Are Gentrified Cities Too Greedy?
Urban renewal works in D.C. and New Orleans. But the needs of the vulnerable shouldn't be ignored.
New Orleans has also struggled to maintain affordable housing since the storm. "Most people agree that New Orleans' public-housing system needed a radical overhaul," Perry told The Root. "But the unnecessary closing of all public housing after the storm severely limited opportunities for the poorest residents to take part in the recovery and return."
Then there is the New Jim Crow issue. Perry continued: "Poor blacks are not only more likely to be arrested and incarcerated; the new economy has simply not found spaces for gainful employment. We have celebrated innovation and entrepreneurialism among startup and young professionals -- the city has not made a collective effort to find innovative ways to retrain the formerly incarcerated."
There is similar treatment to "returned citizens" leaving D.C. prisons. Despite its stable jobs market, the district has some of the most entrenched poverty in the country. What about the debt the city owes the people who stuck with it during the lean years? We owe them affordable housing, built in convenient locations. Instead, public and even just low-cost housing is being dismantled. Mayor Vince Gray's most recent budget proposal allotted for a measly 900 affordable housing units over two years and some help with the rent. This is the urban-planning equivalent of a swift kick in the rear.
In D.C. especially, if the city continues on this path of systematically purging the poor and working classes, let's not pretend it's about bringing in enough tax revenue to balance the budget. And though there is a clear and disproportionate racial impact, it's not even totally about race. At this point, it is really just about a grab for tax revenues and power in the rare U.S. city where it still pays to speculate in real estate.
The Atlantic's Franke-Ruta aptly notes that unlike D.C.'s Chinatown, which has few Chinese residents, there are still black people on U Street. I'm afraid unless there is some sort of holistic and systematic re-evaluation of the city's development policies, that won't be for long. And when the whitewash is complete, the eviction of poor and working-class people will not have been out of necessity, but pure greed.