Shared Housing for Millennials – Boarding Houses Are Making a Comeback

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Much as was the case prior to the Financial Meltdown in 2008, housing – both purchases and rentals – have made a stunning comeback. At least prices have. Late last year it was reported that house price levels finally eclipsed their 2006 price peak and are climbing higher.

The recovery is of course uneven. In some markets, house prices are well above their pre-recession peaks. In others, they still haven’t recovered fully. And in still other markets, they remain mired at or near recessionary levels.

But housing has become a problem at all levels of society. In areas where job growth has been strong, house prices have outstripped salary growth. And in areas where housing prices are softer, living wage jobs are scarce. In relative terms, housing has becoming more expensive no matter where you live.

Shared Housing for Millennials – Boarding Houses Are Making a Comeback
Shared Housing for Millennials – Boarding Houses Are Making a Comeback

Enter shared housing for Millennials. I’m sensing the start of a new trend.

Shared Housing for Millennials is on the Rise – 21st Century Boarding Houses

In response to rapidly rising housing costs, there’s been a trend toward cohousing. An article last week on TechCrunch, reported that Shared housing startups are taking off, as upstart companies take over apartment buildings, and convert them into shared living situations. Three or four tenants may share a single apartment, in a building designed specifically for shared housing.

I found this particularly interesting because a couple of months ago I addressed this issue in regard to retirees, in Why Cohousing May be the High Cost Retirement Housing Alternative. Rising housing costs are threatening retirees. But according to the TechCrunch article, they’re also constraining highly paid younger workers.

The activity reported by TechCrunch is happening primarily in and around a small number of high cost cities, like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. In those markets, housing has become too high even for tech workers earning six figures. This may seem like an isolated situation, but all major trends start in small corners of society.

Shared housing for Millennials is becoming increasingly popular in prime, high-cost population centers. There’s an excellent chance it will spread to suburban areas, and eventually across the country, even to lower cost cities.

It’s the Pareto principle in action. Most activity involving change is initiated by the top 20%. But Charles Hugh Smith has refined the concept even further. He maintains that change is primarily initiated by the top 20% of the top 20%. In other words, 4% of the population – 20% of the top 20% – drives the top 20% of the population, who drive the rest of the remaining population.

This is how relatively small numbers of people can initiate huge changes society wide.

Housing Prices and the Real Economy are Unbalanced

We often hear that Wall Street has separated from Main Street. This is true with housing as well, and for most of the same reasons. The Federal Reserve – whose apparent job it is to manage the economy – reasons that rising stocks and housing prices signal a strong economy. For that reason, they keep interest rates artificially low, and money creation excessive.

Contrary to popular belief and propaganda, rising house prices actually aren’t good for the majority of people, and we’re seeing evidence of it all over.

Consider the evidence:

House prices. According to the US Census Bureau, the median home value in the US in April, 1970, was $24,200. By April, 2018, it’s risen to $312,400. That’s a nearly 13-fold increase in 48 years.

Median household income. According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income in the US in 1970 was $9,430. It reached $59,055 early in 2018. That’s slightly higher than a sixfold increase in 48 years.

So we have a sixfold increase in the median household income since 1970, but a 13 fold increase in median house prices during the same timeframe. That means house prices have risen more than twice as much as household incomes since 1970.

Here’s a little bit more math: the average house value in 1970 was about 2.5 times the median household income. But in 2018, the average house value is six times greater than the median household income.

And here is yet another factoid to keep in mind – in 1970, far fewer households required both husband and wife to work. Families could survive in a single income. Today’s median household income number is largely comprised of two full-time workers in the home.

Housing is Becoming Unaffordable at All Levels

These are national numbers, which show the housing imbalance isn’t just in the higher-priced coastal urban areas.

It’s often suggested that people who live in high cost areas relocate to places where housing is cheap. But the problem is that housing is cheap in those areas for a reason. In much of the rustbelt, manufacturing jobs that were once the mainstay of local employment have disappeared. Much hallowed high-tech positions haven’t taken their place. A $150,000 home may seem cheap to someone living in New York or San Francisco, but to someone living in a rustbelt city, earning $10 per hour, buying that home is the impossible dream.

What’s more, while we’ve been focusing primarily on fast rising median housing values, there are other factors that made housing prohibitively expensive. For example, costs for real estate taxes, property insurance and utilities have exploded in recent decades. A $150,000 home with a $4,000 annual property tax bill adds more than $330 to the monthly cost. And utility costs, which can run several hundred dollars per month, don’t even factor into the way mortgage lenders qualify buyers for loans.

The average homeowner’s household budget is stretched much more tightly than surface factors indicate. It’s a major reason why people often feel poorer, despite making more money than they have in the past.

The Rental Market Too

Basic rents are rising rapidly as well. Part of this has been driven by the decline in homeownership. The rate of homeownership fell to 63.6% of households early in 2017, down from an all-time high of 69.2% in 2006. That near 6% decline in the rate of homeownership translated to millions of new non-owning households. It’s put greater upward pressure on rents.

Apartment List.com has a list of median rents for one and two bedroom apartments in 100 US cities. Some of the numbers are at nightmarish levels. Two bedrooms in New York City, $2,470, Boston, $2,080, Los Angeles, $1,740, San Diego, $2,010, San Francisco, $3,060, Seattle, $1,650, Jersey City (NJ), $1,880. These are just the midpoints; it’s likely that any apartment you find remotely desirable will be above the median.

Although those are higher-priced areas, rents are up all over the country.

The US Census Bureau reported that the average monthly rent nationwide was $108 back in 1970. That comes to just $1,296 per year, which is less than 14% of the $9,430 median household income at the time.

The blog Rent Café.com lists the median US rent at $1,377 per month for April, 2018 (Census Bureau statistics on recent rent data are conspicuously absent). If that’s the case, the annual median rent in the US is $16,524. That’s nearly 28% of the $59,055 median household income.

Median rents doubled from 1970 to 2018, when compared to median household incomes for both years. This is consistent with what’s happened with house prices.

This is why the cost of living seems to be getting relentlessly higher. In real terms, it is. The take away is that housing for renting or owning now consumes twice as much income as it did in 1970.

The Housing Imbalance Will Likely Get Worse in the Next Recession

As bad as housing costs are right now, they promise to get even worse in the next recession. When recessions hit, people lose jobs and incomes fairly quickly. Bonuses, commissions and overtime are cut or eliminated. Small businesses decline and close-up shop.

But prices remain fixed, especially in the early going. Most industries are reluctant to even acknowledge declining conditions. It doesn’t fit neatly within the forced optimism of the business universe. For that reason, they’re slow to react to changing circumstances. When they do react, they overreact, such as by initiating severe and immediate layoffs. Cutting prices is only done as a last option, in a desperate attempt to save market share late in the game.

Real estate prices are especially “sticky”. Whether it’s house prices or rents, sellers and landlords are very reluctant to cut prices, even in severe economic declines. Much of it has to do with the cost of acquisition. If you paid a high price for a property, you take on a big mortgage. Meanwhile you have high costs for property taxes, insurance and utilities. And in the case of a rental, you have those expenses even if you have vacant apartments.

Sellers and landlords initially react to economic declines by ignoring them. (It’s become standard procedure in the real estate industry to pretend declines don’t exist until after the fact.)

The net result is a financial conundrum, of high housing costs against the backdrop of declining incomes. Housing costs, which were largely unaffordable even during better times, morph into a full-blown housing crisis.

The next recession is sure to bring an even more peculiar situation. As the top 10% of households have become ever wealthier, they’ll continue to keep housing prices high in select markets. This will make the affordability problem even worse.

The Virtues of Shared Housing for Millennials – And Everyone Else Too

This is why I think shared housing will only grow in the future. Right now the preferred norm is a single-family house in the suburbs. But stop to consider that this is the most inefficient housing arrangement there is. It consumes an excessive amount of land, resources and income, as well as keeping personal capital tied up in dead equity. It also contributes mightily to massive traffic problems, since virtually everyone in suburbia commutes to work and everywhere else.

As normal that seems right now, an economic decline can force a change that’s already taking place at the fringes. Shared housing is most likely to affect younger people and retirees, for whom housing costs consume a much greater percentage of income. But as it becomes more normal among those groups, families and prime working age people may follow suit. After all, in most of the world, people live in much smaller housing spaces than we do in the US. It’s all about what you’re used to – or can get used to.

A Real Life Example of Someone Who Made a Virtue of Shared Housing

There was a very frugal young man I knew way back when. He was a curious mix of extravagant and cheap, if that seems even possible. To complicate the story, he was a construction worker earning a decent, but far from rich income.

He lived well, he dressed well, regularly ate in expensive restaurants, and was an active vacationer. Each summer he’d rent a house at the beach for several weeks (usually with others as his cheap side rose to the surface). In the winter he’d travel to someplace tropical, like Hawaii, Acapulco, or the Caribbean.

How did he do it on an ordinary income?

A big part of it was shared housing. For a solid 15 years, he’d lived in three bedroom apartments with a pair of roommates. If the rent was $300 (this was the 1970s and early 1980s), they split three ways – $100 each. He also bought only used cars. He once told me “When you buy new cars, you only buy what you can afford – when you buy used cars, you can buy anything you want.

With this combination of keeping his basic living costs low, while living large, he managed to save an outsized amount of money. In the mid-1980s, he purchased a single-family house in a well-to-do community, and made a 20% down payment. And he still had plenty of money in savings.

Postscript: After buying his house he got married, had a family, and retired to the beach in his 50s, never having earned more than an ordinary income.

This man turned living cheap/living large into a virtue. It’s the kind of thing that actually can be done. People are more flexible than we give ourselves credit for, but it often takes a large dose of motivation to force such a change.

Final Thoughts on Shared Housing for Millennials

Given that we’re unlikely to see any top-down changes in the housing situation, we’re going to have to adjust. Shared housing is increasingly looking like one of those strategies. For what it’s worth, most sweeping cultural changes do come from the ground up.

We’re already seeing shared housing taking place at the fringes. Right now it’s becoming something of a corporate thing specifically targeting upper income Millennials. But it’s highly likely that less formal roommate arrangements are much more popular than anyone suspects.

My Millennial daughter recently introduced me to a new term, u-hauling. It’s where young people get into a relationship, and immediately get an apartment together. It looks clear this has more to do with economics than romance, but it’s the kind of thing people do when faced with limited options.

We may eventually see pairs of couples sharing an apartment or a house, or even two families sharing one home. The possibilities are endless, and so is human ingenuity.

This can be a highly beneficial arrangement for retirees as well. And from there it may spread to the general population, as the economic squeeze on the middle class continues to tighten. While it will probably be resisted (enthusiastically), it may turn out to be a winning strategy in an era when great change is being forced on the vast majority of people.

( Photo by USAG-Humphreys )

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12 Responses to Shared Housing for Millennials – Boarding Houses Are Making a Comeback

  1. Considering that in a fiscally sound budget, rent/housing costs are supposed to be around 1/3 of your monthly income. Since wages, unless you are in that top 10%, are fairly stagnant, this makes for tough choices. But it also brings other opportunities for housing as discussed here.
    For people who come from large households, a shared housing may be a workable solution, provided all parties involved share by a set of rules. I highly recommend that in these situations a legal contract is made and signed by all parties, to eliminate problems. This can be also done within an extended family setup, like the returning adult child to the nest to avoid the situation like we all recently read and heard about with the adult child living 8 years at home without giving something to parents who allowed him to stay, because they expected it to help him get on his feet. Any shared arrangement whether with family or strangers has to follow a pre-agreed setup.

  2. That’s a good suggestion Maria Rose (a legal agreement), I’d say even with family members. But I think even 1/3 for housing is excessive. I like no more than 20-25%, since it gives plenty of breathing room. One of the issues that caused the Financial Meltdown was lenders were routinely approving loans with 30+% housing ratios. It doesn’t give enough room in a crisis. But it’s like we’ve reached a point where people expect to pay an outsized amount for housing, and just accept it, rather than considering alternatives. In fact, I heard that recently “What are you gonna do, that’s what it costs…”

    We’re fairly low on our housing expense, but if there’s a change I’d certainly consider my wife and I looking into a shared housing arrangement, maybe with one of our kids, or even strangers if we’re down enough. What I think is increasingly important for all of us is to be open to out-of-the-box strategies. That’s why I find this whole concept worthy of discussion.

  3. As I already live in a shared housing setup, I’ve already dealt with the math of the financial reality. One point, I suggest you do it with someone whom you will feel comfortable sharing with even with the legal contact., especially with the areas of housing that have to be shared.

  4. Agreed. And I’d imagine you’d have to decide on household chores, maintenance, noise, etc. There’s so much involved when you live with people. If it’s family we tend not to think of it. But if it’s someone else, it becomes obvious quickly.

  5. I agree with you Kevin with regards to the 20 to 25% of income for housing. No where in the article does it mention the cost of HOA dues, including condo fees. The person that is stretching their dollars can lose it all if the HOA sends out special assessments, the HOA is sued due to an accident, or bullies on an HOA board simply target a homeowner they do not like. Where and how is that budgeted? It can’t be because it’s all an unknown. 1 in 5 Americans now lives inside of an HOA but the liability of owning in one is ALWAYS overlooked.

    I’m questioning the creation of legal documents in shared housing. Say you happen to make a wrong choice and need for someone to move out? With the legal document will that be recognized under the Landlord/Tenant laws? Could you be stuck with a bad housemate for months because they are protected under the law? I would highly recommend consulting with an attorney before signing contracts with those sharing housing. Definitely there needs to be a set of guidelines for how the place is to be cared for, pets, smoking, alcohol, drugs, overnight guests, parking, visiting children, and maintenance expenses. With the right match of people it can be a great deal of fun, but with the wrong ones the nightmares are endless.

    I continue to see the Tiny House Movement grow. I think it will continue. The downfall seems to be finding a place to park the tiny house. Possibly more of those facilities should be created? That could solve the housing problem for many single people who want to live alone.

  6. Hi Nila – I did think about the HOA complications, but the article was already over 2,000 words. But you’re absolutely right. With HOAs you have theoretically unlimited liability. Anything the HOA board can’t afford to fix, replace or address (including litigation) could be forced on the homeowners through special assessments. But most people aren’t remotely aware of that, as they happily whistle past the graveyard into “my new home”.

    You may be on to something about the complications of a written agreement, but I don’t know if that would stop me from having one. Maybe not a contract, but a list of agreed upon rules. In the end, the best strategy is to room with someone who has similar values, but unfortunately you never really know that until you’re living together. But I do believe if the economy head south in a major way – which I think is coming – all these details will be sorted out in favor of necessity. It happened during the Great Depression, and it will again. Desperation has a way of making people more agreeable.

    I’m glad you brought up the tiny house concept, because it’s very relevant to this topic. Mobile tiny houses could be especially valuable and popular since they’d allow people to follow jobs, family, weather and other opportunities. A version of mobile housing is already playing out with the elderly. Check out this article on “workampers“. Some elderly, unable to afford their houses, are selling and moving into campers to travel around the country to follow work. Again, these trends start small, around the fringes, but some eventually become mainstream.

  7. We’ve had many exchanges about HOAs so you know when it comes to housing that is my first and foremost concern. When I noticed it was not mentioned I felt compelled to address it. I’m sure it came as no surprise to you! 🙂

    I became familiar with ‘workampers’ several years ago while I was working in Yellowstone. The park has areas for those folks to park their campers. It’s a great way to live in the park without the dormitory lifestyle, and earn some income. I’ve reviewed some of the websites that specialize in that job market. So many ways to enjoy life…if only I wasn’t trapped in this HOA!

    The tiny houses fascinated me the first time I saw Jay Shaeffer on TV. His movement graduated from people building their own tiny house to now I’m seeing companies that build and deliver them. Some with a price tag close to $100K. The issue of where to park them seems to remain. I talked with the guy that started Lemon Cove in California and he was open to expanding the concept across America if there was enough interest. Of course, I asked if he had an HOA involved. He chuckled and said, no. Then he asked what I thought of HOAs. We were in total agreement on how horrible HOAs are! What a great thing it would be to use the tiny house for college years, move it to a location near work, and save for a home (non-HOA, of course)and then sell it or find another purpose for it. In Kansas City a new community of small houses (not on wheels) have been developed for veterans. As I understand it, it’s he only one of it’s kind in the country.

    In the future will we see the 5,000 sq.ft. homes become boarding houses? It could happen. We have an area in Kansas City called Hyde Park. Gorgeous mansions built by lumber company owners. Some of them became boarding houses back in the hippie days and are now back to single family homes. You’re right. When times get tough people tend to figure out living arrangements are more comfortable when the costs are shared.

  8. There were big old Victorian houses in New Jersey that the owners could no longer afford, I’m guessing during the Depression. They gradually converted them to either boarding houses or to multifamily. Some have undoubtedly been converted back to single family as Yuppies moved in and redeveloped. The rehabs definitely look better, but my guess is the multi-unit/rooming house concept was much more affordable and benefited more people. There are also a lot of gorgeous mansions on the New England coast that have been converted to bed-and-breakfasts. It shows what can be done when circumstances change.

    I suspect that’s what’s going to happen to a lot of McMansions, yes, even those in HOAs. They aren’t as conveniently located, but someone will figure out how to repurpose them, and then a new trend will emerge. In the meantime, there’s shared housing and tiny homes, both of which are just getting ready to take off, probably when the next downturn hits, and people realize the current housing price structure is unsustainable. Part of me feels bad for those buying suburban boxes for half-a-million and up. I have a strong suspicion they won’t be worth anywhere near that in a few years. Unless the Federal Reserve somehow manages to come up with zero interest mortgages. That’s really the kind of thing that’s keeping more affordable options from developing.

  9. When I first saw the mention of HOA, I was confused on how this would affect this discussion until I googled it for clarification. WhennI mentioned some kind of legal contract, I wasn’t referring to this problem but something like Kevin mentioned as to how one shares a facility not planned to be a shared facility. (Like a single family dwelling with rooms not being used by owner and owner decides to share/ rent rooms) Unless everyone has their own bathroom, kitchen, laundry, etc–you are going to be sharing facilities.–How is that arranged without arguments for the shared areas and how is the sharing setup (schedules, the location of personal items in the shared areas, cleanup of these areas–very essential if you have different ideas on what is clean. Also, can you have visitors in the shared areas? Rather than getting frustrated after the fact, there should be a set of rules/ guideline in place. The only reason I mentioned it being legalized is to remove the PC correction issue. I know it sounds like common sense but after viewing a few Judge Judy cases about shared living reactions after the fact, you need to put these rules in writing.
    As for the tiny houses, they have become very popular, especially since they can be put on wheels, but then there’s the zoning problem depending on locations. In certain areas, zoned for single homes, you can’t put or park one of these tiny houses permanently because of the zoning laws. The choices of models vary and some builders can make them for being placed on a permanent site but again you need to check the zoning laws. Think of it as an issue that needs addressing but hopefully better than they addressed the modular housing –forced people into certain places to set up. I lived in one when I lived in California and I had no control over how they made decisions on who could live or visit the premise grounds. When I moved in after buying the mobile trailer (it was permanently set up to not be moved), I was told that they were changing over the complex to an only over 50 facility and they did everything to discourage me from staying even though over half the people living there weren’t over 50. It was becoming a low class gated community, so I sold it at a loss because I wasn’t told upfront about this. As good as the idea of the tiny houses being an affordable housing option, the zoning laws don’t cover them because of the sewer and utility hookups.
    But even taking a McMansion and repurposing it into a boarding house setup, there are rules of housing that have to be followed–such as the number of bathrooms per bedrooms. A variance would have to be gotten from the local government, especially if non-relatives are sharing premise. This is what is happening with people who are making part of their residence an Airbnb rental, even if they own the residence. If you are renting out space in an apartment, most rental agreements require the renter to get permission for long-term extra residents to the apartment–again because of zoning laws and liability with fire hazards. (Even if doing it as an Airbnb–you need to get permission)
    Get involved with the local city council in your area to get more ideas on how they are addressing affordable housing issues.

  10. Hi Maria Rose – Nila brings up HOAs because she lives in one and has become a an expert in their dark side. It’s very relevant to this discussion because HOAs regulate every nook and cranny of your existence within the neighborhood (some of course are worse than others, but all have the legal potential). For example, an HOA can forbid you from taking in boarders or other unrelated household members. Your observations on McMansions actually touch on this, since probably most of them are in HOAs. They’re the ones more likely to regulate occupancy, etc, much more so than local ordinances. It’s interesting/sad that when the Great Depression hit, people actually had more options than we do today. Back then you could pretty much do whatever you wanted with your house. Not today. Everything is tightly controlled, in the name of keeping property values high and rising, which also solves the pesky problem of keeping out the undesirables (people who aren’t rich enough to afford overpriced neighborhoods). It’s one of the most insidious forms of discrimination, and perhaps the most common, but no one challenges it.

    But I find the tiny house discussion most interesting. I’m glad it’s happening out there, even though I have no interest in it myself. But it’s a legitimate housing option, which is exactly why establishment-types want to crush it. If tiny houses become common, the suburban house price spiral may well be broken, and that’s what the establishment (and local governments) fear most. But it would make suburban housing more price democratic, meaning more affordable to the average person. I don’t know how or when that turned into a “problem”, but it goes to show you how far we’ve slid as a society – the whole mentality represents serious moral decay, because it elevates money above people. The worst ills in our culture are happening just below the surface, and it isn’t by accident.

    I don’t see tiny houses being welcome in suburbia, but ultimately it won’t happen by choice. Back in the Financial Meltdown, millions of houses went into foreclosure and sat empty. Another round of that won’t be so easily cured by another round of easy money and still lower interest rates (unless maybe they can institute zero interest mortgages). That will force more creative strategies. I can see people with some land allowing tiny houses on their property to help them keep the property. In hard times people make choices they wouldn’t make during better times. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”. I’d say it’s also the mother of innovation, and that’s what will be forced on us in the next economic crisis.

    What we’re discussing right now is more about what’s showing up on the horizon, and presents itself as a viable alternative when economic conditions change. And you can rest assured they will.

  11. As I have been following the tiny house situation, ever since my hairdresser told me about them (she has property in upstate New York and was looking for affordable options to build housing units on the property). Well just like the HOA problem restricts how property is used and how well you fit into the neighborhood, as these tiny houses increase in popularity so does the problem of where to put them. Like anything else you put on your property, you have to get permission thru a variance from the zoning department of locale. Because there are such tendencies as stated to have certain conditions and types of people in the neighborhood limited, so the tiny houses will face problems getting them accepted into the neighborhoods they need to be incorporated into. For those seniors, who thought they could plop one in the backyard of their children, they need to make sure the zoning laws will permit it before doing it or they will be forced to remove it.
    I know some organizations that buy up empty properties, tried to set up these tiny houses as dwellings for veterans but even they are getting negative reactions from those in power because they can’t change the property tax law to adapt to changes in the status of the property from a single family dwelling to a multiple dwelling on same property. again in reference to HOA restrictions.
    Changes in housing zoning laws have to occur, starting with the contractors who deal with the agencies that set up these zoning laws. I just within the last two years saw 4 apartment complexes go up with no affordable units available. I don’t like the attitude of the need for only luxury apartments for only people who make over $10,000 monthly. (Sorry, I live in the second highest property value area of Westchester, New York). Like I felt when I saw the “expensive” housing properties in both Malibu and the Hamptons–a shack is a shack no matter the location.)
    Back in the early 1900’s when the industrial age was creating jobs in plants where a large number of people worked, nothing was done to create proper housing for the workers except greedy landlords who created tenement housing into which they squeezed as many units as they could regardless of safety and sanitation requirements ( remember those were the days of outdoor bathrooms ). Tenement apartments have never been the best of living situations and little is done to correct problems except for rhetoric. We do need to get politicians to acknowledge and act on these problems. There can be solutions to this problem if everyone is willing to compromise.
    Take the Airbnb rental situation, the owners of rental properties who want to charge outrageous market value rents, are turning on the homeowners who are renting out part or entire homes, claiming these Airbnb rentals are causing excess empty rental units. Suggestions on how to deal with this group who have major power over most government agencies, in fact, they gained this year a right to increase rents despite their lack of completion of needed maintenance on their units. They control the laws and the politicians.

  12. Isn’t it amazing how the law is used as a weapon against anyone who attempts to introduce affordable alternatives? That means it’s real use is to protect and preserve asset values and profits. There are two sayings from a couple of dead but very wise men that sum up the entire problem:

    “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” Tacitus (Roman senator and historian, nearly 2000 years ago)

    and

    “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair

    I’ve come to realize that wherever there’s a chronic negative situation, it’s never arbitrary or accidental. It’s always because someone important wants it that way. It’s also the same reason why it’s so hard to fix – the resistance is powerful and well connected. Whenever someone comes up with a laundry list of reasons why this or that problem can’t be fixed, it’s almost always a smokescreen.

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