Monday, January 4, 2010

Response to 'Broad Street Revivalists' - Style Weekly

Article in Style Weekly, 1/6/2010 Read the entire article here: [ Broad Street Revivalists - Scott Bass ]

First of all, I'm happy to see the issue of gentrification being discussed in Style Weekly. It's an important topic that requires a lot more serious attention from both entrepreneurs, who need to be more involved and aware of their role in the process of gentrification, and public officials who need to ratify the city ordinance and stop looking to developers and city planners for free market solutions to economic problems. The working class people are not in their best interests. They will be far detached from the situation when their projects begin to fail. Basically, we all need to be more critical in general, and stop patting each other on the back too soon.

Rachel Flynn states:
"If you really want to see a successful area, it's going to be more expensive," she says. "The basics of economics is supply and demand. You have to mindful of that, too."

This is false. 'Supply & Demand' is an economic model catering to the wants and greed of capitalists, not the needs of lower income and working class people. We need to look at new ways to encourage urban renewal while including the interests of those with lower income instead of displacing them.

With the re-development of Gilpin Court and Faye Towers, the plan is to de-concentrate poverty by having a mixed income neighborhood, with some properties being controlled by the RRHA. This is a good thing, a step in the right direction, but it's not doing anything to solve the issue of poverty in Richmond. It only spreads poverty around. In order to see a real positive change we need to offer other socially conscious incentives and opportunities for lower income people living in gentrified areas. Such as the implementation of a living wage so that those living in poverty will have a fighting chance to take care of themselves.

Instead of offering "...incentives to developers for including low- to moderate-income housing", an alternative solution would be to provide lower income residents in neighborhoods targeted for re-development with the chance to qualify for rent protection.

And for those who don't rent, but own houses and have a limited income, such as retired folks, who may find themselves displaced by gentrification when property value and taxes rise, they could qualify for a cap or ceiling on their property tax.

This should still allow for redevelopment to happen, and keep the area diverse, and give lower income residents the opportunity to participate in the same cultural happenings, like the art walk, and have access to public transportation and jobs, and the same school system as the incoming middle and upper class.

The city will have to either lower the property taxes, or provide those who own property where rent protection is enforced with a break on property taxes to make the situation fair for all involved.

An area shouldn't have to be more expensive in order to be successful, if that's true then this is proof that the capitalist system does not work economically for working class people.

Certain sacrifices must be made on behalf of the middle class, or perhaps even better, corporations. Virginia ranks number two in offering corporate welfare, taxing corporations only 6%, while workers are taxed upwards 1/3 of their wages. There is even legislation on the table that would do away with corporate income tax completely.

Raise the tax on corporations, and we can help balance the budget and offer the social programs the government should be able to provide for everyone.

Perhaps it's time we revisit the whole idea of personal property vs. the social welfare of the people. Taxing citizens and property should not be leading to displacement of anyone. Economic segregation should be illegal and avoided at all cost, and that may mean sacrificing the profits of middle and upper class in order to insure the people are taken care of.