, most of the stories of people being evicted are unfortunate.

People on half-salary or retrenched during the pandemic are struggling to pay rent – eviction cannot be the only solution. Death, divorce, or serious illness can end up in evictions of families from rented properties. No one cheers such situations. This entire subject challenges the conscience. But, the property owner has no obligation to finance other people’s personal tragedies. Ultimately, the rental relationship is a business deal like any other.

Sympathy, inevitably is poured out for the evicted people who have no place else to go. There must be some sympathy for property owner as well. Those renting their assets face bank debt, damaged property, legal fees, high taxes, regulatory expenses, and insurance costs. The anti-eviction outrage should be directed at the government that has not solved the housing problem.

The stereotypical image of the large-sized, mean, selfish, rich, male landowner persecuting the unfortunate, vulnerable, impoverished, women and children renters is unfair.

There are land/property owners who did not inherit stolen ancestral land who worked hard all their lives to pay their bonds. They have dreams that must be respected too. Some take huge loans and live in debt for decades to buy a plot or a farm. Or, they dream of building a business or a home on that land. Owning property is an important milestone in their lives.

Land owners and property owners dream of securing their assets. It represents a form of security and comfort. Rental income is a needed income stream to address their life’s priorities. Or, it is money to for when there is no other income (disability, retrenchment and retirement.)

There are laws in place around evictions and that control the process. There are courts of law where those being evicted can bring their case. That must take its course without automatically branding those seeking an eviction as the bad guy.

Municipalities are evicting neighbourhoods full of people who have seized land. Those being evicted have arbitrarily chosen to build structures on land they do not own. They have used their last bit of money to put up a shack to at least have something to call home. The real world truth is that this can never be allowed no matter how painful it is to see poor people’s tin shacks being destroyed.

The painful reality is that our entire system will collapse if people are allowed to build a ‘home’ wherever they choose. Those choosing whatever land they desire to claim will soon fight amongst themselves for the ‘better’ spots. Homes can appear in national parks, along roadsides, on beaches or in local green spaces.

Health, safety and sanitation issues will continue to be at crisis levels in such a land grabbing scenario. When state property can be usurped on a whim, private property is the next target sooner or later.

Imagine going out of town for several months and coming back to find someone living in your garden claiming it as their property. Those living on your dream -your land- tell you, “no one was here and we have nowhere else to live.” When you call the police and have them removed, you become the bad guy.

The lessor dreams of owning land as does the lessee. One dream does not rank higher than the other. Government must do its job better and prioritize low cost, affordable housing and create jobs so people can pay rent or qualify for bonds. The media and the society at large must stop making home and land owners and their dreams the ‘bad guy’.

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