04 June 2009

Home Ownership About Autonomy Not Equity

There are three classes of people when it comes to shelter: home-owners, home-renters and home-owners who lease homes to renters.

Home-owners have autonomy and can, if they wish, smoke, have animal companions and do whatever they like within the walls of their own homes, subject to the law.

Renters do not have similar licence. They are subject to the dictates of the people who own the home. Renters of homes have no protection in law, for example, to smoke or have animal companions. Landlords can deny renters privileges the owners themselves have, for no other reason than they own the property in question.

This issue of autonomy, more than housing as equity, is what makes home ownership for renters so vital, especially for renters whose autonomy is already reduced by income or health barriers.

In British Columbia, landlords can refuse to rent to people who have animal companions. Now some landlords of multiple-unit dwellings are refusing to rent to people who smoke.

I don't smoke. Selfishly, I'd appreciate living in a smoke-free building. But I think it's wrong that people who smoke can be denied rental accommodation. I think it's wrong that, in terms of autonomy, 'home' doesn't have the same meaning for owners and renters and that owners can impose rules that they themselves don't have to live by.

Essentially, I think it's wrong that owners can lord it over people who've no choice but to rent their homes.

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