Tag Archives: gentrification

This Gentle Town

According to Wikipedia, gentrification is “the buying and renovating of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by wealthier individuals, which in effect increases property values and displaces low-income families and small businesses.” At face value this would seem to be a positive turn of events: transforming something of low value into something of high value, just as one might transform sand and carbon into a computer or granite into a statue. But leave it to the SJW’s (Social Justice Warriors) to find the cloud in every silver lining. Instead of welcoming improvements (both aesthetically and commercially) they instead decry these changes as destroying the “character” of a neighborhood or town. As though “character” were a tangible, ownable thing that residents had a right to enjoy ad infinitum. This sentiment is best captured in the following quote from a recent article in The Flagpole (an Athens, Georgia local paper):

“There is still a powerlessness that black residents feel against affluent, mostly white 20-somethings overtaking what’s theirs. ‘There’s a certain community ownership that the long-term residents have,” says Ellison. “… They’re feeling squeezed out of the their communities.’ ”

The attitude expressed in this quote demonstrates a fundamentally flawed view of the world that all too often infects political action. Notice the use of the possessive pronouns and homage to notions of communal property. When people take up residence or frequent certain areas they invariably tend to identify that territory as “theirs”: “my” town, “our” city, “our” park, etc. Although usage is colloquial and people understand they do not hold title to the city in which they reside – they often act as though they do own it. For example, zoning laws are the political manifestation of this view of the world: “we don’t want that in OUR town.” Zoning laws are a way for nearby non-owners to behave as though they were owners. It allows them to exert control over something that is not theirs merely because they happen to live in an ill defined geographical boundary around said property.

Fortunately there are few substantive anti-gentrification measures that can be legally attempted. The only effective measure would be a grossly egregious violation of private property rights. It would entail simply prohibiting the sale of any private property in certain areas arbitrarily identified as worth “saving” – unless of course it is to someone the SJW’s approve of. In other words, it would be a direct transfer of ownership en masse from the individual to the collective. That is straight up communism, and fortunately, for now, America isn’t quite ready for that.

The irony is that the SJW’s think they need the state to “fix” gentrification when in fact it is the state that is the proximate cause of the biggest objection they have to gentrification: the pressure to leave. They typically blame “unbridled capitalism,” for these forced expulsions, but, they are taking aim at the wrong entity. This compulsion to exit is predominantly a function of state influence (i.e. the government). Between eminent domain and property taxes the state has done more harm in the way of pushing people out of their homes then any supposedly free market in real estate. It’s certainly not part of a free market for government cronies to condemn properties, give financial aid to private developers, or to extract a tribute (tax) from the serfs who happen to live on the master’s land.

As property values increase during the gentrification process, so do property taxes. This more than anything accelerates the process of gentrification as residents who would not otherwise sell have no alterative but to leave if they can’t afford the higher taxes. Without property tax there would be no coerced impetus to sell. Likewise property taxes compel landlords to raise rents – those taxes have to be passed onto someone (yes, renters pay property tax, all expenses, including taxes, are accounted for in the cost of every good sold). Although it is true that rents may rise due to higher demand for housing, unless you want slums, rent control is not the answer. Ownership is the answer. Unless one owns the property, then no one has a positive right to live in some particular place. To suggest that someone who has rented a home for many years has a right to live there as long as they wish for whatever price they deem is fair is as goofy a concept as it is to suggest that because I enjoy Fruity Pebbles, Post Cereal has a positive obligation to me to never discontinue it or raise its price – gosh darn it, that is “my” cereal after all!