Though tech companies have undoubtedly contributed to rising rents in some neighborhoods, they’re not the reason it’s so expensive to live in the areas. Policies pushed by the Seattle City Council and the Mayor are.
But, Amazon and tech companies in general are the bad guys of the day.
There are a bunch of activists complaining that it’s discrimination for apartment buildings to give deals to tech workers. In fact, there have been so many complaints that the Seattle Office for Civil Rights is investigating the issue, even though no one has formally complained. But the office needs to justify the funding it gets, so it will do a silly, pointless investigation from time to time.
Here’s how it works: if you work at a preferred employer, you can get some perks, such as not having to pay a security deposit for an apartment, or not having to put down as big of a deposit; maybe you get to skip the rental form fee.
Any company can be a preferred employer, but there are a lot of tech companies becoming them for a number of reasons, which professional activists and complainers don’t quite understand or accept.
1) Tech companies pay a lot and the work tends to be stable. What does that make someone if they have a stable, high paying job? A desirable tenant. If someone works an unstable job that doesn’t pay well, they are undesirable because they’re less likely to be able to afford to stay in the building. Apartment managers want people who will pay their bills on time, be at work a lot, and not leave after the lease is up.
2) These landlords and management companies are in the market to attract the best possible tenants. There are a lot of tech companies in the region and they’re attracting people from out of town. These people can afford really nice places and they’ll be less onerous on management; thus, there is a free market at work because these buildings are competing for the attention of the tenants. Thus, they offer concessions to get a leg up on the competing apartments.
This is all good. This is what we want. Unless you can’t afford to live in these apartments and get jealous and angry and pretend this is discrimination.
“We have landlords giving discounts to people who can very clearly (pay) landlord costs,” Mercedez Elizalde told The Seattle Times. “If they’re waiving them for a group of people, then that means they’re putting the costs on others.”
No, it doesn’t.
The discount generally covers the resources put into dealing with undesirable tenants. For example, let’s say it takes about a month to fill a vacant apartment. Well, giving a free month to sign a longer-term lease ends up saving the property management all the money and time associated with that one month trying to find someone to fill.
The cost isn’t passed along to anyone, it’s a saving. It’s a smart investment to attract the right kind of long-term tenant.
Now, in the The Stranger, a blogger conveyed a few arguments that this is discriminatory. But they had to stretch the concept so far, I’m not even sure there’s a word for what they claim is happening. Actually, a phrase can be applied to their claims: they’re non-issues.
There’s no discrimination. Being poor is not a protected class. What is? Gender. Sexual Orientation. Religion.
Turns out you can be a black Christian gay female and work at Amazon or Microsoft and be subject to the discount.
You can also be the minimum wage janitor or customer service rep at these companies and still be eligible for the discount.
This is a phony issue that is being brought up because these activists blame tech companies for gentrification and rising rates. They co-opt the discrimination fight for political purposes, hoping — praying, even — that the Office of Civil Rights does something because that office is likely sympathetic to their view.