Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Landowner and the Apartments

Over ten years ago, there was this big piece of land that was carefully landscaped and prepared by the landowners for lots of people to use. We could take up any spot on that land that we would like. Forward-thinking as they were, the landowner built in various hookups for utilities and amenities. It was nice.

Very quickly, some enterprising people began building apartments on the land. These apartments often offered new amenities that made use of the existing infrastructure established by the landowner; sometimes, new infrastructure was built to better provide amenities that the landowner had not considered. Eventually, we had a great deal of choice of apartments. There were a couple of boutique buildings that people could live in, a few bigger ones that were a little nicer, or — for those who had the ability — enterprising residents were welcome to build our own block and lease it to anyone who wanted to stay in it.

Then, the landowner decided to buy one of the nicest apartment buildings on the site. And, slowly, residents of that apartment started to notice little changes being made. It began to receive new amenities, some of which were unavailable to anyone else on the land. Many people found that to be irritating but, as they were the owners, understandable.

More changes were made to the very nice apartment building. Over time, it stopped feeling like the original apartment, and the owners decided to tear it down and build a new one. It looked pretty nice, but suffered from some shoddy materials and craft. They put billboards on the side of it, and began pestering everyone to meet their neighbours and their friends’ neighbours. They started giving different amenities to different people, like some sort of science experiment to see which residents would crack first. Even so, most people wanted to live in that apartment because it had all of the amenities, and it had the landowner’s name on it, so it felt more official.

But there were still lots of other apartments for people to live in if you didn’t like some of the strange experiments happening in the big, popular apartment, and could live without a few nice amenities. The landowner mostly left these places alone because residents were still contributing to the community, and all of those apartments were disproportionately contributing to the value of the land.

One day, though, the owners decided to set a limit on the number of people who could live in each apartment building. They also very quietly began telling the management of each building that they didn’t want apartments on their land any more, but didn’t tell management when they would be making the final call on that. They also acknowledged just how important these apartments are to the overall community, and pledged to keep the plumbing and electricity hooked up indefinitely. Those mixed signals made management concerned but, as no decision was made, each apartment kept being maintained and renovated.

And then, out of the blue, the landowner made the call. They decided to charge apartment companies lots of money per resident to stay on the land, and they said that they would be turning off some of the utilities at a later date. Some of the renters saw the writing on the wall and decided to move into the big apartment run by the landowner, and they were happy. Others tried moving in only to find it gaudy and horrible, and moved right back into their old place. Management at these apartment pleaded with the landowner to help them figure this out for their tenants, but the landowners didn’t budge.

The day came for the landowner to turn off some of the less essential utilities to all of the smaller apartments. Some people stuck around – even with limited amenities, they still preferred living in those apartments to the popular-but-tacky one. A few people decided to find some new land, because the landowner was clearly only interested in putting all of their resources behind the apartment they also owned. There was little disagreement on their right to do so — it’s their land, of course. But by pretending that the land’s value was due to the big apartment rather than the overall community, the landowner made many residents question whether they knew what they were doing with their land. That feeling was deepened when the landowner also let a bunch of actual, literal Nazis stay on their land and call up any of the residents whenever they felt like it. That seemed like a bad idea.

Today, the landowner is spending much of their time attempting to convince the community to move out of their independently-managed apartments and into the big one. As they also keep saying that they want to help with the upkeep of the indie apartments, it’s very difficult to know what residents ought to do if they would like to remain in the community. And, given the poor communication from the landowner, it’s unclear what their next steps are and how it will affect the community in the months and years to come.

Much appreciation and credit to Joshua Arnao and Josh Calvetti for the inspiration.