September 2009

The Self Storage Trap

I'm sure you've noticed storage units cropping up all over the place, but did you know there are seven times as many storage unit facilities as there are Starbucks?  That we now have more than seven square feet of self storage space for every man, woman, and child in America, so that it's "physically possible that every American could stand - all at the same time - under the total canopy of self-storage roofing"?  Because seriously, I didn't!  

The New York Times has a long and engrossing article about storage unit rental.  I expected it to be a diatribe against the wastefulness of self storage, the waste of money, of time, of land, and of clutter.  But Jon Mooallem has written a far more nuanced article than I would have expected.  

Renters Union: Fair Representation for Leasing Tenants

Anyone who has ever been in the lower income brackets has had to deal with less than satisfactory conditions in a rental property. Negligent building managers, sub-code utilities, ancient appliances, pests, loud neighbors... it's being stuck between the rock of a low income and a hard place called no representation. One tenant going up against a property manager is a losing battle and if that tenant is forced to live in low-rent housing, he or she certainly doesn't have the extra scratch to pay court fees, let alone hire a lawyer. Even if worthy disputes did make it to litigation, where would the prosecuting tenant live in the meantime? Perhaps low-income renters ought to do what low-wage workers did in the early 20th century: Organize.