Crossing streams

I wrote about Animal Crossing and how even more nebulous the concept of “home” has gotten for renters during the coronavirus pandemic, for Curbed. While the game does require you to pay back a landlord and spend money on housing upkeep and building infrastructure, it’s much lower-stakes. As Ilica, who I interviewed said, “You don’t have to stress out in the game over your debt. There’s no time limit on the debt, which is not the same in real life. You can just keep making money and paying it off. In real life, the longer you wait to pay off something, the more it will cost you.”

Animal Crossing island with orange tones.

Rents have been skyrocketing for years in cities across the country, but it feels like even those who could “afford” to not pay attention to the out-of-control state of the real estate market are starting to wake up to it.

San Francisco and Washington, D.C., where I live, have both enacted temporary eviction moratoriums for tenants who can’t pay rent due to lost wages stemming from the coronavirus. A few months before this, Moms4Housing - a group of women with children drifting in and out of housing security - successfully claimed a house that had sat empty at the end of their Oakland block for years.

The outcry from landlords and homeowner-sympathizers was almost immediate, sparking fears that now anyone could claim an empty house was theirs for the taking. In a few short months, people have begun fighting for the right to stay in their homes (regardless of whether they can pay the rent) and sparked a conversation about the crisis of housing affordability. I hope this raises a further question about the viability of being a full-time landlord and/or developer and whether it’s moral to profit off of amassing or building luxury real estate stock which more often sits empty while thousands of people are left to scramble for cover on the street.

I also hope this pandemic makes the U.S. wake up to the reality that we can’t support full employment anymore, nor should we have to. When this crisis is over and we go back to work, workers should demand a 32-hour or even a 25-hour or 20-hour workweek (with full-time wages). I’ve spoken to hundreds of employees who have had to juggle childcare and other domestic duties as a result of school closures while teleworking full-time jobs. The eight-hour day, 40-hour work week is a thing of the past. Workers deserve much more than a pittance and the threat of losing health care if they’re as vital to the economy as we’ve seen over the past few weeks.