Investor Defence In A Pandemic Battle: Preserving The Thin Red Bottom Line

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Can landlords and tenants bridge the arrears gap without evictions?

In the arena of housing, the pandemic has in spectacular fashion pitted two classes of people against each other: Shelterers, and Investors.

Who comes out on top? Employing the classic logic of the modern world, we know that on one hand “Shelterers gotta shelter.” And on the other hand, “Investors gotta invest.”

Even the shallowest evaluation of these two world mega-classes reveal some uncomfortable truths. First, the shelterer class includes everybody on earth. This is, to put it mildly, big.

The investor class, however, is comparatively tiny. That’s the case even when it is puffed out by those special kinds of people who have been designated as such by the crowning wisdom of the US Supreme Court — corporations.

This is hardly a fair fight. Sheer numbers would predict a decisive win for Shelterers, but since the days of Kings (Investor class) and Serfs (Shelterer class) those Investors who would invest in land and housing (rather than just live in or on it) have had an outsize thumb upon the scales of justice in the form of traditions, laws and other assorted political imperatives such as spears and battleaxes.

The fallout from the present-day COVID-19 battle can be measured in evictions and homelessness on one hand, and individual and corporate investment failure and bankruptcies on the other.

But just when those twin pathways threatening doom are stark and clear, aberrant behaviour pops a head above the battleground trenches, confusing the heck out of everything.

Did, you know, for example, that from a contrarian viewpoint, Investors don’t just gotta invest? Here’s an example straight from the horse’s mouth. Read more in the Toronto Star:1 ‘It’s not all about the bottom line, all of the time’: As many in Ontario struggle to make rent under COVID-19, one landlord is actually offering its tenants relief

Then there is also the “let’s see how we can work together on this” approach, which aims to be a bridge between the contrarians. One example is a landlord tenant mediation program offered by the City of Philadelphia. A pilot study showed positive results and the permanent program launched in August 2020. The mediators work with the landlords and tenants to avoid evictions, primarily through agreements to pay off rental arrears.

The City of Philadelphia is also planning to launch a COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program, which will pay outstanding arrears. You can read more about these initiatives to work together at reasons to be cheerful: Instead of Eviction, Landlords and Tenants Talk It Out

Footnotes

  1. The Toronto Star is paywalled but allows a small number of free reads monthly. If you are not a subscriber, you may need to wait some weeks before discovering that according to some investors, leaving tenants unsupported while moving rapidly to evictions is by no means cost effective.

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