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Discussion in 'Philadelphia Real Estate' started by Gladys, Jul 6, 2016.
Is Gentrification Really a Problem?
Really wonderful article.
This is definitely an interesting article, but I think says a lot more about New York and its shoehorned take on gentrification than it does about what gentrification really means. He spends most of the article excusing gentrification in New York, only to end it by calling New York an exception and citing failed gentrification efforts elsewhere, seemingly suggesting that out-priced New Yorkers are better off moving to another city. Despite his research, he almost sounds like a Silicone Valley tech bro complaining about the lingering grime in San Francisco. That's a pretty hypocritical place considering he spent the beginning of his article explaining how America's first ghettos came to be, and how their residents were discouraged from owning land in those neighborhoods.
Somewhere in the middle of the article before he tops it off with a cherry, he brings up a point about the "ghetto" (any "ghetto" really) sticking around through subsidized housing. That happens in New York, Philadelphia, and I assume San Francisco. But he never really expanded upon the idea. You might throw a few hundred gay people, black people, Italians, or Hispanics in affordable housing, but that won't stop the neighborhood from culturally changing without subsidizing the retail and offering subsidized residents places to shop. Residents just become tokens of a neighborhood that no longer exists, a reason to keep a city's Chinatown gate or rainbow street signs in their Chinatowns and Gayborhoods long after the vast majority of culturally relevant neighbors and businesses have left.
The best point he brings up - and another he failed to expand upon - is how encouraging developers to build larger and denser could drive the supply up and demand down, thus maintaining manageable property values. Today, we often ask developers to set aside "affordable" units, but that only creates waiting lists. But manageable property values have no place in today's urban narrative, and that's the narrative of - and the problem with - gentrification today. It's very easy to drive property values exponentially sky-high in emerging neighborhoods when developers strategically control the number of available beds.
It's an interesting article, but I think there are better ways to go about explaining why gentrification is or isn't a problem, because this just sounds like a bunch of eloquently worded excuses to tell Manhattan's lingering working class they'd be better of in Pittsburgh or Albany.
Never understood how "gentrification" became a bad word.
In Defense of Gentrification
I liked the bit about how the arrival of the bohemians presages the beginning of gentrification and their departure means that the process is reaching its end stages - they're the canary in the coal mine. But the bohemians have been a noticeable presence in Germantown for 50 years and their presence doesn't seem to be a harbinger of much, other than that Germantown is funky. Is Philly that much of an outlier or just Germantown?
chirp chirp. this is one bohemian who has definitely served as a neighborhood canary in philly. and i'm not the only one.
agreed. but in our case it's not always or just or even developers doing it. The city has a large part in it by keeping hold of vacant run down buildings and empty lots for whatever purpose they deem fit. There is a lot of land to use and the city isn't letting it be used.
It doesn't get used until proper tithing has been paid to the district councilperson, and briberies to the local "community" groups. Sops to all!
I'm still a little puzzled that the city still hasn't been more aggressive at letting the market sort out more of the stock of non-performing properties. If taxes or L and I fines or water bills are in arrears, places should be auctioned off. Requiring citizens to place deposits to initiate tax sales seems goofy. Maybe a quick and easy change would be to make that a profitable transaction - if you're not the winning bidder, you get a 50% or a 100% profit on your money that you put down. That'd probably generate a cottage industry of initiating tax sales. They also allow vacant properties to go through an endless series of payment plans before finally allowing them to go to tax sale. That's dumb.
I should play the lottery today since I agree with you. But remember that the correct way to allow this to happen means that there are fewer opportunities for a grubbing politician to get his or her hands on "contributions".
Exactly, the system of corruption systematically stalls, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, progress and has to stop. Perhaps with the recent court case things will begin to tighten up. time will tell.
Very true. I have to imagine any city struggling to rebuild a significant loss in population deals with similar struggles. Where developable land is scarce - New York, San Francisco - leaders could pressure them to build more densely to drive down the average cost (although I don't know of any cities that do). Nevertheless, a city has more authority over what gets built when things have to get built.
In Philadelphia - and probably other rebounding cities - developers call the shots, and the city holds onto land hoping larger developers will rebuild struggling neighborhoods. It's like a codependent marriage.
Can you imagine what would happen if the city aggressively auctioned off even a fraction of its vacant land to private residents, and contractually obligated them to live there for a set amount of time? IMO that's real gentrification, and not that bad. Neighborhoods would change, but they'd change more organically.
Controlling the vacant land allows the city to control where development goes and which neighborhoods get redeveloped. You could probably write a book on the uniqueness of gentrification in Philadelphia and how the city controls where it happens, if you can even call that gentrification.
Unfortunately, City Hall is the city's biggest slumlord, holding out for big development. Instead of auctioning off land piecemeal to truly middle-class residents who would fit better with existing working class communities, the city lets its vacant land crumble and drag struggling neighborhoods down to the point of no return, then sells them off to luxury condo developments chock full of brunching consultants who piss off long-time residents.
Ironically, many of those long-time residents are the ones bamboozled into keeping this particular brand of politics in power because - for a finite amount of time, at least - those vacant properties keep their rent low. It's understandable, especially when Philadelphia's brand of gentrification is the Piazza and East Market, not starter families and first-time home buyers looking for a decent $100,000 house.
If all of the city's vacant land were fairly available, you'd get more residents looking to be part of existing communities, not just looking to completely terraform them with $500,000 condos and all the pricy trappings that follow. But opening all of the city's vacant land up to the general market, or even a fixed or contractually obligated market, would make a lot of prospective tenants in some of our bigger, more expensive developments second guess where their money goes. More than a few people eyeing pricy downtown apartments would stop and think, "Hmmm, I could also get a three bedroom townhouse on Lehigh Avenue right on the Broad Street line," and then it would snowball, cutting into the profits of NREA, Dranoff, Blatstein, Blumenfeld, etc., etc., etc. And that's where City Hall and the codependent marriage kicks in.
I think it's just a common trope that Bohemians (or gays or artists) are the harbingers of gentrification. The truth is, "outsider" communities have and always will make a home outside the mainstream. They're (we're) already everywhere. It's just when one of these neighborhoods does get gentrified that someone points out the artist studio on the corner that was sacked for loft apartments. I think the more accurate part about that bit is what their departure represents: that gentrification has taken hold.
If any group is the harbinger of gentrification, it's hipsters IMO. I don't mean the grungy punks who like living cheap and dirty, but the kind who look at grit, grime, and poverty as tokens of urbanism. They're the gateway, the ones willing to move into a dingy neighborhood but with the means to open up a beer garden and the sorts of things your ordinary New Philadelphian looks for in a city. They don't necessarily view the corner bodega as a necessity, they appreciate it from arm's length through an ironic Instagram filter, still they appreciate a neighborhood mostly for what it is. But they also deem a neighborhood "safe" for the upper middle class.