Gentrification is insidious in that it slowly overtakes a neighborhood. It is feared by poor people, and spreads fear throughout the neighborhood. People start believing that all their problems within the neighborhood are caused by poor people. They start to believe that if they do not kick out the poor people their housing values will decrease and they will lose their nest egg or become homeless themselves. In Tremont, Ohio City and now starting in Detroit Shoreway there is this drive to "develop" the neighborhood. It is usually led by the neighborhood development corporation and by a small group who are single minded in their focus to improve property values. These are worthy goals, but it all falls down when the health of all income levels are not taken into account. There are many CDC directors who try to work with both low income and higher income households and the attempt to balance the needs of each. There are some who try to integrate the neighborhood and champion diversity. But a few who just let the developers go wild, and are hostile to poor people.
Some CDCs restrict access by non-profits who serve poor people out of a fear of attracting homeless and the downtrodden. They condemn and bulldoze property that is unsightly. They demand action by the City to make it illegal to be poor (panhandling, anti-"camping," and anti-feeding ordinances). They constantly chew the ear of the elected local official until the Councilperson finally breaks and forgets about their poorer constituents and follows the vision of the rich developers (potential campaign donors) to move away from affordable housing.
The results are:
- All the shelters get pushed to the "bad" parts of town away from bus lines, social services, and government offices.
- The innovative ideas like pay to stay places (non-profit flophouses) or sweat equity affordable housing co-ops or one stop service centers do not get tried.
- Land is left vacant or used as community garden/park space to avoid the development of affordable housing.
- It is harder to locate a place to live that is affordable to a person making service sector wages.
- When people fall out of their housing through eviction they fall all the way to shelter or the streets. There are no longer safety nets to catch people.
- Housing gets more expensive city wide because certain markets are shut off to people.
BrianPosts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.