How gentrification can be just plain EVIL

Friday morning while trying to convince myself that getting up and going to work early is a good thing, I heard over NPR a newstory that riled up passions in my conservative heart. Property rights.
The story is about what’s going on in New London, CT where the city wants to redevelop a section of town to make way yuppie condos. Fine. Problem, they are threatening to use ’eminent domain’ as a way of taking land away from the few homeowners in that area. Eminent domain should only be used to build roads for polluting cars or waterways or big public utility projects, not privately owned condos. Yuppies and the working class are equal in the eyes of G-d, and should be equal in the eyes of the State, but alas no. Apparently because you can suck more money out of yuppies via taxes, yuppies are better people and thus the State chooses to kick out working/middle class homeowners, depriving them of their property. The State is dangerous.
Eminent Domain Watch, a blog, has a wonderful amount of information on this case along with other incidents of local and state governments encroaching on individual property rights.
The New London case is the best example of gentrification evil style. Gentrification done naturally invovles individual property owners selling to either other property owners or corporation when they so chose. They are not forced to sell (ok this can be argued on whaddya mean by ‘force’). Provided they can keep up with real estate taxes and local ordinances, individuals can choose NOT to sell. The residents in the New London area do not have that choice. And that is plain wrong. So wrong.
Should the Supreme Court decide in favor of the City of New London real property rights will be undermined for all US citizens. In DC I could only imagine the worst. My beloved Anthony Williams is already the bitch of the developers ’round here. I know the city likes sucking money from higher incomes and crack fuel housing prices, but if they were given this tool….

One thought on “How gentrification can be just plain EVIL”

  1. Interesting story. There’s a really bad message for people who invest their cash in troubled neighborhoods here: we’re going to take it away from you. So why should any private citizen buy a house somewhere that’s got problems? What if everyone was unwilling to buy houses in Shaw in the 80s and 90s because they were afraid the government would just come and toss them out?

    There’s an interesting wrinkle to this too which makes me understand why New London is trying to do this. The tax system in Connecticut (my home state) is just plain screwed up. Until very recently there was no state income tax, and there is no county government in any real sense, so towns and cities pay for just about EVERYTHING with their own tax dollars. This is why the wealthiest state in the US has the most decrepit and run-down cities in the US. Bridgeport (where I was born) boomed in the first half of the 20th century, but was already kind of scary when I was a kid (70s). It’s been continuing in a death spiral ever since. New Haven and Hartford are not far behind.

    So, given the important of property tax revenues, you can see why the people running New London would think about something like this. Not excusing it, but the pressure on city governments in Connecticut is tremendous. They get little help from the state.

    What’s also interesting is that this has led to a deep seated neglect of the cities in Connecticut. Bridgeport – largest city in the state – is basically a corpse. When I left for college, there was no bookstore or movie theater in the city that wasn’t “adult” in nature; the big shopping area downtown was vacant (they tried to build a mall downtown and it was empty); there’s almost no professional class (doctors lawyers etc) in the central city. And in the town next door where I grew up, nobody cared. Nobody though, “hey, we should have a nice downtown Bridgeport with restaurants and stores and parks and places to walk.” They just didn’t care. They never went to Bridgeport, they so no appeal to having an actual living city, and would have been happy to just seal it up behind a wall and forget about it.

    I really don’t like Connecticut.

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