A Tale of Gentrification

Good Morning,

Approximately 4 months ago my parents house caught on fire. My sister (Nishaila Porter age 26) and myself (Nikeala Porter age 27) have been working to restore the property. A receiver has been appointed since September 19th and has not done any work. We have the funds and the contractors to complete the job and have done some work on the house but unfortunately we keep getting the run around with ISD and the attorneys working on the matter. I hope this email sees you well because with your help I am hoping to get the receiver removed and restore my childhood home.

We understand that the property is a very high value and in a very ideal area in Roxbury. With gentrification and high development increasing in Boston we feel that we are not being given a fair opportunity to restore the house and I am hoping you can look into the matter and show that you are in support of Boston residents keeping and securing homes in Boston. There is a hearing Friday, I am hoping to hear from you before then. Thank you for your time!

Nikeala Porter

The letter above was received by High Soaring Millennials Magazine in response to the ongoing updates and articles the magazine has posted regarding the positive and negative effects of gentrification on the home buying  aspirations of millennials. Ms Porter like many feel their wishes to remain a viable part of the communities they helped build are not being heard. Areas like Codman Square, Dorchester, and Uphams Corner, (where the city plans to construct a new public library branch upgrade the Strand Theatre and usher in a growing artist community) are in high demand by those running from the rising crime of suburbia. A suburbia that has been hit by the opioid epidemic harder than any other region outside of rural middle America. It is now the urban areas that are the safe spaces. Law enforcement is forced to actually stop crime (instead of “sweeping it” a term meaning directing it to low income areas by only actively/visibly policing high income areas) in former drug infested and crime ridden areas, that in the past were redlined negating many efforts to uplift them.

Now it seems race is no longer the divining factor in access to equity, but economics IS! At a recent city council meeting in Dudley, the audience was one of people from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, concerned about being pushed from the neighborhoods many had grown up in and worked hard to build. Neighborhoods local media had painted as “urban blighted” or “crime ridden” and those police historically ignored unless it was to fill quotas. All the time knowing crime festered there because it was directed there by policies that let the criminal element know, these are the areas you can run wild. It took the unity of  churches, mosques, black radio,and the small business community to initiate the turnaround. Now even communities like Allston are seeing the last days of affordable housing. So who is next? This question is alarming because areas like Boston’s Chinatown exist purely because of affordable housing!

As rising home prices (taxes), and rents force people to move elsewhere shouldn’t we ask ourselves what the long term consequences will be? “Roxbury is an area that has been hit harder than others,” City Council member from district 7 Kim Janey told the Boston  Herald in a recent interview. Janey is calling for development without displacement and why shouldn’t the people that brought the communities from the brink by battling the crack epidemic, housing crisis, and the ever changing economic dynamics be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their efforts? This does not mean we should panic every time a Starbuck’s opens near us, but what it does mean is that local businesses need to look at expanding when gentrification occurs, instead of running, and communities need to look at ways to decrease debt burdens and increase liquidity. Ways like, home batteries, net zero energy refits to homes, and accessing youth initiatives or programming that improves  the quality of life and affords more opportunities for young people.

Allowing yourself to be relegated to a suburban enclave selected to corral those on subsidies is the same as turning back the clock to the bad old days of limited resources and underfunded city services. If you do not own a home, renters have few options worth exploring, beyond going tiny or creating cooperatives. Some may term gentrification as reinvestment and revitalization of urban areas which result in higher property values and costs, but this is disingenuous because it is not actually reinvestment. It is rather, new investment by third parties who take over areas offering little choice or compensation to those who already have a vested interest in the said community. Reinvestment would be if banks had allowed homeowners to borrow money to upgrade their property at fair rates, or given entrepreneurs sufficient loans to grow small business entities, beyond city funded colorful banners, websites, and pamphlets promoting urban shopping centers.

In the U.S. today many corporations are looking with trepidation toward Louisiana a state whose governor uncovered that many of its communities despite having a large taxpayer base were not receiving equitable services because corporations in their area (mostly urban and of color) were given tax breaks that more affluent regions would not allow. Therefore their schools and public services were superior including teacher salaries which were much higher. It is this inspection of the inherent and often hidden inequities within the system itself that need to be explored and dealt with.

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