Rent Reform Hurts Those Without Privilege
At the end of this spring, many college students across the country will take their diplomas and flock to New York City- but only those with rich parents will actually get their shot at Big Apple success. One way young people without credit scores or a set income could score a living space in the city was to pay several months of rent upfront, like a larger security deposit. However, a law passed in 2019 made it illegal for landlords to ask for or accept rent money more than a month ahead of time. This was meant to make it easier for tenants who didn’t have the funds to cover the entire lease but would eventually receive it from their job over time.
The other way college students can emigrate to the city is through what’s called a guarantor: a third party, usually a relative, who can act as a co-signer for an apartment lease. Only it can’t just be any relative — their salary needs to be 80 times the monthly rent to qualify. Unfortunately for recent grads like me looking to move into the city but don’t have a wealthy relative, this new policy presents an unfair obstacle. A Bushwick landlord rejected me because I didn’t have a guarantor; the bank account funds from my current part-time job didn’t matter at all.
In 2019, a Georgetown study found that 70 percent of full-time college students in America also hold a job alongside their education. The idea for some of them was to save up to cover the living expenses of their post-college destination. Under NYC’s reforms, however, it won’t make a difference in housing opportunities for college students who’ve spent the last four years powering through jobs alongside their schoolwork. All that matters now is if they come from a privileged enough background to have a family guarantor, or have a job already lined up straight out of graduation- the latter of which has become even more excruciatingly difficult due to the pandemic.
The change is especially frustrating coming from New York, a melting pot that prides itself on limitless possibilities for its residents. Thanks to its vast network, it’s become a launching point for recent grads looking to start careers across a plethora of industries. It’s disheartening to see a city whose most famous landmark is engraved with a demand of “Give me your tired, your poor” now putting policies forward that hinder ambitious people from entering.
This law presents another situation where people whose parents are well-off get a leg up on the rest of the competition. Those grads can snag a place right now, start making critical connections, and continue their job search at a time when rent in the Big Apple has been plummeting during times of COVID-19. They can even take on temporary jobs like unpaid internships to beef up their resume while they wait for their big break. On the other hand, grads not so fortunate will have to wait until they secure a full-time job before experiencing the city’s wonder. And even if they can claw their way into a job market fractured from the pandemic, rent is likely to balloon again very soon now that vaccines are paving the way for society’s return to normalcy.
Job-seeking college graduates shouldn’t have to come from upper or middle-class families to indulge in the opportunities presented by New York. Allowing tenants to pay for multiple months upfront provided a way for grinding college students to win over landlords in America’s largest hub. This rental policy is a massive step backward that makes green privilege even more apparent in our city.
Ian Dziura was born and raised in South Jersey. He currently studies writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and served as the content director of their radio station.
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