The Age of Discrimination: Finding a clean, well-kept rental was the least of this couple’s worries

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Toleration and respect, I realized through my rental search, did not extend to heterosexual partners of "discongruent" ages.
Toleration and respect, I realized through my rental search, did not extend to heterosexual partners of “discongruent” ages. — graphic by Matt Steele
By John Cochran

This past April, my partner and I decided to live together. Both of us work at the University of Iowa and our jobs are in proximity to the downtown area, so we hoped to find a place within walking distance.

We started by viewing at least two-dozen apartments, houses and duplexes. More than half of the units we visited were cramped, dirty and poorly kept. They reeked of pot or cat piss, lacked adequate amounts of air and sunlight, or were sad remnants of once-splendid family homes.

After staring at Craigslist until our eyes went numb, and driving ourselves dizzy around the city calling numbers on rental signs, it was a tremendous consolation to discover a few habitable, even neat and spacious, residences. However, to my anger and bewilderment, the seemingly ceaseless sifting through decrepit apartments was only an introduction to what would become our true rental troubles.

I am a late middle-aged man — however young at heart I may be — and my partner is in her mid-20s. I consider her my best friend and the one great love of my life. Age, in our opinion and as the old saying goes, is just a number and has no bearing upon what a man and a woman are capable of feeling for one another.

Unfortunately, the various landlords of Iowa City disagreed, and in our search for a home together, we were eyeballed, grilled about our relationship and subsequently dismissed with Byzantine or patronizing comments. If we were lucky, we escaped with just a smirk and an “equal opportunity” residency application.

We are far from uncleanly miscreants and take pride in keeping a well-maintained and — I will add — tastefully decorated home. When we approached landlords that had explicitly stated in advertisements or over the phone that they were seeking tidy, more mature tenants, we were repeatedly turned down and told that the properties had been let to younger students.

As we toured apartments, we felt as though we were being paraded about as a curiosity, guided through homes by rote obligation since our candidacy as tenants seemed to have already been decided. We were probed with insulting questions about “what our families thought” and even asked to put out up-front sums that had not been earlier disclosed. We fled, disgusted and demoralized, growing more despondent about finding a clean—or even any—reasonably priced home.

I have always been comfortable living in Iowa City, and am proud to have been raised in the area — its reputation for openness, acceptance and an educated populace always made it somewhat of a Midwest oasis. As long as I can remember, there has always been toleration, and in the more recent years, more genuine respect and consideration for people regardless of color or sexual orientation.

Toleration and respect, I realized through my rental search, did not extend to heterosexual partners of “discongruent” ages. As our frustrations mounted, we turned once more to Craigslist, posting an ad for a professional couple seeking housing.

After receiving several responses, we visited a few beautiful properties. Once again, after introducing ourselves as dedicated partners, we sensed an uneasiness and apprehension in our would-be landlords. It was not until we were contacted by a wonderful property owner on the west side that we were put at ease.

For the first time in our search for home, after viewing nearly 40 rentals, we were not treated with suspicion or prejudice, but warmly welcomed as Iowa City denizens and respectable renters. We were greeted with trust and sent a lease in the mail. How refreshing to at last find a landlord who saw past our age disparity and embraced a friendly, healthy and considerate couple. She personifies what Iowa City landlords should be.

John Cochran lives and works in Iowa City, and has been an Iowa boy all his life. 

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6 thoughts on “The Age of Discrimination: Finding a clean, well-kept rental was the least of this couple’s worries

  1. What a disgusting “article.”

    To imply that a cis-gendered white heterosexual male could in any way ever possibly be discriminated against in a world where white men have and abuse the un-earned privileges our patriarchal and misogynistic society has bestowed upon them is a complete SLAP IN THE FACE to women, homosexuals, people of color, and non-binary gendered individuals.

    That he all but admits, right out of the gate, that he is essentially a sexual predator by having a “relationship” with a woman so young she is still essentially a child and incapable of truly knowing what kind of a person he or making decisions for herself should have been enough to halt publication of this deeply troubling and problematic excuse for “journalism,” and contact the authorities immediately.

    Did anyone on this magazine’s staff bother to investigate who this so called “partner” is? (Ha! Like there could ever be a genuine “partnership” between a member of an oppressed group and their oppressor, which, by virtue of his race and gender he is, not only to her, but also to ALL WOMEN.) Did anyone investigate if she is in any immediate danger being in his company? Or if she was groomed by this person? WHY IS SHE WITH HIM? Clearly, no woman that age who was of sound mind would ever want to be left alone in a room with a white male, of his age or ANY AGE, let alone be in a so-called “relationship” with one. How is he coercing her into being with him? Did you LOOK INTO THAT, Little Village, or did you just let it slide?

    In an age when the vast majority of college-age women are victims of repeated and daily sexual assaults and harassment (the “one in four” stat is really closer to “four in four” given the fact that ANY TIME a woman feels unsafe, for ANY REASON, should really qualify as a form of sexual assault) is it any wonder that wise Iowa City landlords didn’t want to rent to the EXACT kind of person who is responsible for the vast majority of these assaults?

    Having sympathy for a this or ANY OTHER straight white male, or giving them space in your publication to express their HATEFUL AND HARMFUL worldview, little more than a pity party for being turned away from apartments where he was no doubt looking to set up shop and continue abusing this woman and perpetuating the rape culture that plagues our society is shameful, disgusting, and triggering to any woman who’s ever suffered a sexual assault at the hands of a middle-aged white male. Namely, ALL WOMEN.

    In an ideal world, straight white men would really only ever appear in print in Iowa City when they are being shamed and called out for the horrible people they are.

    People of his race and gender deserve neither toleration nor respect, EVER, and Iowa City would be a much better AND SAFER town if all landlords adopted a policy that prevented people like him from ever living anywhere within city limits.

    The only way women, gays or people of color will ever be safe or free or have a voice in Iowa City is when straight white men are BANNED from Iowa City entirely. WHERE IS YOUR ARTICLE ABOUT THAT?

    Shame on the female landlord who rented to them, an obvious traitor to the struggle. SHAME!!! Did he threaten her? Assault her? How did this happen? WHY did this happen? Who in their right mind would rent to such a person? Who else now has to suffer the indignity and violence of living near a straight white man every day now? Of seeing him coming and going? Of having such an obvious trigger freely walking the streets of their neighborhood?

    And shame on you, Little Village, for publishing this garbage, but I’m not really surprised given the fact you have straight white men on the staff of this magazine, even when they in no way shape or form represent Iowa City, what it’s about, what’s good about it, who makes it a good place to live, or who should be given a voice in our community.

    Unfortunately, you’re obviously just sticking up for this person, and his blatant perpetuation of our rape culture, out of “brotherhood,” HOW DARE YOU!

    Because of this, I’ll never be reading your pathetic and hateful rag of a magazine ever again.

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