Simulated real estate platform crowdsources rent for tenants facing eviction
Houston, TX – May 15th, 2023 – Socially engaged artist Jody Wood launches her new project NFS Real Estate in response to the deepening housing crisis in the United States. Houston is ranked the 2nd city in the country with tenants behind on rent. NFS Real Estate establishes a web platform (NFSrealestate.org), which simulates a real estate shopping website. Rather than listing homes for sale, the website features Houston tenants who are at risk of losing their homes and aims to crowdsource one month of rent through the sale of artworks co-produced by the tenants and Wood. The artist collaborated with participating tenants to photograph and convert their homes into artworks for sale in hopes to keep tenants in their homes for one extra month while they work toward making ends meet.
By simulating a real estate shopping experience, the project counteracts ways in which housing scarcity produces competitive social responses. “Real estate operates through a scarcity model, limiting supply and provoking competition to raise prices, which keeps us pitted against one another for basic survival needs,” Wood explains. When reactionary consumer impulses are heightened, people may jump into a predatory housing situation that they can’t afford. “I wanted to create a para-real estate project that would subvert competition, converting our consumer impulses into a cooperative effort,” Wood adds. The project also allows the production and collection of artwork to become a vehicle for empathy by sculpting the social imagination, which is an ongoing interest of Wood’s. People who purchase the artworks will be encouraged to imagine that the same view captured in the work also exists in the home of a stranger they have helped. As both participants gaze at the very same view, they will be connected in the social imagination. In this way, the project functions as participatory art in the realm of public space, both online and off.
Participating tenants are kept anonymous for privacy reasons, but some have shared their stories in audio interviews excerpted on NFSrealestate.org to help explain the factors that contribute to struggling with rent. One participant explains that paying rent puts her behind on other basic needs and says, “I had nothing left for food, gas, or any other bills. It's just an endless cycle. You try to get ahead on one thing and it sets you back on something else.”
Currently, 21% of Houston tenants are behind on rent. In Texas a landlord can issue a notice to vacate one day after rent is due. When one participant heard this statistic, she said, “finding out that statistic helped a lot. When you get data, then you know that it’s not you. And it’s not personal and it’s not you. And you understand that it’s part of a bigger system.”
NFS Real Estate is supported by a University of Houston Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts –Project Row Houses Fellowship, made possible in part by Suzanne Deal Booth.
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