Arguments That Give Me Pause: Houses vs. Apartments

One time, I came across a post on NF regarding living in a house vs. living in an apartment. Two things were said:

“Who said that everyone has the right to live in a house?”

and

“Well, if you live in a house and, let’s say, that it was damaged, you’re kind of screwed.”

I hate the first part of this argument for various reasons, but before I get into that, I would like to address the pros and cons of living in a house, as opposed to living in an apartment.

My first reason for preferring a house is due to concerns of personal freedom. From my perspective, owning a house allows for more privacy. I lived in a house in my childhood and in some ways I liked it more than living in an apartment. In an apartment or any place with tightly packed, close units, noises easily carry over. Music can’t be at a certain volume, nor can voices ─ for a bunch of hypocrites who have no problem blasting their music. This is true of a house as well, especially if the house is being rented, but for the most part, there is an allowance for more volume. Another thing to consider about owning a house is that there would be no fear of a landlord dropping by if I owned my house. That last part cannot be understated.

Secondly, I don’t like the idea of renting a house because I would be at the mercy of the owners. The rent can go up, an issue I would face living in an apartment as well. Also, like an apartment, an absentee or incompetent landlord can make things difficult, particularly in terms of repairs. I could even be kicked out because the owner’s spoiled, self-entitled children get out of college/get kicked out of whatever residence they were at and want to live rent-free on one of their parents’ properties.

Finally, I like the idea of a financial benefit from living in a house. If living conditions line up with my standards, the price falls anywhere I can reasonably pay per month. And if I lock in a reasonable rate with a 30-year mortgage, I could essentially save money that way. Additionally, the mortgage could serve to help me write off some of my taxes.

Granted, owning a home is a huge responsibility. For starters, I would have to worry about paying my mortgage and property taxes. I would be responsible for the upkeep (lawn care and general appearance of the exterior, as well as keeping the interior clean). I have to take note of the crime rates in the neighborhood. Theft and property damage are also a concern, but I have options to recoup my losses as well as prevent some of those losses in the first place.

Additionally, I have one concern in the back of my mind: eminent domain. Sometimes, governments can take over private property for general public use. Homeowners are given stipends, with amounts determined by what would be “fair market value.” What are the options for apartment tenants?

In terms of property damage, that can be the case for anyone who lives in an apartment unit/building that is damaged or if they are evicted with no place to go or without any money saved. Residential fires can happen anywhere, although they are more likely to happen in one- or two-family homes. But since apartments are more often than not connected to other units, more than two groups of people living together will be put out of a home when a residential fire occurs.

Homeowners at the very least may be able to recoup their losses if they have good insurance. In the meantime, they can stay with family members or at some hotels ─ with some of those offering reduced rates. A tenant’s insurance does not cover the apartment unit, but part of their belongings might be covered…if they could afford that type of insurance to begin with.

That said, any resident below a certain tax bracket could be screwed, regardless of where they live. There are also times when I feel eminent domain is abused, in which case private property is turned over to other private owners. This can apply to apartment buildings and smaller businesses, too. (It goes to show how protected the rich are. No way in hell would they have their property seized in this way.) For apartment dwellers, there are things like the Ellis Act in California, which allow landlords to essentially evict their tenants by “going out of business.” This is being seen in and around San Francisco, where those paying lower rents are being priced out to allow condominiums, and other, more expensive homes, as well as shopping centers for the spoiled tech hipsters who are moving in.

Considering everything, I have to note that living in an apartment or house is not necessarily about choice. I have a problem with this. I have lived in an apartment for over half my life due to cost and credit concerns. That is most likely the second most important driving factor for people living in urban areas, after having huge populations.

As you can see, the issue is not so simple. I really take issue to someone saying or implying that no one really has a right to live in a house. Does this sentiment apply to those who have their properties taken away through eminent domain, particularly in cases where the property would only be given to another private owner? In those instances, someone is being uprooted and it will cost them money to move, find another home, and pay the rent. Let’s not forget that some of the owners would have already paid full price for their homes by then. Does the sentiment apply to those who have a dream of owning their own house in the future? Why shouldn’t they want this if the price is right and the neighborhood safe enough? I just don’t get it. Either one can live in a house, or an apartment is the only realistic option for them. But if given the choice, how can anyone say that no one has the right to live in a house? I still want to live in my own home because of the privacy aspect, the sense of autonomy, and the chance the save money.

It’s as if some people buy into what rich developers tell them or the loopholes they regularly use to fatten their pockets. I’m sure if these guys had their way, all the poor and those in the dwindling middle class would be shacked up on developers’ properties ─ with buildings that will undoubtedly be built by cutting corners ─ and be forced to buy the available wares while being burdened by more than a fair share in taxes. But I guess it would be the developers’ right to do this, right?

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