Bias in housing adds to woes of India’s singles

It’s a sad fact that home owners and cooperative housing societies refuse to rent apartments or homes to bachelors and bachelorettes who leave their homes in search of better opportunities in different cities

Everyone talks about various kinds of discriminations in our society. Whether it is gender-based bias, or religious bigotry, caste-based inequity or whether it is colour-based prejudice, it’s all out in the open. Talked about, called out and fought against by woke people.  However, there is a silent prejudice that is making life difficult for young singles in India, which few talk about. It’s called ‘Discrimination in housing’ and it’s a sad fact that home owners and cooperative housing societies refuse to rent apartments or homes to bachelors and bachelorettes who are forced by circumstances or lured by better prospects to leave the shelter of their homes and go out into the world to live alone.

And if people do rent out homes to them or take them in as Paying Guests (PGs), they are either charged higher rentals than normally would be charged of a married couple or a family or ridiculous conditions are placed on them. For instance some societies allow homeowners to rent out apartments to singles but the bachelors have to make a deposit of Rs10,000 with the society to recover any “damage” that may be caused by the singles which is of course returnable at the time of vacating the house.

Really!! Do societies think that bachelors are uncontrollable, rage-filled delinquents who will go around punching holes into walls or breaking down doors, uprooting trees or damaging the lifts or common areas? Imagine, the extra financial burden they are putting on a young person who is forced to live far away from home just because there are not any good job or educational facilities in their hometown?

Then, there are some who expect young, working professionals or students living as PG with them to be back home latest by 8 pm? So what do you tell your bosses? “Sorry sir I can’t put in extra hours today for that all-important project because I have a curfew of 8 pm imposed by my landlord.” Or what do you tell your friends? “Sorry I can’t make it to that all-important party/movie/get together because I have to be back home by 8 pm?”

So in effect, what the landlord is saying is that young people living away from home are not entitled to have a social life or fun with their friends. Because, to your mind, all this is immoral activity?

There are also those who don’t allow their tenants to bring home friends of the opposite sex. Why? Can’t people of opposite gender be friends? So, if they are living in an apartment they consider home why can’t they have the liberty to bring their friends home? Do you stop your own children from bringing friends of the opposite sex home? And if you frown upon mixed gender friendships then what kind of regressive mindset do you have? And you certainly need to get your mind out of the gutter!

Forget about friends of the opposite sex, some societies and landlords prohibit people in a relationship from also bringing their love interest home. Why this moral policing? They are consenting adults aren’t they? Don’t youngsters in our society have a right to a life of their own? Do they have no right to privacy, right to love, relax with the person they love or have a quiet meal just because they don’t own a home and are renting yours out?

And God help you if you are a bachelorette, looking for a place to live. First, you will find it difficult to get a house and if you do have the good fortune to find one, you will be regarded with suspicion in the first place for daring to dream of having an independent existence. And then, a hundred restrictions will be placed on you and your movements will be watched closely to ensure that you don’t break any of the house rules. Because, after all a young woman who leaves the security of her home to go to a distant city to study or work, certainly can’t be up to any good..can she?

So yes, young singles in India are victims of ‘Discrimination in Housing.’ And this silent malaise is very prevalent and it is hidden in plain sight. We can call it ‘Discrimination in Housing’ or ‘Rental prejudice’ or any other sophisticated name but at the end of the day it is plain and simple moral policing. And this silent bias has spread all over India, poisoning the lives of our youngsters who leave their homes in search of better opportunities in different cities. And mind you, this bias is not restricted to small cities it is very much prevalent in cosmopolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Gurugram, Bengaluru and Noida. This middle class morality and toxic attitude towards young singles is also not the prerogative of those living in lower middle class or middle class neighbourhoods, but in posh societies too, where one would not expect to encounter mindsets that are centuries old.

The most recent example of this regressive and discriminatory mindset is at display in Noida’s Emerald Court society. The posh society in Sector 93A, where the infamous twin towers once stood, has given a notice to tenants who are bachelors to vacate their premises, citing violation of its rules. The notice, issued on November 15, stated a rule of society’s bye-law which stipulates that it is “prohibited to use flats as paying guest accommodation, or rent to a group of students/bachelors where the residency of the flat is of transient nature.” The notice further stated, “We are hereby informing the owners of these flats to give notice to the students/bachelors/guest house managers and get the flats vacated within 30 days from today. From January 1, 2023 we will not permit these PG accommodations in our premises.”

As a result, hundreds of singles have had to drop everything they were doing and start looking for a new home to move into. Which is easier said than done because the space for singles in this country is increasingly shrinking because of this silent discrimination.

The RWA says they were getting “complaints” and this has been “done in the interest of harmonious community living and we have no intention of any moral policing.”

So, is the RWA trying to imply that people who are married and families are all paragons of virtue and they never do anything wrong? All the muck there is in society is because of singles? Married wo/men never have parties with loud music, they never flout any society rules, they never have fights or there are never any unpaid bills or parking violations or late nights out, or raucous friends over?

In making it next to impossible for singles to get accommodation aren’t we being harsh and prejudiced towards our youngsters? They have the fundamental right to life too. We can’t trample on those rights. People need to realize that there cannot be any discriminatory rules and regulations based on caste, creed, geographies or marital status of a resident in a community living. If a bachelor tenant is not following society rules and by-laws, they need to be treated at par with other erring tenants and corrective measures should be taken accordingly. If repeated warnings fail then it is ok to evict a person who is making a nuisance of themselves. But a blanket ban on bachelors and youths, who are the future of this country and an integral part of our community is not on. We need to be there to stand by them, mentor them and offer support because it’s not easy living alone in a place far from home. It’s no wonder then that a large part of our urban youth suffers from depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicidal thoughts. Life is difficult, let’s not make it worse for our singles.