Some of you may know that we are in need of housing. Urgent Need. The house that we have been renting since moving to Madison in September, was recently put back on the market. It is now under contract and we need to be out by 9am on May 31st. We have been frantically looking for housing for the last two months and with the end of May mere weeks away the best option we have is an expensive two-bedroom that starts on July 1. We might have to move into a place that can accomodate us June to August, and then move again starting Aug 15th.
We are not the only ones in this situation. The housing market seems to be going gangbusters around here. Spring sprang, and people began to list their homes again. Word on the street is that there are a ton of buyers and houses on the market aren’t staying there too long before they get snatched up. Nevermind that the house we live in had to lower the asking price before getting an offer, it was under contract a few days later. Landlords we’ve met with said they’ve seen other couples who were looking for new places because their rentals were sold (out from under them?).
Some of the problems with Madison’s housing market that appeared anecdotal when we were searching from Atlanta last summer are revealing themselves as systemic now that we’re here and looking again. First, the majority of rentals default to the Aug to Aug cycle to stay in line with the academic calendar (overwhelmingly). If you’re a person that lives in the same place year round and you should need a place to rent, you had better hope you can start your lease around Aug 15th. If not, it’s gonna be slim pickings.
Next, I would say there are a limited number of places that cater to the situation our family finds itself in. I’ll be the first to admit that we have a fairly lengthy list of specific needs: dogs, cat, child, one car. This often directs us to look for whole homes for rent since we don’t want the dogs barking every time someone below us comes home or a party to wake up our sleeping infant. At the same time we don’t want the screaming kid and barking dogs bothering neighbors either. Plus, a yard is nice. Perhaps the most limiting factor is that we don’t want to live in a property managed by a slumlord on a block composed of pseudofrats. The tendency of homes to be split up to accomodate, dare-I-say, less discerning undergrads, or even graduate students, can be felt in a number of neighborhoods, especially on the East side. Even homes that haven’t been split up are accustomed to turning an office into a ‘bedroom’, thus getting one extra tenant and raising the rent they can charge for the home. On the West side of Madison, the homes are not often split up, but most are owner-occupied. The rentals are nicer but also harder to come by. Most don’t allow dogs.
Even with my own headaches around housing in Madison, I still like to open the paper on Sunday and dream about the beautiful and luxurious city dwellings being offered in the high priced advertising space (as seen above). The New York Times recently labeled the people who actually get to occupy these spaces in real life “the Stratospherians.” I know it’s a dream and that’s what I like about it, but to see the equal opportunity housing logo in the corner is like a slap in the face. The spirit of the entire ad is absolutely contradictory to this logo and what the program is about (see below for an actual picture of what is on the HUD program’s website). I know these advertisers are just doing their due diligence and CYA routine, and I agree that anybody with the means to afford this place should be able to live there – no discrimination. But it irks me to see in hiding in the corner there. The people living there are Stratospherian. This is not the type of place you get on Section 8. One great thing about a dream, is that anything goes – it’s an escape, hopefully to something more desirable. Adding this equal housing logo makes it real in a way that just seems sad. It kills my dream and makes me question my whole reality, beginning with the matter of whether or not I’m at a level deserving enough – be it socially, economically, or intellectually – to be reading publication I’m holding. But then again, those ads subsidize the cost of my Sunday paper, and it still costs over $6!!!!!!!!!!!!
While this started as a lament for Madison’s housing stock and my own harrowing search, it has turned into a gripe with the ultrarich and their abodes. In another example of Stratospherian luxury housing, consider this modern dollhouse for the extremely boring child, available to you at less than $1000. I hope that anyone reading this will take a long look at this ‘toy’ and think about the dialogue that a child would create as he played with it. If you go the drab route of the Unhappy Hipster or the actual tone of child’s imaginative play, the juxtaposition is interesting, in not also funny. Please add whatever you come up with to the comments.