Discourse of the Day, In Theory

In Theory- Urban Renewal

Urban Renewal. It has a nice ring to it. Investing in run-down metropolitan areas in order to spur growth and prosperity while cutting down on crime and blight. As far as sales jobs go you could find yourself pitching something a lot more unpopular than “less crime, more money” to those who dwell in decaying urban neighborhoods. But this is In Theory and like any good students of economics, politics, and sociology; you, my insightful readers, know that nothing is ever that simple.
The idea behind Urban Renewal has evolved over the years. In the post-war period, it was straight up demolition and rebuild. With federal, state, and local governments all getting on the eminent domain train and destroying whole neighborhoods, then replacing them with freeways and economic centers such as athletic stadiums, shopping malls, office buildings, or high-rise condos. Nowadays Urban Renewal tends to happen in the form of public-private economic development projects and gentrification.
How its supposed to work: The idea is that by creating a fresh clean space with some sort of economic attraction you can spur economic activity in the neighborhood. Creating opportunities for new businesses while eliminating the abandoned shops and lots that attract the criminal element. Replace drug users and the homeless with boutique shoppers and brunching millennials.The increased commerce results in making a neighborhood more desirable to live in which raises property values and as a result the city’s tax base. That money can then be reinvested in other blighted areas and public goods.
How it actually works: All the people who lived in the neighborhood you were trying to revitalize are priced out as rents and property taxes skyrocket and are replaced by white people with more money who really love the neighborhood’s culture. That’s if you’re lucky. If your less lucky those residents have their homes bought up by rich white folk who rent the homes out on short-term rental sites who don’t give a fuck about your neighborhood’s history they just want to rage ‘till the sun comes up. Those drug users and homeless people I talked about earlier aren’t helped in any meaningful way, they’re just shuffled off to another, even shadier part of town where they can die of exposure somewhere out of sight. Violent crime stays the same but now its affecting people who matter so new ‘stop and frisk’ ‘tough on crime’ initiatives are started resulting in unarmed black men being shot for being at the wrong place at the wrong time despite the fact they’re the ones who grew up in that neighborhood. But the tax base does go up and Thrillist ranked it number eight on its list of “Top Ten Neighborhoods you want to live in when you’re 25”
How do we fix it: Just like no two cities are alike, no two solutions to this problem will look exactly the same. What’s good for New York may not be good for New Orleans and vise versa. But some of the general solutions that can address the problems are rent control, property tax exemptions for long-term single-home owners, and an increased emphasis on affordable housing. These kinds of measures can alleviate the economic pressures Urban Renewal places on residents of a neighborhood. Also forming business partnerships with longtime small business owners and creating funding programs for local entrepreneurs can keep outside developers from exploiting the process and placing profits over people.

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