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Opinion: I wish millennials would stop complaining about housing and rent prices

Millennials are turning to social media, crying for help because they can no longer afford their rent. But, they are not the only generation impacted.

We millennials (at over 40, I’m an elder millennial or Xennial) are a vocal bunch for sure, having been the designers and original influencers of social media (Think: Mark Zuckerberg and Kim Kardashian!)!

Assuredly, social media is like our personal journals, for better or worse.

As a result, unlike past generations, where often it was only prominent commentators and news reporters whose voices would reach thousands or more, saying the quiet things out loud, we are the first generation to come of age with our own platforms.

Separately, but just as important, we are also currently the most dominant generation of renters.

That’s a powerful overlap. Consequently, if you are regularly on social media, you can’t help but see our journaled complaints — even those disguised as jokes — about the rental and housing markets.

Older generations have had it tough, too

Here is what is missing from this conversation: Have older generations had it tough? You know it! In various parts of the nation, there have been violent rent strikes (the first being in 1904 in NYC), labor movements, and the Civil Rights Movement — during which lives were lost.

Thus, I do not see this as a millennial problem but rather a generational problem. In every generation, we must affirm quality and affordable housing with equal access and opportunity, such as fair housing. No living generation has been able to coast yet.

For example, this generation is working on legislative checks and balances. Here’s an example of advocacy from my state of Georgia with a charge led by the nonprofit advocacy group HouseATL:

HB 404, the Safe at Home Act, is being considered by the Senate Rules Committee. The bill has reached the Senate Rules Committee.

Tenant protections are a key priority within HouseATL’s 2023 Strategic Recommendations. As detailed in HouseATL’s recent Saporta Report article, Georgia has a dire shortage of safe, decent, affordable housing and very weak tenant protection laws. The impact falls most harshly on pregnant women, babies, children, people with disabilities and those living paycheck to paycheck. HB 404 will:

  1. Require that landlords ensure that residential rental property is “fit for human habitation.” Fit for people to live in — without mold, rats, sewage, ceilings that let in the rain and broken utilities.
  2. Cap security deposits at two months’ rent, helping to move families a bit closer to affordability.
  3. Require a brief pause of three business days after the landlord tells the tenant to leave due to late rent payment before they can file for an eviction. This helps the landlord get paid without having to go to court, gives the tenant a few more days to pay and avoids the burden of hundreds of dollars in fees triggered once the landlord files an eviction, and creates a record that follows the tenant for decades and makes it impossible to rent that next home.

Essentially, like past generations, we millennials are just joining the charge of every living generation to advocate for the right to clean, fair and affordable housing.

We happen to do it more with our thumbs and memes on our social channels, allowing more of our individual voices, than previous generations, to be amplified.

That’s a good thing.

Ultimately, we millennials need not listen to the voices that say, “You’re not the first to struggle with housing, so y’all be quiet,” and instead seek out the voices of history that say, “You’re not the first to struggle with housing, so y’all should organize, and here’s how we did it.”

Lee Davenport, Ph.D., is a real estate coach/educator and author (of including Be a Fair Housing D.E.C.O.D.E.R. and How to Profit with Your Personality).

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