FROM OLGA KOUMOUNDOUROS
Moving into a rental after being a home owner.
It has been 5 months now since I moved out of the house I co-owned and joined the land of tenancy. I was an owner for almost 5 years. Was there a difference? Hell yeah.
But not in the ways I expected. I NEVER got the feeling of total security when I lived in the house I own. I purchased it in 2008. The height of market precocity. Times have changed. The idea of real estate being the most stable and security producing investment has changed. Changed for the middle and moderate income folks that is.
For me owning that home produced a deep level of panic. Getting behind on the mortgage felt irrevocably vulnerable. Are there rights or procedures that are codified and firmly established? Every situation seems arbitrary. The stories of bank evictions, refusals to refinance, and financiers taking money for repayment while simultaneously enacting foreclosure procedures haunted me. The tales of forever being financially “ruined” taunted. The myriad of ways the banks manipulated paperwork to offer sub prime mortgages is legendary. Me being a home owner could have only happened because I was a benefactor of these shenanigans, for real, I bought a foreclosure. We were in there because we were sub-prime. We were going to be the next casualty. Then there is all the stress of keeping up on home repairs. Each improvement and repair was totally up to us. Quality of life in the home was only ours to maintain. Do we have enough money to finish the walls? Do we have enough energy to finish the walls ourselves. There is a broken water pipe with sewage spilling out onto the side yard, fortunately its flowing downhill. The roof on the garage is sagging and going to collapse and we are liable. Tell people to not go near it.
Unfortunately, the emotional stress took a toll on our partnership and I had to move out and I gladly renewed life as a renter. Strangely, I feel more secure now. Sure I miss the freedom to do what I want aesthetically to the space. The control of the space was mine. I can do things on my terms. I miss the quality of life of enjoying a yard and doing whatever I want with it. I used the yard as my studio for years.
I now love being able to call the landlord to fix things. I like knowing there are laws, well established laws that activists fought hard for to protect me.
Fast forward four months later. I am withholding rent now because my landlord will not fix the water heater. He keeps sending over a fix it man, old uncle or charlatan. This old best friend of the landlord can’t seem to do the repairs necessary so that the gas company will turn the gas back on. Then they both get angry at me. The gas company because they keep coming out to check on the pathetic cob job that is nowhere near up to code. The landlord is pissed because I keep calling him and ruining his golf game. The law says every tenant is entitled to a livable space. It says hot water, windows, electricity and bathroom are part of that. Forget about commodity and investment, I’m now looking out for my basic needs.
Olga Koumoundouros’ Dream Home Resource Center was on view in the Hammer Lobby from June 21 - August 18, 2013. Addressing the immateriality of real estate transactions and the shift from home as emblem of the American dream to house as commodity. Dream Home Resource Center was inspired in part by the Hammer Museum’s exhibition A. Quincy Jones: Building for Better Living and Jones’s vision of modern architecture, Koumoundouros fast-forwards more than half a century to the present, a moment filled with far less optimism about housing in the United States.