Saturday, May 26, 2007

Finding housing in an imagined community

Ah yes, my housing search in Scary City. So, as I indicated in my last post, it's been hell.

First, there is the problem of the ads and their crazy exclusivity. It occurred to me yesterday, while I was looking at socially critical contemporary art in the National Gallery of Canada, that I could make a nice little exhibition from the rental ads I see in Scary City. They are unlike anything I've seen before - and I've looked at a lot of rental ads, being the chronic mover that I am, and in several cities. Some of the most common refrains are "Christian couples preferred," "families only," "35+" or "40+," "no parties."* It's not all about what they don't want - high on the list of positives are "right on the golf course!!" and "carport."

And, of course, 90% of the ads specify "no pets." The remainder say either "Cat OK" or "small pets negotiable." Needless to say, Mr. K is not coming with me - ex-GF and I decided that for good. (Which is really, really sad, but he'll ultimately be happier in dog-friendly Home City, and in his One True Home, ex-GF's place...he's really made it clear these last few months, living elsewhere with me, that he's more comfortable there...)

I feel as if these housing ads are a great window on the imagined community of Scary City. And you know, I try to feel positive about the whole move, I really do. But this imagined community of golf courses and family-values Christians? It freaks the shit out of me.

Anyway, I've of course been calling people about the ads for places that would deign to take me, as someone who is under 40 and not Christian, and might want, you know, to have the occasional cocktail party. I am getting nowhere. People say, "I'll send you pictures," and I never hear from them again. Or, as with yesterday, I'm just on the cusp of getting the place - I've been told that it's mine - and suddenly it falls through. The number of disappointments I've had has been pretty mind-boggling. I can't really figure it out - I've rented places in other cities sight unseen before, and people have been perfectly friendly and non-suspicious and amenable. Best I can figure, it's that the vacancy rate is almost 0%, and so if there are 40 people standing there in person, chequebook in hand, they're going to pick one of them. But I have to say, I feel as if a lot of this has been pretty disingenuous.

I have posted a "wanted" ad, and several people have contacted me, but their places have all been out of my price range. (I don't know what people think; they see "professor" and they think I must be a millionaire.) They tempt me with photos of these gorgeous apartments, but it's just not feasible - I've already had to up the rent I was willing to pay because the city is expensive, and I really can't exceed it.

After a recent tangle with some lying bastards who told me a place was mine, I decided to book a ticket out there from June 4-7 to look for a place in person. So I can be one of the people standing on the doorstep with chequebook in hand. Sigh - I had just been thinking, lately, about how I fly quite a lot, and that's not so good - I'd like to try and reduce that footprint a little. But off I shall go. Which means three return plane trips for me in just over two weeks. Not what I had in mind.

Anyway, that's where things are at and that's the source of my frustration. I know it will all be okay in the end, but goodness, it's been a pain!

*The "no parties" thing is not a response to a city that's trying to cope with some insanely huge and rowdy student population. The student population is not that big, and the overall demographic of the city is older. So this seems to me to be just another value judgment and bit of gatekeeping.


squadratomagico said...

Wow! Now I know why you call it Scary City. I can't believe landlords openly engage in religious discrimination. How repulsive!

Best of luck finding something during your visit!

Anonymous said...

Hi Hilaire! I stumbled across this blog a few weeks ago and I really enjoy it. I suspect that the Scary City to which you refer is also the one place I said I'd never move to, usually described as "a good place to mind your own damn business." (Needless to say, I'm moving there in the fall. Ha!) Have you tried Craigslist yet, or is it part of the general suck?

Best of luck!

Hilaire said...

HI Anon - NO way! You should email me, if you feel comfy outing yourself, and let me know where you're moving - if we're going to the same place, we can compare notes!

Yeah, I've tried craigslist, but it's almost non-existent in the city I'm moving to. That in itself seems to say something!

Anonymous said...

Hi Hilaire,

It's Anon again. Sorry for the radio silence (and I really hope you get this ole comment)! I will email you shortly to out myself and we can discuss Scary City, if indeed we are moving to the same scary city. I really hope so!

Anon, soon to be of Scary City

Hilaire said...

Yes, I got your comment! Drop me an email when you get a chance! :)