Monday, July 07, 2008

Apartment Living Part I

Time for a change from the usual Monday Moaning. Anyone who moves to the West while at one time or other have to live in an apartment complex. Apartments or as we call them in Kenya, flats are not as prevalent back home as they are out here due to the high population density in many Western cities. When you move out to a mid sized or large city unless you can afford otherwise or have room mates, odds are high that you shall be living in an apartment complex.

Finding an apartment complex in itself is an adventure. You see here in America many complexes are so wiley in their advertising that it verges on fraud in some cases when you go to see the apartment complex and find out that the picture was several years old and severely photo shopped too. This is so done that it stops being funny, when you get there the amenities they advertised like the gym are so run down or in some cases like swimming pools not even open for use.

Where your apartment complex is also very important. In most Western cities everything is far from each other unless you live in a small town. So you have to make important trade offs. Would you rather live close to work? Close to school? Close to friends and family? And of course apartments that are closer to the highway tend to be more expensive then those that are further in. Plus if you the more "up town" the neighborhood the more expensive rent will be. So you have to make hard choices. Most of the time you can get cheap rents the further you go from the City but you shall have to get used to driving long distances and hours to get to work, school and other places. I remember when I came here my fam was living in a nice big house but that house was almost 20 minutes to the interstate, not amusing at all I tell you.

Immediate neighbourhood and residents of an area are very important. I'm not going to be racist or anything (then goes ahead to make racist statement) but you want to stay away from any place that has a sign that says "acceptamos tax ID," that basically means that the apartment complex will most likely have alot of Mexicans living there. Mexicans are alot like the Somalis we used to have in Kenya who would live 20 deep in a 2 bedroom house. Some apartments like them due to the fact that Mexicans like to keep a low profile and are less likely to push for their apartment to be fixed when something breaks and thus cost less to keep as tenants. And you do know that of course as a black person you would stand out like a sore thumb in a predominantly hispanic apartment complex. On the other hand, if you are a brave soul you could move into a predominantly black lower or middle class area aka "The Hood" where you wouldn't stand out very much. The only thing is that some of these areas are high crime and the apartments aren't always well maintained, I recall in one apartment complex we lived in my small brother had his tyres stolen at night and he had bought new rims. Lucky for us my big sister suspected who it was that did it, so she talked to the kids mum and told them what had happened without accusing her kids but she caught the hint, gave them a tongue lashing and the next morning my small bro found his tyres on the patio and as all this was happening the leasing office were not concerned at all. On the other hand this isn't to say that all places where black folk live are "hood" there are predominantly black up class areas but of course you need the money to afford to live there. As for living in a predominantly white area, you are not ensured that the apartments will be of the greatest quality since there are lower class white areas too but since white people on a whole have more money than minorities they tend to have the better neighbourhoods, hence the reason many people like moving to predominantly white areas. The only thing is that first of all we all know that some white folk can't stand black folk, so some apartment complexes will make it as hard as possible for you to move in by asking for all sorts of pre-conditions ie high rent, high deposit, long rental history, stable employment history, background checks and all that sort of thing to knock you out of the running. And if you do get in some of the neighbours won't be too pleased to have you and will do anything they can to make your life miserable esp when you stray from their community rules. But there are some apartment communities where people of all races seem to get along or pretend to for the most part.

So you see when you leave home things aren't as simple as they were back home where a new home was an ad in the classifieds away. Here it's a whole 'nother ball game.

Part II - Room mates, leases and other fun things............


petesmama said...

The politics of just finding a place to lay your head!

egm said...

Ah, life of apartments! That was an interesting part of my time Stateside. That whole thing of misrepresentation was so prevalent. As you say, what the pictures showed was very different from what you got.

Regarding The Hood, there was this big one called Dorchester in Boston. Thing is, some parts of it were super safe, with even lots of middle class families living there, including whites. But other sections of it were among the most dangerous in Boston.

coldtusker said...

No different in Kenya in that some hoods are bad. Yes, you know where. And as far as cars' tyres being 'jacked... Nairobi is a lot worse.

As far as 'apartment rules' are concerned, you want to be different. Stop denying it.

BUT I like rules coz they keep the riff-raff out or put a lid on them.

I hate some guy blasting music when I want to sleep so I like it when the rules prohibit loud music. Not all will follow the rules but most do.

Then you have the bastards who leave papers, bottles & cans on the walkways & roads.

Maua said...

What's an interstate?

In London there's shared housing where you all live in the same house, share kitchens, bathrooms and maybe living rooms but with ya own room.

Or better still, council houses where you use the same lift, only that there's wee everynow and then, or poo. You loose weight for using the stairs to 6th-8th floors.

With music, you play it loud after 9.30 sun-thur or 11.00 Fri and sat, the environmentalists will be on your case so quick, after several warnings they will consficate the stereo, or issue an ASBO.

Kenyanchick said...

Aco, I can't believe nobody's called you on your Somali/Mexican slur.

I read an interesting exchange you had with the Displaced African about the danger of stereotypes, so I was very surprised to find these two nasty stereotypes mentioned so casually in your post.

Why do you think it's OK to generalise about Somalis and Mexicans?

Acolyte said...

@ petesmama
Tell me about it!
@ egm
That must have been a mega complex with more than one zip code for it to have been that diverse.
@ coldtusker
Well at least in Kenya you knew by word of mouth, there are some places here where unless you are told you would move in only to wake up sans your stuff.
Much as we hate rules they do help in the long run.
@ maua
The interstate is the name for the highway system that goes through the different states vis a vis inter state highway.
Sharing a kitchen must be very trying, I must commend those who do it and do it well. Now who the hell would take a dump in an elevator?! Thats just wrong! Well I guess no late night parties for peeps in your neck of the woods.
@ Kenyanchick
I see you are out in full force. Well I know its not good to stereotype but let me put the strings of my logic together.
When it says acceptamos TAX ID outside an apartment complex, it basically means that the hispanics applying to live there most probably dont have social security numbers and as a result are most probably illegal immigrants as a case, which therefore means that they work jobs that make less money than those who have social security numbers which in turn means to cut costs of living and be able to send money to MExico they are more likely than not to live quite a few in number in an apartment.
Apartment complexes catering to middle class Mexicans don't carry the Acceptamos Tax ID notice. Btw in several counties here that are highly Hispanic there are actually occupancy by laws that limit the number of people who can live in a house and that to a certain number they have to be related by blood. I think that law came by because of observation and not mere stereotyping. So I am not saying that all Mexicans would live 20 deep in an apartment but a certain demographic are likely to, maybe i should have made it that clear.
As for Somalis, maybe my evidence isnt as strong but we know that Somalis have very strong family ties and see nothing wrong with living 3 generations together in one homestead only now taht they live in Nairobi and still continue the same way irregardless of space. Add to the fact that with the conflict some of them are refugees and also with the lack of funds they get together and pool what they have and are also very likely to live many of them in a single family dwelling.
Thanks for pointing that out, I'll try to be more clear next time.

Mwangi said...

Very very useful. This one must be linked to!

Anonymous said...

my apartment complex has a lot of Africans which I find much more livable than the 'hood' or mexican neighborhoods.

living in a major metro area is very expensive

my buddy's moti was stolen last weekend right outside his townhouse! and i always assumed it was a safe neighborhood

Proud Kikuyu Woman said...

Nice post. I've been blessed to have had wonderful room-mates the whole time I've been here (close to 3 years now, how time flies!). I've heard room-mate horror stories, like them vanishing and leaving you with bills kibao....
If I were staying longer, I think now would a good time to buy a house.

Crime is high whenever there are economic imbalances in any city. These days gentrification (white people move into a hood, real estate value goes up, black folks can't afford it any longer and move out to poorer neighborhoods) has overtake white flight (black people moved in, white people went to the suburbs). My buddy thinks that as gas prices go up, less people can afford to drive to and back from the suburbs, so as many as possible will move to the cities close to where they work. Houses and apartments near public transportation (subways) tend to be quite expensive. According to that theory, the suburbs will eventually become the new slums.

Mo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mo said...

Latecomer here. I find it INCREDIBLY ironic that you Acolyte have issues with and 'reject stereotyping' yet you have no problem with gleefully referring to Somalis as 'beasts' and 'brutes' in the comments of the following post:

Pot. kettle. Black.

Acolyte said...

@ Mo
Doh! I knew those comments would hunt me down! I have seen the light and have more descriptions for Somalis.