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I’m what’s left of when we
swam under the moon
-Mitski, “I Don’t Smoke

In the summer following my completion of grad school, my boyfriend Jonathan and I moved into an apartment in East Vancouver. Our search for a home had been an exhausting dead end until the final days of June. We were driving around the city, windshield wipers on to clear the summer rain, a sense of hopelessness sweeping us forward, when we saw the vacancy sign.

That’s always how it goes — you wait in a constant state of impatience for something to happen, and then suddenly everything turns on its head. A couple had already signed for the apartment and were meant to move in the following day, but they’d had to break the lease — a domestic dispute, the landlord whispers as he hands us the papers to sign.

The apartment is on the top floor of a three-story walk-up. There are ten apartments in the whole building, all of which are empty, because the landlord says that they’ve been renovating the building for the last year. More… “Ghosts Live Forever”

Gena Ellett’s writing has appeared in literary magazines across North America, including Slice, The Malahat Review, EVENT, and Gulf Coast. She lives and writes in Vancouver, BC. @HeyGenaJay

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In these troubled economic times, real estate is a subject of more obsessive interest than usual at dinner parties from Manhattan to Milwaukee. Perhaps it’s time for us to take a longer-range view of the housing market and its endless cycles of boom and bust: Whether you’re a humble tenant or shark-like developer, it should be possible to get a little perspective by examining the great deals of the past.

 

1. The Antique Homemaker

1 BR “Fixer-Upper” in Ancient Babylon: The world’s oldest rental lease is a clay tablet dated to around 2000 B.C., wherein a certain Akhibe leased a house from Mashqu for one shekel of silver a year — about 0.4 ounces. (Prices don’t quite translate, since that amount of silver is only US$7 today). Rental properties at the time were intimate, one-story mud brick affairs…. More…