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#1 Jasi

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 10:13 AM

I thought of something that could energize Contro potentially! Yay!

 

So before I moved to NYC, I had never heard of the term "gentrification". Maybe you have all heard it and I'm just oblivious. But basically, it's the idea that a bunch of middle-class (tacitly white) people move into a neighborhood that was previously occupied by lower-class people (tacitly, people of color). Following this, new businesses begin to crop up that cater more to the middle-class crowd and not to the lower-class crowd, and eventually lower-class business go out of business; lower-class housing is replaced by nicer middle-class housing; suddenly, the people who have lived in that neighborhood for 30 years can't afford to live there anymore and are forced to move.

 

Here's an article about gentrification in Crown Heights, a neighborhood of Brooklyn that is pretty close to mine and has many similar issues.

 

So it's a deeply complex issue. From my white, middle-class (NB: "middle class" here refers to more than my actual income level [which is pretty poor in NYC terms]: rather to an attitude and set of privileges and background) perspective, I think, "Well what else am I supposed to do? I can't afford to live in Manhattan or Park Slope or nice neighborhoods; I can only afford to live in this primarily-West-Indian neighborhood." And while just me moving in there doesn't harm anything, of course, I'm not the only one. The NY Times recently said that my neighborhood is officially "on the map" for up-and-coming neighborhoods. People will say "Well isn't gentrification a good thing? We're replacing slummy neighborhoods with nice, safe neighborhoods with gourmet bakeries and artisan coffee shops; that sounds like a win-win to me."

 

But from a long-time resident's perspective, they and all their people from their own culture (in my case, West Indian) have made this neighborhood their home for a generation now. There are traditions and such that they want to have respected. They want to have roti shops and nail salons and hair salons, not cupcakeries and mixology bars. Their rent used to be $800/mo and now the landlord's threatening to raise it to $1500/mo. They bought their brownstone for $40,000 in 1980 but they refinance their home and suddenly can't afford to pay the property tax anymore because the neighborhood has gotten so much more expensive, so they sell their house instead of passing it on to their heirs and continue a cycle of poverty. 

 

Also, while gentrification doesn't necessarily have to do with race, it is about class and culture, which often ends up being tied up with race. But gentrification can be an issue amongst people of the same race too: e.g., Greenpoint is traditionally Polish but now "hipsters" are moving there, to the embitterment of many old Poles. But yeah, it's basically white people that are blamed for gentrification.

 

Like many such issues, the struggle is in finding the balance. We don't want to go back to segregation of course, but at the same time, don't we want to allow these pockets of different cultures to flourish? Isn't that part of what makes cities like NYC unique, that we have Chinese neighborhoods and West Indian neighborhoods and Puerto Rican neighborhoods and...? 

 

Now I don't know what the solution is by any means, but here's maybe the most controversial part of this post—I think the solution necessarily lies outside of the bounds of capitalism. Capitalism currently rules the housing market as is and that's why we're in this situation. It seems like we need some kind of massive legislation in NYC that gets the housing market under control and provides more affordable housing for all. As it is, there is TONS of housing for wealthy people and the rest of us are scrambling to find that holy grail apartment with halfway reasonable rent. We need more reasonable rent. But who's gonna build a building full of low-income housing when they could build luxury condos? And they'd all get rented?


Edited by Jasi, 11 April 2014 - 10:14 AM.


#2 Selena

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 07:56 PM

I'm still on my phone, so this'll be shorter than normal.

Huge problem. We hear about it in Seattle all the time. Pretty much the norm for most big cities, unfortunately. And it can happen in small towns, too. My hometown used to be occupied by working class farmers, then city folk moved in to retire. Changed all the laws, put in those home ownership union things where you are only allowed to present your home in certain ways, jacked up home prices because they remodeled whatever they touches. Most old families moved away.

I always thought there was a lost opportunity in cities for low income apartments. Most apartments are unnecessarily huge. Even studios where one person is living there. With designs based on efficient use of tight spaces, you can make functional small mini studios. They wouldn't be open, no, but it would at least keep people off the streets. And rent shouldn't be high, because you could have a lot of tenets in one building. I know I don't need much space. I live a pretty Spartan life, so even small studios here are too big for me. I would happily live in a small half studio if it meant affordable rent.

You could call it The Hive!

But yes. It's a huge problem, and the lords of real estate never seem interested in making safe and efficient lower income housing. It shouldn't have to be that your only option is an outright slum. We're all so obsessed with BIG and LUXURY that we think of efficiency and humble quarters as "beneath" what is American.

I think Japan has some efficient small quarter places available, chiefly due to population density. We need the same.

#3 Steel Samurai

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 08:11 PM

The negative effects of "gentrification" are only a symptom of the actual problems:

 

A) Minimum wage is not indexed to cost of living in each area, making it incredibly difficult for many people to survive.

 

B) Lack of government investment in decent public housing (and, by proxy investment in other public services designed to increase class mobility/safety nets)

 

C) Lack of space efficiency as Lena mentioned above.

 

 

An attempt to regulate society to regulate society to preserve cultural pockets is doomed to either failure or racism in the form of ghettoizing. If cultures are to survive it must be under their own steam, so to speak.

 

LA is a great case study for this. The city is composed almost entirely of ethnic enclaves - the Koreans all stay in the same general area, as do the Chinese, Armenians, African Americans, etc. However, the actual geographic location of their enclave has changed over the decades - Koreatown is about half white half korean now, with many of the Koreans having moved to the outer suburbs.

 

All that to say cultural changes are fluid and difficult to predict, and, within a single community, tend towards homogenizing, which is, in my opinion, not a completely undesirable outcome, ideally changing both dominant and minority culture to be a little bit more like each other and reduce intercultural prejudice.

 

Don't get me wrong - I find the cultural enclaves of major cities fascinating and ashamedly enjoyable (white privilege admitted) and a completely homogenous culture is boring and blind. A constant influx of new voices and cultural influences is, in my opinion, why the United States has stayed dominant for so long.

 

tl;dr On an individual level gentrification sucks, on a societal level it's unavoidable to a certain extent, and cultural transitions should ideally be allowed to happen naturally.



#4 Egann

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 08:04 PM

I kinda have to echo Steel. Even if times were good something similar would go on, albeit at a slower pace. I imagine most of the problem is that, face it, this is the lesser depression. Suburbanites are moving to lower cost neighborhoods to cut back on their cost of living, but they are keeping their disposable income more or less constant. That's the part of your budget you get most accustomed to.

 

Someone from the local neighborhood likely can't match the disposable income bit, hence the business turnover.

 

 

That said, Steel, you're dead wrong about the minimum wage. If I were working 40 hours a week or more I could easily afford rent, utilities, groceries, and even have some leftovers for saving. True, I live in a middle-sized town, but if I had a roommate I could do that in Atlanta, too. And my job is just barely more than minimum wage.

 

My problem is I get 15 hours in a GOOD week, and on bad stretches I will go a month never getting more than 10. The word for this is underemployment, and it sucks, cuz it's actually kinda tough to find even this kind of stuff.

 

 

And oh, don't even get me started on affordable housing. A friend and I were seriously doing the math on getting a fifth wheel RV because we can't afford anything.



#5 Toan

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 10:52 PM

The negative effects of "gentrification" are only a symptom of the actual problems:
 
A) Minimum wage is not indexed to cost of living in each area, making it incredibly difficult for many people to survive.

That said, Steel, you're dead wrong about the minimum wage. If I were working 40 hours a week or more I could easily afford rent, utilities, groceries, and even have some leftovers for saving. True, I live in a middle-sized town, but if I had a roommate I could do that in Atlanta, too. And my job is just barely more than minimum wage.


Uh, wow, no. Steel literally couldn't be more right. I don't know how you could possibly argue this, at all - no possible argument you could conjure can argue against the simple mathematics that $7.25/hr in New York City or Los Angeles cannot possibly compete with how far $7.25/hr will go in a tiny redneck Georgia town.

If we assume you're working $7.25/hr for a 40 hr work week in NYC (since this is how the topic started, may as well go with it), you'll gross roughly $1160 over two 2 week pay periods in a month, so we'll go with that. Federal, state, and city income tax withholdings in that tax bracket in New York City work out to about 21% being withheld, right off the top, so that's $243.60 less already. (Conversely, if you want to argue that you'll work without taxes being withheld, aside from the fact that you'll never find a minimum wage employer who will hire you as a 1099 contractor, you'll just owe approximately $3000 in taxes next April. I'm sure that's manageable on a minimum wage.) I'll be generous for the sake of numbers and give you that $3.60 back (woohoo)- your monthly budget in NYC is now $920.

Ha.

Ha ha.

For the sake of the argument, I went to Trulia and punched in Brooklyn, NYC (again, since this is how the topic started), and sorted by price. The first one is $250/month - alright! Doing well! Wait, that's for a garage. Okay, shit. Next one is $842/month. Now we're left with $78 for utilities (water, gas, elecrticity), food, and public transit. Given that a monthly subway pass for the MTA is $112, I don't think this will work out.

I'm sure I don't need to take this ridiculous example any further, but I will - let's find a roommate! On Trulia, cheapest listing I found for a 2 bedroom place was $1200/month. Funny, because the search fields indicate this place is a 2 bedroom, but the paragraph explicitly says it's a 1.5 bedroom? I don't even know wtf that is - hope you like getting cozy with your roomie. So now rent is only $600/month - we now have $320 left for half of utilities, food, and public transit. Taking out that MTA pass, we have $208. Let's assume that water and garbage is included in rent (a logical leap, but I'm being generous today), but we still have gas and electricity. Let's say together, for the whole apartment, this is only $115 - sounds like a steal to me. Knock that in half to split with our roommate, and now we're sitting at $150.

I don't think I could make $150 work for an entire month for food in NYC. That's $5 a day, in a 30 day month. February is a damn TREAT.

...And I forgot I need some form of communication with my workplace and the outside world, so I would need a cellphone and/or internet access. Welp.


... So I'll say it again - Steel is 100% totally, mathematically correct and there's not a damn thing you can say to convince any sane, logical individual otherwise.

EDIT: Oh, and Jasi, you're the NYC expert here; let me know if any of this looks laughably wrong.



#6 Selena

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 11:48 PM

I live in Washington, which has, I believe, one of the highest minimum wages in the entire country. Which is a little over $9/hour. And I live in a little podunk redneck town. Sounds like a good combination, but I would find it dangerously difficult to find affordable housing.

You can sometimes find housing here for $500 or $600/month, but you're guaranteed to live in the rough and violent part of town. Apartments in the safer areas rarely go for less than $750/month. And they typically want you to make double or even triple your rent in order to secure a lease. As a "financial security" measure. Crunching numbers, I'd end up with maybe $100 left over after the absolute bare necessities. Depending on how generous the landlords are with their coverage of utilities.

Of course, yes, no lower end employer is going to give you full time work. No matter how difficult or back breaking it is. They could. They could afford to pay employees more, too, but they don't. Because they don't have to. Despite arguments to the contrary, I highly doubt they'd act any different if the minimum wage was abolished. After all, paying you less helps their bottom line and there are an abundance of workers out there who will take anything that's offered to them. Not everyone can be an engineer, unfortunately. But even the peasants should be able to afford a place to live. They aren't that utterly worthless.

Then we get back to efficient housing for low income folk. That $750 apartment? Twice the size I need. Fish and Chik can testify that even if you give me one bedroom, I will have next to nothing in it! I would be ecstatic if there was a small and efficient place available that's smaller than the typical studio. $300 to $400 for a place to sleep and make food? I'd be on it in a heartbeat! Lots of tenants would make up for lost "luxury" income for landlords, since you can cram a lot of us in one building with rooms that small. And there's no reason it couldn't be safe and clean instead of being a creepy slum like they usually are.

#7 Egann

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 10:17 AM

... So I'll say it again - Steel is 100% totally, mathematically correct and there's not a damn thing you can say to convince any sane, logical individual otherwise.


 

EDIT: Oh, and Jasi, you're the NYC expert here; let me know if any of this looks laughably wrong.

 

 

Yes and no. NYC, along with most cities, actually has usable public transportation. I don't live there--Jasi is the one to ask--but my gut is that a lot of workers commute a fair distance.

 

Also, something funky is going on with NYC's minimum wage job market. Enough I'm not comfortable discussing it because the market is clearly abnormal. Let me explain:

 

Despite Google saying the minimum wage in NYC is $7.25, the New York (State) Department of Labor says it's $8.00. And that it will go up $0.75 every year. That means NYC has a lower wage and a higher cost of living than the surrounding areas. That's not possible in a healthy market: people typically pay a premium to live in the city, but we're talking losing over a grand of take-home pay BEFORE adjusting to living expenses. Something doesn't compute.

 

Either the minimum wage job market is so short of jobs workers will take the poorly paying city jobs, or most minimum wage workers aren't paying the lionshare of their own living expenses, possibly both. I cannot tell you which with what I know.

 

 

Still, I stand by what I said about hours being the major difficulty. A $0.75 raise from $7.25 is a ten percent raise before tax. A 40 to 44 hours increase in your workload at $7.25, however--a ten percent increase in hours--is effectively a fifteen percent increase in pre-tax pay because of overtime. That's basically how it works: so long as both wages and hours are within reason, an increase in hours will at worst equal to the equivalent raise in wage. It will exceed the raise whenever it hits overtime. If meeting a dollar value you regard as livable is your primary goal, the hours will usually make more sense.

 

Now, yes this is a bit unfair to people who live in places with higher costs of living, so it seems reasonable to adjust wage locally to compensate, right?

 

Wrong. If we could smoothly transition from one area with one minimum wage to another, that would be a reasonable supposition. Unfortunately our local political system means that there are discrete lines and this will encourage commuting from outside the area. Compounding the issue, most of the places this would hold true for are cities with reasonable public transportation networks at worst, so commuters would be justified in traveling a fair distance off any wage increase of note. The goal of protecting the local area with a high cost of living backfires because that's just not how our cities work.

 

Living in a city just costs a premium, and there's not a lot I can see you doing about it.



#8 Steel Samurai

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 02:05 AM

As usual, Egann, you try to mask the fact that you're wrong with a few rhetorical flourishes and red herrings in the form of facts that don't matter - whether you get more money from extra hours or a raise is irrelevant (aside from the fact that a person -should- be able to take care of themselves reasonably and without major hardship working full time, whatever their wage).

 

Perhaps if I tell you what my finances are like, using a real-world example instead of a realistic but theoretical one like fish's, you'll understand.

 

Minimum wage in California is $8/hour. I make $8.80 because I'm good at my job and I've been there for a few years now.

 

Let's assume I was working full time. Pre-tax pay is 1,408/month. According to the HR Block tax calculator, federal tax will take out $57/month, leaving me with $1,351.

 

Los Angeles has shitty public transportation. Most places will not hire you if you don't have a car. I am fortunate enough to have gotten a loan from my uncle with very generous terms - $75/month. Down to $1,276.

 

I have my own car insurance with a $500 comprehensive deductible and a $1000 collision deductible, which is currently at $95/month. $1181.

 

Phone bill is $80/month. $1,101

 

So far, not bad.

 

I live in a reasonably sized 1BR, sharing a room with one dude. The following costs only represent my part.

 

Utilities including internet, gas, electricity, and water usually come out to $70/month. $1031.

 

Rent is $925 for the whole apartment - 462 each. Down to $569.

 

$100/month for groceries: $469

 

Health insurance will cost me about $30/month under the ACA. $439

 

If I continue to work locally, gas doesn't factor in too much since I have a fairly fuel efficient car. Let's say I fill up twice a month at $50/tank. $100 total, leaving $339 for saving and incidentals.

 

That's not terrible, for my current lifestyle. It gives me, say, $170/month for luxuries like eating out, alcohol, movies, etc, and $170 to put in savings. What it doesn't do is give me any wiggle room if something should change.

 

Let's say I get into a car accident in a couple months. I have insurance, so I can get the car fixed. But, oops, I have a $500 deductible and only about $340 saved up. I'm fucked.

 

Let's say my roommate gets married and moves out. Rent doesn't get much cheaper than $900/month in the LA area for a single bedroom. I might be able to find a studio for $700. Let's say I'm lucky and do. That's still an extra $238/month, leaving $100/month for savings. If anything happens, I'm fucked, especially when:

 

I have to start paying back my student loans. $300/month. I can't pay this. I'm fucked.

 

I accidentally get a girl pregnant and have to pay child support/I'm a woman and accidentally get pregnant. I am completely and utterly fucked.

 

Fortunately I have parents that have enough money to help me out. They haven't always had enough to do so, and as a result of that they're dangerously close to the edge as it is. What if my parents didn't have enough to do so? What if they were dead or had cut off ties with me for some reason?

 

Minimum wage MUST be tied to the cost of living. If you work an honest day, it is unethical and immoral for someone to pay you less than it takes for you to survive and and not be a complete slave to your finances, regardless of your "economic value" to a company, how much money your labor provides, or your sex, race, or age.

 

If the government would have the balls to tie the minimum wage to a standardized cost of living matrix, or something like the GDP, I strongly believe that a lot of the problems which face the country now would disappear - fast food worker strikes, the gentrification this topic is supposed to be about, and perhaps even some of the lower class drug trade - when given the option, people like to be legal.



#9 J14N56-24

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 09:39 PM

They want to have roti shops and nail salons and hair salons, not cupcakeries and mixology bars. 

 

 

I never thought someone would post about roti before me. 

 

Hats off to you Jasi... I am shamed  ^.^



#10 J14N56-24

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 09:44 PM

Also, while gentrification doesn't necessarily have to do with race, it is about class and culture, which often ends up being tied up with race. But gentrification can be an issue amongst people of the same race too: e.g., Greenpoint is traditionally Polish but now "hipsters" are moving there, to the embitterment of many old Poles. But yeah, it's basically white people that are blamed for gentrification.

 

 

Gentrification is a by product of urban expansion. With a growing need for spatial expansion within the Central Business District of an urban area, Zone 3 Area (lower-class to lower middle-class housing) is usually the first to be encroached, as it becomes prime property in the immediate future.
 
This is usually planned  and controlled to a great degree. In some part by the state. In most part by the larger corporate stakeholders aiming to capitalize on this. So blame them.
 
 
With the foresight of potential zones of assimilation and discard, one can also capitalize by investing in wholesale real estate when its relatively cheap and retailing to the relevant parties when the time is right.
 
 
 
Milkin' the cash-cow, baby  :kiss:


#11 SOAP

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:00 AM

That's what happening Savannah in the Historical District, which was one of the many reasons I hightailed it back to Texas. Granted my situation wasn't the norm. I was only paying such a cheap rent because apparently my landlady was taking everyone's rent money and not paying the mortgage. A few months later we all get letters from some bank that we were all being paid to move out so the new owners can remodel the place. While my situation was atypical, I did notice there was a certain pressure throughout my neighborhood to get a lot of the older, poorer occupants out of their houses so their houses could "conform" to what a lot of the new home owners did to their houses. Generally, these older occupants were black and I had the uneasy feeling that they weren't welcomed, even by some of the richer black people that had moved in. The whole thing didn't sit well with me and even though I could have easily found another apartment just as cheap that was even closer to the job I had at the time, I just couldn't get rid of that bad taste the whole situation left in my mouth that there was some sort of racial/class warefare going on underneath what people were trying to pass as "beautifying Savannah."

 

From what I hear the same thing is going on in Austin, though instead of poor black families, it's the poor artists and hipsters being pushed out once cheap neighborhoods to make room for all the hotels they're building downtown to accommodate all the rich people who come to Austin just to come to the events here and then leave.






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