Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Home Truths

Jennifer StoneWe're very pleased to present this guest appearance from Jennifer Stone, a renter in the Snowy Monaro region, who has recently started a group for renters in the region to connect and discuss local renters issues. The original version of this article was published on their Facebook page.

The home of the silenced
Snowy Monaro renters welcomes you to come into our place and sit with us a while. There is something vital we need to tell you, something which concerns us all.  If you come to know who we are and our situation, you will understand.
We come from diverse backgrounds, interests, beliefs and aspirations, yet we are a family, united by common experience. Though we are significant in number, we are marginalised, distained, unheard and unknown. We have no real shelter, but pay a high price to dwell where the walls of greed’s injustice over shadow us - and block us from a home.
We know our nations’ harsher reality, our nation’s pain. We offer you home truths, and hope you will hear us. Until we are heard, our nation is in plight.

Towns prosper when we prosper and whither when we thirst
While a substantial amount of our income goes to supporting landlords and real estates, we spend much that is left in our community. In this way we provide vital support to the local economy and help it stay afloat.  Our numbers have brought extra medical centres, high schools and supermarkets to service the community.
We work in almost every sector of the region. Our children represent a significant number of the student population in the regions’ schools.  Amongst us are also pensioners and those struggling to find jobs in our community. For those on social security payments without community or state housing, average rental costs are prohibitive. 
The economy is much impacted by the increasing and excessive rents in our region. Renters face great hardship and are struggling to find money for even the most essential items. There is a shortage of permanent rental properties appropriate to our means and needs.  As rents are becoming unaffordable, Snowy Monaro renters are increasingly forced to pay for sub standard housing with inefficient heating, lacking proper insulation. High power bills cripple our financial capacity.
If we complain at our conditions or at breaches by the landlord and real estate, we face eviction in retaliation, and inter real estate black lists. Indeed there is a special provision so landlords may give termination notices for “no grounds” – this is so the tenant can not argue their eviction (even with much evidence of retaliation by landlord and real estate).
As we are forced to leave a place and go to another, we have to find bond money, we lose pay days while moving and sick days from intense rental stress. Children suffer from such destabilisation, as does the whole community. In general we are in an ever growing inescapable cycle of debt. Our plight impacts the community’s well being as a whole. We see our regions’ potential for prosperity much diminished as rents become unaffordable - yet the financially powerful minority, seem blind to this.

We suffer from divisive and prejudicial myths
It seems there is a myth amongst some landlords who own local businesses that they are the backbone of the community. They say that renters are lowly “lazy”, “dirty”, drug addicted, poor “dole bludgers” who are beneficiaries of their “hard work”. They speak of us as second class citizens, less important than themselves. Some real estates call the renter “scum” and we know for sure they treat us as such.
Derogatory myths can create a painful reality. The myth that the majority of renters are financially poor has now come to express fact. As houses have become unaffordable, rent has become unaffordable. Both renter and mortgaged landlord share the pain of immense financial pressure, often in debt and living beyond their means – an economic climate stirred by the greed and power lust of just an elite few. This pressure has lead to an economy where those who have more financial wealth, gain more each day and those who have less financial wealth, lose more each day.
The average wage hardly changes while rents go up exponentially. Renters are paying their landlords’ mortgage along with their own increasing debts. Landlords who have no mortgage are greedily extorting tenants, renting out sub standard houses at excessive market prices. Such landlords hold shelter to ransom. As landlords increase their ability to buy yet another house, renters become more likely to never have a home. The myth that renters are lazy while landlords worked hard for what they have, purveys a great falsehood. Indeed, renters work doubly hard for what their landlords have! We are the hand that feeds the landlord, are we not?

Wisdom heals the prejudice and division
Those who have become financially impoverished are not worth less. The financially rich are not worth more.  There is nothing which can diminish the worth of any being.   All people are  intrinsically valid, necessary to each other and vital in their unique contribution. No one is better than or less than another. In truth we are really one, there is no division.
Everyone creates the community and all are responsible for the conditions of that community. Prejudicial myths inevitably create the worst of conditions for all. A myth which divides people by declaring some of greater worth and others of lessor worth, by any measure, must inevitably lead to a conflict for power and recognition. This conflict develops a ravishing greed which devastates and seeks to devalue all contesting its path. This in turn gives rise to mass poverty, disenfranchisement, marginalisation, cruelty and suffering.
A harmonious and prosperous community would grow, if it was understood that we are all equal yet unique, individual yet one. If all are seen of vital worth, no one would seek to devalue another nor make a house of greater value than the people who dwell there. Divisive myths of prejudice blind the powerful minority to their own truth and the truth of their nation. 

The home truths which can heal us – please listen, please hear us
We are your kin, your sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents, children, and, generations to come. We are one. In truth, we are you. What happens to any one happens to all.  No one is at home when all about them are homeless, paying for insufficient shelter, exposed to greed, extortion, repression, and eviction at a landlord’s whim.  A house which comes by way of life long debt or subjugation of another can never be a home for anyone. The nation cannot be at peace, when so many are unsettled.  
When values of decency are worth less than values of commodity our nation is impoverished.  Happiness, not commodity, is the measure of a nation’s wealth. A nation is truly wealthy when its people enjoy a peaceful home without fear of eviction, where all may contribute to society through unique expression, welcome in the nations embrace. A nation is not wealthy if its people are homeless, enslaved and in perpetual debt. If on paper a house is worth a million dollars, it is worth nothing to those who cannot call it home - that paper value serves no one if its cost destroys life. Money on a graph is not food we can eat and property on a graph is not a place to shelter.
Houses are homes and not commodity. Economists devoid of moral compass, call out triumphant when run down cottages sell at palatial prices - while homelessness ravages the nation. Who gains when the majority have no claim to home, striving to survive, and backs bent to power thirsty property managers who lack empathy, and distain ethics? How is it that the financially powerful minority of this nation sanctify greed without question – do they not see the greater part of their nations’ family in despair.  Muted acquiescence to raging greed makes all of us complicit in the theft of happiness from generations to come.
What we do to another we do to ourselves - when did people abandon this eternal guidance? The ancient truths have never changed, we reap what we sow. Seeds of kindness bear fruits of happiness, fulfilling and empowering all. When the nurturing harvest of this wisdom is ravaged, hunger for power grows, casting seeds which bear injustice, cruelty, drought and despair. 
There are elderly pensioners eating from cans of pet food to pay the rent, suffering the pain of eviction when the landlord sells for their needed profit, did you know? This is our pain as a nation, this is our home truth.
Let’s meet again and find a better way.

 By Jennifer Stone of Snowy Monaro Renters