Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 12:20 am
Gentrification begets gentrification
Millions of middle-income families previously secure in homes they owned or rented have had to move out of their neighborhoods and even out of their cities because gentrification has drastically raised home prices, property taxes and rents. While it’s obviously beneficial to have such essential community servants as teachers, police officers and firefighters live among the people they serve, who among them can afford it?
When one Oakland, California, school principal started teaching in 2001, the story was: Teachers are never going to afford a house. And now it’s that teachers can’t afford an apartment. So the city’s teachers have to move clear out of the county and face long, dispiriting commutes to and from their classrooms.
In metro areas across the country, consumer demand for affordable apartments is huge and fast-growing, but that mass market goes begging because developers can make far greater profits by building upscale units for wealthy people seeking trendy neighborhoods.
A survey by RENTCafe, a nationwide apartment-search website, found that 75 percent of all new apartment complexes built in the U.S. in 2015 were luxury developments. You might expect that skew toward housing for the affluent in the Northeast and California, with such super-pricy cities as New York and San Francisco, so I was surprised to see that luxury construction was most dominant in the South and Southeast, where 78 percent of all apartments were upscale, and in the Southwest and Mid-Atlantic, where the number reached an appalling 88 percent.
For poverty-income families, being gentrified out of an affordable space can mean more than a long commute. It often forces them to move into bad and dangerous housing, pay up to 70 percent of their monthly income for a place to live, face eviction, fall into deeper debt and poverty, and frequently end up homeless – living in their cars or on the street. The toll lands heavily on children since, according to Open Door Mission, they make up a third of Americans without homes – astonishingly, the average age of a homeless person is 9.
Meanwhile, here comes Team Trump heaping scorn on poor people, even as it callously slashes budgets for programs aimed at giving them a chance for decent housing. Our friends at People’s Action have taken on the housing crisis at the national level with a People’s Hearing on Housing – and they have member organizations in 26 states. Find one near you.