Kim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. Photo: Ebet Roberts.
The frightening number of homeless people in LA is the most visible indicator we have a big housing problem in this town. And for the many in the working and middle class, it's become more and more difficult to afford a decent place of living. Rents are constantly on the rise and most have long forgotten the dream of purchasing a home. Bidding wars and soaring prices are the new normal, the pandemic didn't change anything to that dynamic, it's even worse now.
That's the subject of "Debt collector", a new song featuring vocals from Kim Gordon, the iconic bass player/ singer from Sonic Youth. Kim continues her noisy and socially engaged journey as she's featured on "Land Trust - Benefit for the NEFOC", the new album of Bikini Kill's Erica Dawn Lyle and Vice Cooler. The record is to benefit Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust. With this particular song, they identify big corporations as the main problem preventing average people to buy a house.
"I’m a bit obsessed with what’s happening with these big financial corporations like Blackrock and Blackstone buying up houses, becoming landlords. They pay far beyond a house's value, putting home ownership even out of the range of the middle class – much less working class." - Kim Gordon
LA is a famous competitive market but the problem is global. In every big city around the country, big firms and investors are responsible for aggressively acquiring houses that could go to the younger, the working & middle class.
"While normal people buy houses when they actually need to move somewhere, (savvy) investors buy houses several years before a bunch of people need to move to an area. Whether they’re tracking where major employers are building new offices or looking at public school enrollment data, being ahead of the market gives big firms a big leg up." - Elena Botella (Slate)
Of course, artists are suffering from this. The always precarious status of artists has worsened during the pandemic and many of our friends have left town in the last two years. I consider myself lucky to be able to live in the city and two years ago, right before the pandemic started, I even thought I could further my American dream and buy a piece of land and a house. Of course, I was systematically (and largely) outbid by cash offers from investors. I remember finding a cute little house near Arlington heights. It felt like a cabin, which I liked, it wasn't really big but it was enough. Cherry on top, it had a small soundproofed room attached (yet, not permitted). I could already see myself recording and blasting my new songs without fearing the cops to come for noise complaints. I could jam in the middle of the night if I needed to and let my creativity flow as it goes. Oh, the wishes... The dream ended abruptly when I actually understood the house was priced very low to attract lots of offers. It finally sold over 100k of the asking price...
"You're not welcome, no. The gated community. Don’t you want to own one? You gotta have cash." - Kim Gordon in "Debt Collector"
I don't even look at Redfin anymore.