Nate Bowling Crossover Episode: How Homeowners in Rising Housing Markets Can Fight Displacement

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marguerite martin

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About This Episode

This interview aired on Nate Bowling's Nerd Farmer Podcast. In this interview Nate interviews Tacoma real estate agent and MovetoTacoma.com host Marguerite about Tacoma's housing crisis, and what we can do to fight displacement.

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Episode Transcript

Nate Bowling:
This is Channel 253.

Doug Mackey:
In this episode of Nerd Farmer.

Marguerite Martin:
The deal is you need to educate yourself and not just read white fragility and be like, “Oh my God, that’s terrible. I’ve had such an awakening. Black Square.” You need to continue to educate yourself in the direction of how am I benefiting? Where am I complicit? Then find ways in your own life to give up unearned wealth and power.

Doug Mackey:
Did you know Channel 253 is member supported, I’m producer Doug Mackey, and I hope you will show your support by going to Channel253.com/membership and join. Thank you.

Nate Bowling:
This is the Nerd Farmer podcast, a national conversation through a local lens. Welcome to the Nerd Farmer podcast brought to you by Libro FM. My name is Nate, and I’m your host on American Teacher Abroad. Today’s conversation is a long time coming. Marguerite Martin is the Pod Aunty, this show does not exist without Marguerite. Back in 2016, she had me on her show, Move to Tacoma, which was the original show basically here on the Channel 253 network, and her and I had a conversation that I really enjoyed having, and I’ll put that conversation in the show notes. From that conversation, we built a friendship.

Nate Bowling:
Marguerite is a realtor, is a friend of mine, and is somebody who really interrogates the complexity of her work as a realtor. In this conversation, you’re going to hear her talking a lot about how she, as a white person who understands her privilege and benefits, is working to dismantle the systems that she knows she benefits from, also while benefiting from those systems. That’s a level of complexity and nuance that I appreciate because it’s advocacy that’s forthright. Anyway, Marguerite had me on her show and then afterwards, we went out and talked for another two hours and became fast friends. From that conversation, Marguerite asked me to be the guest host of Move to Tacoma, and then Marguerite became the launching sponsor of the Nerd Farmer podcast.

Nate Bowling:
So, she is somebody who I have great affection for, and I hope that comes across in the conversation. In addition, she is somebody who, without her, this show does not exist. So, we’re going to talk today about real estate. This is a continuation of a conversation that we’ve been having. This is a continuation of the conversation we had with the folks from Tacoma Housing Now, and I’m sure that’s going to come up in this episode. It’s also a continuation of the conversation we had with Jasmyn Jefferson, who’s a realtor and friend of Marguerite, who also I’m sure will come up in this conversation.

Nate Bowling:
So, if you haven’t heard those episodes, you might want to go back and listen to them also, but this episode stands by itself. So, I guess without much further ado, I want to bring Marguerite on the show. So, let’s get there. Marguerite, it’s been a long time, welcome back to the show. Well, actually not even welcome back to the show, just welcome to the show first time going this direction.

Marguerite Martin:
I’m so excited to be here. It only took you four and a half years to invite me on your show after I invited you on my show.

Nate Bowling:
That was petty, that’s fine. I earned that. I earned that. So, here’s the thing, given the nature of my audience, people either know everything about you because they’re Channel 253 lifers, and they’ve been around since day one or they’re like, “Who is this Marguerite person, and why is Nathan calling this white woman the Pod Aunty?” Could you just walk through really fast?

Marguerite Martin:
Why do you call me that?

Nate Bowling:
We’ll talk about why. Can you just walk through really fast, what is Move to Tacoma? What is your involvement here with the network? What is your work at the moment?

Marguerite Martin:
So, I’ve been a realtor since 2005. When I was 25 years old, I got my license, and about 10 years into that, I was feeling very bored and had this idea. I was talking to some Seattle real estate agent friends about how awful their real estate market was, and our market in Tacoma was still upside down. So we had this conversation. I was like, “Oh my God, hashtag Move to Tacoma, why are people buying in Seattle when Tacoma is so much better?” I created a website and a podcast.

Marguerite Martin:
My idea was I would talk to people on the podcast, not about real estate, but just about what it was like to live in Tacoma. So tell people’s stories who’d moved to Tacoma and tell people’s stories who always lived here, and basically give people Googling Tacoma, who were moving here, something to look at other than, man, all the crap that was on the internet about Tacoma, like everything you Googled about Tacoma back in 2015 was terrible.

Nate Bowling:
So you and [Ann 00:04:41] were my entree into real estate conversations and housing conversations, and somehow housing has become an issue that I think I talk on the show more than I talk about education, which is funny given my background. So, I’m bringing you on today for a continuing conversation that started with Jasmyn a while ago about housing. What I appreciate about you is that you have a sense of clarity about things and a sense of express pessimism, but also passion for justice about this work that other folks don’t have.

Nate Bowling:
So, I want to walk through your understanding of housing in Tacoma with the understanding that, if we’re talking about Tacoma we’re talking about Sacramento, we’re talking about Oakland, we’re talking about Providence and so on and so on and so on.

Marguerite Martin:
And Seattle and Portland, they’re just further down the path, San Francisco.

Nate Bowling:
Let’s start there. Let’s start there. If housing patterns that exist in Tacoma continue at the rate that they are going, and policy changes are not put in place to expand the number of units being built, what is the near term future for our dear city?

Marguerite Martin:
Well, prices went up 15% year over year last year. So I don’t know if you know that the median home price in Tacoma is now 450. If that happens again, we’ll be over 500. That means that in order to buy a house in Tacoma, I mean, depending on your down payment, if you have some generational wealth, this might not apply, but you’ll have to make a lot of money to buy a house in Tacoma, and most people in Pierce County don’t make a lot of money. I mean, it’s median family income, 75,000, I think. So, we’re going to price out our community. We’ve already priced out most of our community, but we’ll price out the rest.

Nate Bowling:
I have to wonder, because sometimes the way you perceive things is shaped by the time that you’re on earth, and your adulthood shapes the way that you see everything. So, I know that I basically became a functioning adult, able to consume and buy things during the housing collapse of 2008.

Marguerite Martin:
Lucky dog.

Nate Bowling:
Right? No, no, it’s timing, right? So, for the benefit of people who maybe are not Tacoma centric, but are listening to this conversation, what has happened in the Tacoma real estate market basically over the last 12 years?

Marguerite Martin:
When I bought my first house, the median price in Pierce County was $275,000, and the interest rate was, I think, 6.5% in 2004, 2005. Then at the bottom of the market, the trough as some people call it, when my best friend bought her house, when I was terrified for her, because the prices had been going down for years. She bought her house in Proctor for %192,000. The median price was, I believe, 175 for the County, and interest rates had already fallen at that point to the fives, maybe the high fours.

Marguerite Martin:
Then from there, things started to slowly climb. Even in 2015 though, when I started Move to Tacoma, we hadn’t gotten all our value back, but basically if you bought a house when I started Move to Tacoma, your house has doubled in value. For the last three or four years, we’ve been named as the hottest real estate market in the country. So while we are typical of what people in other communities are looking, we are like the worst case scenario, and our rental market also keeps showing up on lists.

Marguerite Martin:
The problem is, we know these people are coming, we have known these people are coming. You can go to my website, Get Real Tacoma, and find articles I wrote in 2013. Like, “Don’t worry everybody, the largest generation in home buying history is going to be head of household, and building rates are at their lowest rates since World War II. We are definitely going to run out of houses and prices will recover.” I wrote that article in 2013, I mean, mostly hoping and praying, I’m not a housing expert, I’m just a real estate agent. But I wrote it, because I read it and it seemed true and it’s true. We didn’t build, and we don’t have enough housing.

Marguerite Martin:
This is the important part, because the part of the conversation I’d love to, if we could just keep coming back to complicity, if you are a homeowner, a white homeowner in particular, in any community in this country, you’re complicit, nobody in this situation gets to abscond or get rid of their responsibility, right? You have to take ownership of your part. You’re benefiting from the oppression and the exclusion of other people. That’s how the housing market’s set up.

Nate Bowling:
Could you unpack that a little bit? Because you say that, I nod, Doug nods, but why do you say that?

Marguerite Martin:
Okay. Because, let’s say my best friend who bought her house in Proctor in 2011, managed to get in there without generational wealth but with her two income marriage, right? She buys the $192,000 house when a lot of other people are out of jobs and unable to do so, like she’s able to get the loan, she’s able to get it in the down market. A lot of people were not able to get into that market because of unemployment. Right? So she buys her house and … I mean, that house is probably worth 610 now, she bought it for 192 in 2011. She doesn’t live there anymore, she sold it a few years ago.

Marguerite Martin:
But let’s say she was still there, so now it’s worth six something. Right? All of that equity that she’s gained is because they haven’t built any more houses in Proctor. And if she was in Proctor benefiting from that wealth game, while other people are excluded, like she’s complicit, and I would also add if she was … it doesn’t even matter if she’s advocating for lack of density, if she’s not advocating for density, which by the way is against her best interest, because if more houses are built in Proctor, her house becomes less valuable. Do you see how messed up this is?

Marguerite Martin:
So it’s so easy for people to just be like, “I don’t know, I hate those NIMBYs, but look at my Zillow’s estimate, right? Once you get on the property ladder, and I know you’ve tackled this with Jasmyn, because I listened to that episode, you have nothing to gain from density. You have nothing to gain from additional housing stock and everything to lose.

Nate Bowling:
So, if the people who are benefiting from the housing market as is, are homeowners and homeowners tend to be more middle class, because how the F do you buy a home otherwise, and they are the people that dominate the civic culture in communities, how do you [un F 00:10:37] the cycle? This is the thing I can’t get my head around, how do you un F this?

Marguerite Martin:
Well, the call needs to come from inside the house, Nate. I mean, what we need is … For example, I met this woman in Portland [Lauren Gosha 00:10:53] and she’s involved with a nonprofit there called Taking Ownership. What they’ve done is they’ve created a fund where white realtors give up some of their money and put it into a nonprofit, and that money goes to helping Black homeowners keep their homes, prevent displacement, right? Because you can own a house that you bought in the 70s for $80,000 that’s now worth 750, and how do you spend $10,000 on the gutters when you’re on SSI? Right?

Marguerite Martin:
So, that’s one nice thing. But somebody else that hadn’t heard about that group had a better idea. There was a white woman that owned a rental property and investment property that had generational wealth. She had bought it for 230, it’s now worth, I think, six something, and she sold it to a Black man who’d grown up in that neighborhood who could no longer buy, and she sold it to him for the cost of the loan.

Nate Bowling:
There’s a couple of terms in this conversation, I think, are worth unpacking and talking through really fast. So like Jasmyn’s generational wealth, you’ve used generational wealth, I think it’s self evident what that term means, but at the same time [crosstalk 00:11:58]

Marguerite Martin:
Oh, sure.

Nate Bowling:
You can unpack that a little bit. So, what do you mean by generational wealth, and where does this generational wealth come from? Who has it?

Marguerite Martin:
Honestly, Nathan, I heard that term and I didn’t really understand it until you explained it to me. So, the way that I always explain it to other people. 2016 you gave a talk at a conference, your realtor and my dear friend and Jones, gave in Tacoma, and you explained it like this, I believe your mom bought her house in the 60s before The Fair Housing Act.

Nate Bowling:
Correct. Correct.

Marguerite Martin:
She was steered towards Hilltop, which is the historically Black neighborhood in Tacoma. You have a friend whose mom and dad were steered to a different neighborhood in the North end. They bought a very similar sized home, and those houses have basically like, the difference in equity in those houses was like $250,000 by the time their kids were old enough to go to college. So the question you asked as realtors for reflection, quiet reasoning time with our partners-

Nate Bowling:
[crosstalk 00:12:53]

Marguerite Martin:
[crosstalk 00:12:55]

Nate Bowling:
[crosstalk 00:12:55] this is like all my words are happening right now. This is all stuff that I do. Dang it.

Marguerite Martin:
So, yeah, we talked about … and that was the breaking point for a lot of very conservative, meritocracy oriented realtors in the room. When you said, “What could her family do with the $250,000? Start a business? Send their kids to college?” I think everybody in the room just went, “Oh shoot, yeah.” So that’s generational wealth, and we can see neighborhoods are, as you’ve pointed out many times, more segregated than before the housing act was created. Black wealth has been reduced since the Fair Housing Act was created. So whatever we’re doing as white people, whatever we’re doing as majority white institutions, majority white realtors, majority white legislators, to resolve racism, it seems like it’s not working because Black wealth is decreasing.

Marguerite Martin:
So if you’re a white homeowner increasing your wealth through property, you’re benefiting from a system. The thing I keep thinking about and what I talk about with my white friends is, we talk about white privilege, but that’s unearned wealth that is unearned privilege. So, if you have a house in a neighborhood that has doubled in value in five years, while other families were displaced and you look at the numbers and the majority of those folks are people of color, what do you owe communities of color? What portion of your unearned wealth do you owe? That’s a great question to ask yourself.

Nate Bowling:
The other term I wanted you to unpack you just used again, displacement. So, I feel like we talk about gentrification displacement as they’re the same thing, but I’ve been reading and arguing recently that these are separate processes, that gentrification is about improvement and displacement is about losing people from the community. I’ve just defined the way I was going to ask you to define. So let me ask it differently then.

Marguerite Martin:
Okay. Thank you, I’m glad you defined it.

Nate Bowling:
So, displacement has happened in North Portland, North Portland used to be the black part of town. My cousins and family who were in Portland were in North Portland in North East. I have very fond memories of that. They’re not in Clackamas in the burbs. It’s already happened.

Marguerite Martin:
Yep. The numbers.

Nate Bowling:
What will displacement look like when … For the record, we’ve also seen in South Seattle, right? I’m going to argue, we haven’t seen it all the way in Tacoma and Hilltop. What will displacement look like when … You’re making the face. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Marguerite Martin:
Because you don’t think it’s happened in Tacoma? I mean you talked about it four and a half years ago. You talked about how … and I have to be very careful as a realtor, I’m not even allowed to talk about, I was listening to that interview with you where I actually said, “Oh yeah, that’s the black neighborhood.” I was like, “Oh crap, I am not allowed to say that as a realtor.” But you know that the neighborhoods that used to be there, I’m making air quotes, “Black neighborhoods in Tacoma moved to a different side of the freeway.” Right? So, that migration within the city has already happened.

Marguerite Martin:
Jasmyn will say like, “Well, she would love to start a website called Move Back to Tacoma for Black folks who were displaced from Tacoma, something she said to me a couple times, right? It’s already happening. I have to be careful about how I talk about it, because you could have white listeners listening to this and saying like, “Oh, now I know what neighborhoods to avoid.” Which is why I’m not supposed to ever talk about [crosstalk 00:16:02]

Nate Bowling:
Sure.

Marguerite Martin:
Even though it’s so stupid, because it’s institutional colorblindness because people can just go on an app and not only find out the racial composition and the economic layout of a neighborhood, they can find out how their neighbors voted. Right? It’s so stupid the way our fair housing laws are set up, they don’t do anything. But anyway, I’m still bound by that.

Nate Bowling:
No. So, there’s a train of thought that I want to interrogate in this conversation and particularly where we are going with it. So you’re talking about how white families have been able to build generational wealth through home ownership and how Black families have been basically set back in their home ownership in the period post Fair Housing Act. But I feel like-

Marguerite Martin:
[inaudible 00:16:42]

Nate Bowling:
So the turd in the punch bowl in that conversation though is, is what happened to Black families from housing collapse. This is a story I think doesn’t get told very often. I’m wondering, walk me through, because I’m sitting here, I’m also somebody that bought a house in 2011. I bought at the bottom of the market. The house that I bought is worth twice what I paid for it. So I dodged a fat-ass bullet apparently on timing the market which is awful capitalist terminology, but we’re going to use it for right now, specifically what happens to Black familial wealth and the Black home ownership stock during the collapse in 2008?

Marguerite Martin:
So, I think, first of all, for any white people that lost their house that they bought in 2005, 2006, with some crappy-ass predatory loan, it’s not that white people didn’t lose houses, plenty of white people lost houses. But because of institutional racism, the bounce back for white people was much better than the bounce back for Black folks. I think if we’re going to talk about this in Tacoma terms, like thinking about the Hilltop neighborhood, so a lot of people, and we had the highest rate of foreclosure in the state in Pierce County. For a little while there, 68% of the houses were either short sales or foreclosures.

Marguerite Martin:
So, it was very rare to find a normal person selling their house because why would a normal person in a fair market situation sell their house at a 35, 36, 40% loss of value, or sometimes even more, right? So you could go to Hilltop and you could see all these houses that were owned by banks. It would be like Wells Fargo owned this house. That was the seller of the house. This is what happened, the houses would be in really bad condition after foreclosure or in short sale, right, they would have all these problems. If you’re a first-time buyer trying to buy a house, the house has to be in a certain level of condition for the bank to finance it. Right? The banks aren’t really at large willing to make those repairs.

Marguerite Martin:
So the only people that could buy them were investors or people with a lot of cash. So what happened was you had a lot of flippers, so the flippers would come in and these were, I mean, I don’t want to say exclusively white, but there were very few white investor flip or black [crosstalk 00:18:51]

Nate Bowling:
[crosstalk 00:18:51] ton of flips in 2011. We saw a ton on Hilltop [crosstalk 00:18:54]

Marguerite Martin:
The flippers will come in, they’d buy the $80,000 house, sell it for 150, turn around in 35, 40 days. So, that person that was able to buy it for more, so that person that bought it for 140, now owns that house with 380 a few years later. Now the other thing that happened that we do not talk about enough was the institutional purchase of homes in Hilltop and across Pierce County, and those were Wall Street firms that came in and bought hundreds of houses. Even though it took us for freaking ever to come out of that housing crash, the reason we actually came out as fast as we did was because people came and bought houses by the hundreds, those houses are now rented back to the former homeowners of those communities, if they can afford to rent them, if not, they’re being rented to white gentrifiers. Right?

Marguerite Martin:
So, I would just say, this problem is … and this is thing like, we have this conversations and what I want to prevent is like, “Oh my God, it’s so big.” What I’m trying to do is make it very small and very specific. Each individual person, yes, we need to impact systems, but we need to own our own complicity, and we need to give up our own benefit. I will tell you from personal experience, when you start giving up your own freaking unreached generational wealth, or your own unearned income, you want to hold other people accountable because it feels like crap. Once you start paying your taxes, you don’t think those stories about other people not paying their taxes are so funny anymore. Right?

Marguerite Martin:
So I think like, yes, we need institutional change, we need government change, that’s really overwhelming. We need systems change. We need all kinds of change, but individually you are still benefiting while we wait for that change. If you’re benefiting, what are you doing to give it up? You need to hold yourself accountable, you need to hold your friends accountable.

Nate Bowling:
Okay. We’re going to take a break here. When we come back, I want to talk about the areas in which you feel like you’ve been wrong in the past, the areas in which you feel like … you’re always laughing.

Marguerite Martin:
I can’t wait.

Nate Bowling:
The areas in which the policy makers are wrong and the areas in which the do-gooders are wrong. In this situation, it is so bad because so many people are wrong about so many fundamental things, and I want to walk through those with you. So we’ll be back.

Nate Bowling:
This is Nate Bowling host of the Channel 253 podcast Nerd Farmer. When I’m not listening to podcasts, I’m listening to audio books, and I choose Libro FM. Libro has all the books I’m looking for with a low monthly subscription. I’m not enriching the pockets of a certain billionaire when I use them. Here’s some great reads/listens I want you to try out on Libro. If you’re an activist, check out Stacey Abrams book, Our Time Is Now, we owe her so much after November. The least you can do is listen and hear what she has to say.

Nate Bowling:
For the woke or aspiring woke, she got Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, it’s a revelation about our country’s social system. For the nerds among you, my people, if you haven’t read the Three-Body Problem, you owe it to yourself to start right now, the entire trilogy will take you places you’ve never been in science fiction. Libro has over 150,000 books in their catalog. So those are right for you, you’ll find something you like. Listeners of Channel 253 can start the service with a two month audio book membership for the price of one, go to libro.fm, L-I-B-R-O.FM, and enter the code Tacoma.

Nate Bowling:
We are back. I would like to, as always, thank you for downloading the show and giving us a listen. The Nerd Farmer podcast, which is my favorite podcast, by the way, is part of the Channel 253 network, Channel 253 is a network of podcasts based in the city of Tacoma, but with tentacles all over the world, including here in Abu Dhabi. If you like what you’re hearing on the show, if you like these conversations, I’m going to ask you to open a web browser on your phone or your computer you’re using right now, channel253.com/membership.

Nate Bowling:
Memberships are $4 a month and $40 a year, and your membership dollars help us remain independent and honest. Because we are member supported, we get to have conversations like this, there’s lots of folks out there who do not want to be behind this conversation, but this is a conversation that this community needs to have and is having right now. So, thanks for doing that. In addition, if you’re listening to this on a device or a platform that allows you to leave a rating, please leave a rating for the podcast. Five stars are great, and if you leave a great review, I will read it and I’ll probably read it poorly.

Nate Bowling:
All right, back to it. Marguerite, listen. So here is the thing, one of the things I love of myself, this sounds very vain, but just follow me on this, is that like, I’m a generalist and I don’t know, I’m not an expert on anything per se, but I know a little about [inaudible 00:23:34] I’m also somebody who likes changing my mind about things.

Marguerite Martin:
Same.

Nate Bowling:
There’s a lot of things in my lifetime that I’ve thought about a lot was like, “Ooh, in 2004, when I said blank, I was an asshole.” Right?

Marguerite Martin:
Yes.

Nate Bowling:
I want to talk through like … So, the situation we’re in with housing is a result of a lot of folks being wrong about a lot of different things. So, what I want to work through is like, what are some things, and some things that are common wisdom that people are just straight up wrong about, what are some things that you’ve been wrong about? What are some things policymakers are wrong about? What are the do-gooders wrong about? Let’s start with just conventional wisdom. What’s wrong with the conventional wisdom about housing in the United States right now?

Marguerite Martin:
I’ll tell you like in 2015, 2016, when I really began to understand the housing implications of institutional racism, I was like, “Oh man, we have a problem that we need to fix.” We need to make sure that Black people are more educated about the opportunities of home ownership, what they need is more access, and this is where I’m going to put anybody that thinks what you need is down payment assistance for Black folks, what you need is more education and personal finance education for Black folks. Like anything like that.

Nate Bowling:
First time home buyers classes.

Marguerite Martin:
Yeah. I remember talking to Jasmyn, and I know she’s okay with me telling the story. It was a real problem in our relationship at the time. But we were talking about the Hilltop, and I was like, “What we need is to make sure that they can’t be displaced. We need to make sure that they own it already so they can’t be displaced.” I don’t think she could even talk to me for months. She finally said like, “Don’t you think we’ve thought of that? Don’t you think that we get how it works?” The problem is, those kinds of solutions, what you need is to get more Black people benefiting from an oppressive system, and once that happens, the system will cease to be oppressive, I don’t think that works.

Marguerite Martin:
That’s something that was very … I mean, I’m really giving you the highlights of that conversation, but it was a real bump in our friendship, and it really exposed a lot of unconscious racism in the way that I see. It’s very paternalistic thinking, right? Like if only Black people had more knowledge and access to tiny funds, then they would be able to enter this market and succeed in it. No, the whole thing, the whole thing, it’s not enough. Because the problem there … I just want to do one more little thing. Why people in general and realtors especially, most white realtors absolutely and some Black realtors, some realtors of color too, believe that this mechanism is a meritocracy.

Marguerite Martin:
That if you work hard and you get on the property ladder, you’re going to be okay, and the people that are okay are people that worked hard and got on the property ladder and made the right moves and educated themselves and hustled and grinded. Those are the people that have the wealth now. So they’ve earned it. When you think you’ve earned it, you’re not going to give [crosstalk 00:26:30]

Nate Bowling:
One more term to define. So, you said property ladder now, what’s this property ladder? What’s this concept of property ladder?

Marguerite Martin:
It’s what we’re talking about with you. So like you bought a house with your teacher salary in 2011. Let’s just say you bought it for $200,000 and that house is now worth 400, right? That’s $200,000 of equity, you got on a little … think of it as an escalator, you got on the escalator in 2011. If somebody got on the escalator in 2015, they paid $300,000, so that house it’s now worth 400. Right? The whole thing is just like, “Get on, climb on, climb on.” Which by the way is how those Black people were sold really shitty loans, really crappy loans in the late aughts. Because it was like, “Just get on. Even if your rate is going to increase, it doesn’t matter because the prices are going to go up. Right? You’ve got to get on, you got to get on.” That’s happening again, except this time it’s because people that were displaced from other communities are putting 50% down on the house. Right? So now there’s no equity problem.

Marguerite Martin:
Now that’s happening with people just moving their white wealth from California to Washington. Right? So they’re coming in paying cash, they’ll sell their house that they bought in 2011 in California, pay cash for a really nice house in Tacoma, and that’s just human migration.

Nate Bowling:
That brings up another question. So, you mentioned earlier on, and I think you went through it quickly and because I’ve understood, I’ve heard you talk about it before, the millennial age group being basically the largest birth cohort since the boomers, have come onto the housing market and have jobs and in many cases, so they’re ready to buy houses, but the boomers are still alive and living in the houses.

Marguerite Martin:
What I would say is, like every generation, like all the millennials don’t have jobs enough to buy houses. It’s such a huge generation that even though only a small portion of them can afford to buy a house, it’s still a massive impact. Right?

Nate Bowling:
So, what percentage of the upside and it’s a mess in the housing market in Pierce County in Tacoma, is millennials wanting to buy houses and having jobs versus the Californians with cash, how does that break down what the problem is?

Marguerite Martin:
Well, I wish I had that data. I do not, I can give you allegorical database on the fact that I found 130 people realtors last year, and just of the people I spoke with and got to know, I’ll tell you that, first of all, millennial, there are millennial Tacomans entering the housing market and there are millennial Californians fleeing California because they will never be able to enter that housing market for us so they can become homeowners. Right? Which is exactly what’s happening for people who grew up in Proctor, buying in South Tacoma, the East side, right? I’d love to be a homeowner, I can’t be a homeowner in the community I grew up in, I’m going to a more affordable place. Right? It’s why the Seattle Times just called Spanaway, the hottest real estate market in America where the opportunity is. So Californians look at Tacoma like their Spanaway.

Nate Bowling:
Well, Spanaway? Okay, all right.

Marguerite Martin:
Yeah. I know that’s where I come from.

Nate Bowling:
Where are the do-gooder liberals wrong about this conversation?

Marguerite Martin:
It’s so easy to talk about what other people need to do and how bad they are, and get distracted by those people storming in the Capitol or those people building ugly townhouses in my character filled neighborhood. You got to bring it back to yourself. Where am I complicit? Where’s my unearned wealth and power? And how can I give it up in a way that benefits the people who are being impacted by my gains? And they exist. So if you haven’t found them yet, you need to figure out how that’s happening, and you can start with homeless folks in your community. You can say, “You know what? I’m going to take 10 per … when I sell my house with $200,000 worth of profit, I’m going to find a way to take 20,000 of that and directly redistribute it to people who were made homeless in my community. That would be a way, that’d be fricking red.

Marguerite Martin:
But you have to start thinking of it that way, because until you do, how are you going to be able to hold your governor, your legislators accountable to creating policy? Do you even understand that aspect?

Nate Bowling:
I’m struggling to get my head around how you exist in this maelstrom. So, you are a realtor, you got tired of selling houses, and now you refer realtors. As at the same time you talk about how the entire realty like game is an intergenerational and also race crime. So, how do you situate yourself in this? What is the long-term path for you in this conversation and this work?

Marguerite Martin:
I don’t know.

Nate Bowling:
I love that. I love that.

Marguerite Martin:
I will say the parts that I do know is … I don’t know. You and Doug both know me personally very well. So you know that as I came to understand … and I think when many white people go through this, as they start to understand institutional racism, at first it’s like, “Guys did you know there’s this problem? We need to solve it.” And you have a lot of energy around it. Then you start trying things and you realize like, “Oh, it’s way worse than I thought.” “Oh God, I am personally benefiting. Oh God, I’m responsible.” I get messages routinely from people who were like, “Thanks for your stupid website, I’m homeless because of you.”

Marguerite Martin:
After a few years of reading those comments, I can find it. It’s true. It’s true. I didn’t single-handedly gentrify the city, but I certainly have benefited from that gentrification. Right? From that oppression. So, I became very personally depressed as I learned about this, and took a year off and tried to figure, “Okay, what I need is a different career where I engage in capitalism and commerce in a way that is not oppressive.

Nate Bowling:
So, what is-

Marguerite Martin:
It turns out, Nathan, that is not possible.

Nate Bowling:
That’s what I was going to ask.

Marguerite Martin:
I spent all my money and still owed the IRS a little bit, and I was like, “Oh, crap. What am I? Well, okay.” So I’m going to keep engaging in this career, by the way you know this about me, I didn’t go to college. My only career has been real estate and I’ve been doing it for 16 years. It’s like, “Okay. So I’m going to engage in this, I’m going to benefit from this. It’s still wrong when I’m doing, and I have to figure out how to take a percentage of my unearned wealth and power and give it directly to Black people who were impacted by this.” That’s been what I’ve been trying to figure out to do.

Marguerite Martin:
I first went to a friend who you introduced me to, ToriGlass, Tori Williams Douglas, and she does anti-racist education. I paid her for her time and I showed her my plan, and she was like, “This is really great, but we’ll see if you do it, because it’s going to be hard to execute.” Three months into that plan, there was a pandemic and I was terrified about money, and I still did it. I’m accountable to Jasmyn. Jasmyn is helping me with this. I’ve found people in my life that are helping me figure out how to get rid of some of this money.

Nate Bowling:
That’s fascinating to me. So, you’ve talked about the work that is being done in Portland about putting houses and homes in the hands of people who have been displaced, and that’s the vision for the homeowner that the homeowner when they cash out their equity, they give back to the community in some meaningful, measurable way. What is the work of realtors? So, like the folks, the person who’s starting off in the career, who is Marguerite, who has adorable bangs, is like 22 now and start selling houses right now. What’s their work right now?

Marguerite Martin:
I think the way that I’m handling it is my way, I’m not saying that other realtors need to do precisely what I’m doing, because their understanding and their access and their impact is going to be different. Right? Their communities are going to look different, whatever. But I think the deal is you need to educate yourself and not just read white fragility and be like, “Oh my God, that’s terrible. I’ve had such an awakening Black Square.” You need to continue to educate yourself in the direction of how am I benefiting? Where am I complicit? Then find ways in your own life to give up unearned wealth and power.

Marguerite Martin:
I learned that sentence from Erica Hart, and as soon as I read it, I was like, “Oh, okay.” That’s where I am, that’s where I am. If I’m benefiting, I need to figure out how to give it up because it’s unearned benefit.

Nate Bowling:
The housing market in Tacoma is just on a conveyor belt that’s so many communities have been on. So, like I mentioned, what’s happening in Tacoma happened in Oakland, happened in Sacramento, it happened in Portland. Are you aware of any communities that were able to arrest this process and maintain affordable housing? So this is an eventuality of laissez capitalism?

Marguerite Martin:
Yeah. I mean, you can’t build a tiny house village and prevent this, right? I think a lot of the solutions that we have are short-term solutions. I haven’t had a chance to listen to your whole interview with the folks in Tacoma. I got to listen to half of it in the shower yesterday, but I really heard her saying like, “Look, you have this empty school building, at the very least, let people live in it.” And it’s like, well, that thing was condemned because it’s full of asbestos and other poison lead-based things. People experiencing homelessness do not deserve that situation either. She made the point, they also don’t deserve to be living on the street.

Marguerite Martin:
We had the most intense storm last night. I don’t know how anyone living on the streets tent survived that storm, right? This is an untenable situation, but we don’t get to have cute solutions, we’re going to make garden sheds into mini-houses. That’s not a solution, the solution is housing, the solution is permanent housing. Permanent housing is expensive, it will not happen without homeowners paying more taxes, without us collectively coming together and making a decision that we refuse to accept people living on our streets. Not because we don’t like to see it while we’re having brunch, but because it’s unacceptable and inhumane, that’s what needs to happen. You don’t tiny-house build your way out of this, you build housing specifically, you build in financed forever services to support people in that situation.

Nate Bowling:
Is something broken in us that we basically now accept homelessness as a matter of fact, like way of life thing? So, I’m really struck and I constantly returned back to the idea that, the crisis that hit us the hardest are the ones that happen slowly, because all of a sudden you wake up and then there’s 25 [inaudible 00:36:56] in front of the Starbucks by Lincoln High School. Have we been numbed to the problem of homelessness in our community? If we are numb to it, how do we ever get to the solutions to the problem?

Marguerite Martin:
I sound like a one trick pony here, but I’m back to find your own complicity. So, one thing I started doing, where I live, there are so many folks living on the streets, and so I just started taping $5 bills to the back of the front door, and every time I leave, I grabbed two or three and whenever I see someone I give them $5, and it’s not every day. This is like a $100 a month, right? Is the goal. But the first thing that happens is, instead of every time you see a person experiencing homelessness, you’re not like trying to avoid eye contact because you feel bad about their situation and your relative affluence. Right? It’s like, “Okay, I’m going to at least give them something so that they can get something to eat, get whatever they need.” When I’ve talked to my white friends about this, they’ll say like, “Well, yeah, but what if they go buy beer?”

Nate Bowling:
Who cares?

Marguerite Martin:
I know realtor is making $500,000 a year who do Coke and drink beer and do all kinds of things to cope with the stress of their life. They don’t even live on the streets. I don’t even know what kind of drugs and alcohol I’d have to be in by me to survive that experience. Right? Just mind your own fucking business. I’m just giving this as an example, when you start engaging, and that is … and I also want to say like, this is not even engaging, what I should be doing is involving myself more with mutual aid groups, but I’m very co-dependent and very worried about getting … I am one of those people that’s so detached. How do you engage directly with a person and not become a completely involved in their life? That’s also full of problems.

Marguerite Martin:
What I’m saying, I’m a little embarrassed to be saying it with people listening, but this is something I’m wrestling with. Right? So, you start engaging, you start seeing people, and then when you have a policy thing come across that’s imperfect, you still vote for it because we need to get people housed. There’s no urgency, you know this, I mean, our friends, we don’t discuss it over dinner very often. If we do, we’re certainly not talking about how to advocate for policy to get people with roofs over their heads. It’s not urgent for us.

Nate Bowling:
Why isn’t there urgency? I left in August of 2019. I’ve been back to the States three times, and each time I’ve been totally struck by how bad the situation is, but why isn’t there urgency? I just can’t get my head around that.

Marguerite Martin:
People don’t want to see their complicity. They don’t want to see how it’s partial their responsible. We are all responsible for the situation. But instead we want to say, “Oh, well, it’s this lawmaker or it’s this advocacy group that’s the problem, or that solution isn’t perfect.” Like Tacoma Housing Now, like their solution to me, totally imperfect, but they need to be respected because they are trying so hard to do something, and they’re bringing a lot of awareness to the problem that wasn’t there.

Nate Bowling:
Yeah. That’s my defense of them is that, people are like, “Well, they’re doing this.” I’m like, “They’re protest movement.” Their job is to say, “Hey, you comfortable a-holes, pay attention to this, and you know what we’re doing? We’re paying attention to it.” So I root and support them. I root for and support them. Okay. I want to get us out of here on this question. So, you talked about what the homeowners should do with their wealth they’ve built, you’ve talked about what the realtor should do. I know that policy makers in the area listen to this show, and so what should somebody who happens to be on his own in commission or on the city council or on the County council or running one of the neighborhood councils or, God, the neighbor councils, by the way, anyway, just civic muckety-mucks, what is their job? What should they be doing? What demands should they be laying? What should they be offering, as far as conversations, to the community?

Marguerite Martin:
The problem is, is that’s where the rest of us owning our complicity and owning our part and advocating comes in, they don’t have enough political coverage to take action. If a politician came out and said, “You know what we need to do? We need to increase taxes so that we can house everyone in our County.” People would lose their freaking minds. Nice white liberal folks with Black Lives Matter signs in their yards, would lose their minds. How dare you? So, until we cure that, I don’t know what politicians can really do. I think they are reflecting, in general, the will of the people, which is that’s somebody else’s problem.

Nate Bowling:
So then, where does this end up? What is the end game? What is the end goal? What is the end that we’re headed towards that we’re trying to avoid?

Marguerite Martin:
You’re asking me this question in public? Implosion. It doesn’t end anywhere well. You cannot have people with incredible wealth living alongside people with nothing without a crisis, without eventually violence. It cannot happen. You’ve talked about like, when you go to Mexico and you see high walls with glass shards all along the top, why are those there? Protecting wealthy people from everybody else, that’s where we’re headed. So, let’s fix it now because that would suck.

Nate Bowling:
Yeah. I’ll never get over that image. All right, Marguerite, I’m really glad we got to wrap, and it’s funny we’re having full disclosure sometimes record the shows ahead of time. We’re having this conversation right now while the impeachment hearings are going in the background. So, it’s interesting for me to talk to you because when we talked in 2015 [crosstalk 00:42:36]

Marguerite Martin:
2016.

Nate Bowling:
Okay, in 2016, it was [crosstalk 00:42:40]

Marguerite Martin:
Trump had just become the nominee.

Nate Bowling:
There it is yet, the lead-up to the election. So, essentially we’re having this conversation now on bookings of the election. A couple of things I’m going to put into the show notes. I’m going to put our prior conversation on the show notes, and I’m also going to put an article or an episode of Reveal podcast about how the institutional landlords came in and swept up property, like you mentioned. But Marguerite, we end the show with a thing called, here, pull this out, pull this out, pull this out. You know that cancel culture is not real because if it was, Matt Yglesias would not be walking the planet right now, because I would have canceled him forever ago. Marguerite, who is somebody who you think needs to hold an L?

Marguerite Martin:
Well, I’m just going to go with my people, white real estate agents. If you think you’re not part of the problem while we build … I mean, white real estate agents are having the best year ever, and 87% of real estate agents are white. We’re making money hand over fist off of this disaster, and if you can’t see that take it.

Nate Bowling:
There’s, I think, piece to be written, maybe it has to be by me, about the Venn diagram of the teaching profession and real estate-

Marguerite Martin:
And policing.

Nate Bowling:
And the demographics of the profession and how that changes perspectives in the profession of the community. There’s something to be said about that. Marguerite, if people want to follow you on the socials, although you’re not person of the socials anymore, where should they look?

Marguerite Martin:
You can find Move to Tacoma on the Twitters @MoveToTacoma and on the Instagrams, and you can find out everything about me at movetotacoma.com or margueritemartin.com.

Nate Bowling:
Marguerite, I just want to say that I appreciate your reflectiveness and also your friendship, and you truly are one of the most powerful people I know, and even though … do I want to say this on the record? Yeah, I will say it on the record. We’re in this weird spot where you’re not in the city and I’m not in the city, but I think we both love the city a lot, and so, just thank you for being on the show.

Marguerite Martin:
Thank you, Nate. Thanks for being my friend, you too Doug. Wakanda forever, y’all, wash your damn your hands, wear a mask, get a vaccine if you can, and be good to each other.

Doug Mackey:
Channel 253 is a member supported podcast network. I’m producer Doug Mackey, and I’m asking you to become a member and show your support. Go to channel253.com/membership to join. Thank you.

Nate Bowling:
[inaudible 00:44:59]

Marguerite Martin:
I can’t wait to talk about [inaudible 00:45:04]

Nate Bowling:
All right.

Doug Mackey:
Nerd Farmer is part of the Channel 253 podcast network. Check out our other shows Interchangeable White Ladies, Give Me The Mic, We Art Tacoma, Move to Tacoma, Taco-Man, Flounders B-Team, Crossing Division, Citizen Tacoma, and What Say You.

Speaker 4:
This is Channel 253.

Show Notes

CROSSOVER EPISODE on Tacoma's Housing Crisis. Description From Nate Bowling of Nerd Farmer Podcast: Although I have been talking about housing issues, literally for years, I am really just now getting my head around the extent to which existing homeowners and their advocacy are the cause and cure of what ails us. In a rising housing market, increases in supply threaten the equity of existing homeowners. Because capitalism is stupid, for too many families home equity is their main source of familial wealth. Consequently homeowners are often the most vociferous opponents of creating new housing, particularly low-income housing, in their communities. Weird, huh? Into this conversation walks erstwhile realtor Marguerite Martin, creator of Move to Tacoma. Marguerite has taken a step away from from selling homes. She now works as a matchmaker, helping first-time homebuyers and folks moving to the region find agents. If you are a homeowner, like me, who has built a bunch of equity post-crash, this is an episode for you, with a call-to-action. This conversation is a continuation of recent episodes with Jasmyn Jefferson (#107), from Windermere about advice for millennial homebuyers and our conversation with Rebecca Parson (#113), spokesperson for Tacoma Housing Now.