Gentrification Here In America

For this post I want to talk about an issue that hits close to home for me. It deals with a concept some may not know the definition of or have heard of but don’t know what exactly it entails. I’m talking about gentrification.

The exact definition of gentrification from Brittanica Academic is:

the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanied by a wave of middle- or upper-class people moving into the area and displacing poorer residents

And what’s further:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Health Effects of Gentrification defines the real estate concept of gentrification as “the transformation of neighborhoods from low value to high value. This change has the potential to cause displacement of long-time residents and businesses … when long-time or original neighborhood residents move from a gentrified area because of higher rents, mortgages, and property taxes. Gentrification is a housing, economic, and health issue that affects a community’s history and culture and reduces social capital. It often shifts a neighborhood’s characteristics, e.g., racial-ethnic composition and household income, by adding new stores and resources in previously run-down neighborhoods.

The possible negative effects of gentrification are, but not limited to:

Displacement through rent/price increases

Loss of affordable housing

Commercial/industrial displacement

Unsustainable property prices

Displacement and housing demand pressures on surrounding poor areas

Community resentment and conflict

Homelessness

Secondary psychological costs of displacement

Increased cost and charges to local services

Loss of social diversity (from socially disparate to rich ghettos)

Under occupancy and population loss to gentrified area


Loretta Lees, Tom Slater, and Elvin Wyly, Gentrification Reader, p. 196. © 2008 Routledge.; Rowland Atkinson and Gary Bridge, eds., Gentrification in a Global Context: the New Urban Colonialism, p. 5. © 2005 Routledge.

This an important concept in terms of income-inequality rights. Big investors may come to a “ran-down” neighborhood, start some huge new development to serve bourgeois interests, and then drive people out of their homes along with other negative impacts. And it hits close to home for me because it is affecting a special place for myself right here in Louisville, KY. Let me explain:

There is an area in Louisville called Germantown/Schnitzelburg (G/S) which is composed of a few adjoining neighborhoods where an enclave of German Catholics moved into soon after arriving from Europe. And this is where my family is from and where I spent a lot of my young adult/university days. But G/S shares a border with the trendy/hipster section of town, and they are beginning to run out of real estate. So, in response, they are currently gentrifying G/S and bringing all the negative effects in with it. They are running out good, hardworking people from their family homes by increasing rent/tax prices and renovating old warehouses into apartment buildings and transforming little family bars into hipster hangouts.

The repertoire of the capitalist/bourgeois machine effects can hit the people in many ways. Gentrification is one of them.

The Need for Better Childcare

23OBAMA-1421950110100-master675I know the childcare issue is not sexy. And I know that this post will not get a million views this week. But childcare is an essential issue for those of the lower socioeconomic status (SES) trying to claw their way towards a better life.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) melded with West Germany and it’s capitalist ways. But the East Germans had some problems with the West’s free-market policies. The absence of a State-ran economy left many soured and one of the many reasons were the West’s views of the family, and childcare more specifically. The GDR policy was that after childbirth a mother would have a full-year of paid-leave from their job followed by free childcare that was provided by the state. This led to a social movement comprising of the mother’s of the GDR who ran a successful campaign to meet the West German authorities halfway.

Now the reason I tell this story is twofold. First, I love to pick apart capitalist policies by comparing them to what were successful Communist programs. But the substantive reason is that Pres. Obama has finally taken up the cause for affordable childcare this week revealing it in his SOTU speech.

At the University of Kansas Jan. 22nd, Pres. Obama proposed his new revamping of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 along with the Child Care and Development Fund. Here are some of the details from the New York Times article covering the event:

– Obama called for an $80 billion expansion of a federal program that provides child care subsidies to low- and middle-income families with children ages 3 and under, nearly doubling the aid and offering it to more than one million additional children over the next decade.

He promoted his plan to nearly triple, to $3,000 per child, the maximum child care tax credit. And the president said he would push to put more federal money into early childhood programs, expanding the availability of free preschool and extending Head Start — focused on low-income families — to last an entire day, and for the full school year.

White House officials said while the average subsidy for low- and moderate-income families under the federal Child Care and Development Fund was $5,500 in 2013, Mr. Obama’s expansion of the program would aim to cover the entire cost of high-quality care, an average of $10,000. And the number of children covered would nearly double, to 2.6 million in 2025.

-The increased subsidies and tax credits would be financed by Mr. Obama’s plan to increase taxes on investments and inherited wealth, as well as a fee on large financial institutions. The preschool initiative would be paid for by increasing tobacco taxes.

As essential as this legislation is for low-income families, it will more than likely be watered-down by the GOP lawmakers who refuse to fund anything, ever, coming out of the federal budget. And this is assuming it will ever reach the Capitol floor with both the House and Senate being ran by Republicans for at least the next two years.

But if Obama’s proposals do find some tread, maybe we can find our way a little closer to the GDR.

Here is a great clip of Pres. Obama at the University of Kansas on Wednesday speaking about the childcare issue. These speeches always get me fired up.

Obama On Childcare in Kansas

 

 

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MIddle-Class Squeezed Out of Homes

15rent-master675A good NYT article reports that middle-class, and not to mention lower-class, renters are being squeezed out of the market because of rising rent costs. Like the heading to the graph in the piece reads: “The United States is experiencing a rent affordability crisis.”

And what is really interesting about this phenomenon that is even affecting the rich, the article states: “For many middle- and lower-income people, high rents choke spending on other goods and services, impeding the economic recovery.”

This would even include a dent in Wall St. earnings.

Read Here.

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