I gotta clean out my favorites file of old gentrification links. I’m starting with this one.
Everyso often wandering around parts of Shaw I may see a faded or not so faded spray painted graffiti saying “Stop Gentrification.” Oh, yeah, I’m inspired to….. what? Leave? Heck no. I bought my house, fixed it, and redid the lawn, I ain’t leaving.
Simple message with no answer. I could spend a good 2 paragraphs belittling the type of person I think puts this sort of thing up, but I won’t.
As I wrote, simple message, no simple answer. In Gentrification and the Paradox of Affordable Housing by Andres Duany (unpublished as of 2000) you can read about the problem of the answer to stopping (or trying to) gentrification. For one, gentrification is not a controllable artificial thing of the city’s doing. The city might put something in that may spark gentrification, but that spark may not catch fire and if there is fire, it may not be up to the city how hot, how long, and how much it burns. Right now I’m thinking the proposed Nats stadium. It my be a catalyst but I don’t think it will produce the wild results the city and everyone else wants, bringing gentrification to that part of SE.
Second, affordable housing is hard to retain. Affordable housing is needed but its hard to maintain and protect a section of the city where the poor live. The “old neighborhood” of Chinatown or what have you (Duany uses NYC as an example) cannot be protected from gentrification. He says:
These inner city neighborhoods however, are not permanent as they were usually built originally for the middle-class and it is their quality that eventually attracts subsequent gentrification. They are, in fact, only recovering their intrinsic value; they are reverting to their origins, not just being “taken away” from the poor.
Another part of the affordable housing equation is free will. You can’t tell white people they can’t move into a black neighborhood. You can’t tell a lower middle class/ blue collar black family they can’t sell their house for top dollar. Duany nor I am talking about apartment buildings, we are talking individual houses and properties where it is wrong to impose restrictions on homeowners to keep affordable housing stock.
Duany’s answer to stopping gentrification is bad design. Bad design will keep the gentrifiers out. Well, from my own house and some of the open houses I’ve been to around Shaw, that won’t work either. Theoretically, Duany says that mediocre design will make the gentry seek other housing. In practice, crackhead design in Shaw has done little to hold back gentrification except keep an overpriced house on the market longer. Duany blames modernist designs. I don’t know about modernism, but I know crackhead when I see it.
Another suggestion Duany makes to stop gentrification is to allow the poor to build their own houses in “code free” zones. Yeah, it’s called building without a permit. You can do it in places where the neighbors won’t report you to the city.
No simple answer.