Fear of amenities

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

Slate comes out today with a provocative article about gentrification that hits on a troubling reality that is properly staged in this line: “... disagreement about the desirability of things getting better is a symptom of a larger policy failure.”
The Perverse Politics of Gentrification” by Matthew Yglesias brings out issues that aren’t usually in the discussion about property values and displacement... but it comes down to the same thing. In some areas, he writes, "we've essentially adopted bad public services as a de facto affordable housing policy."
Big ouch, and big truth.
People who worry about displacement — whether their fears are eventually realized or not — worry about the coming of trees and all sorts of amenities that attract people of greater means. These are amenities that all people deserve to live with.
To realize that trees and beauty can be drivers of income segregation is perhaps the most troubling point I have ever heard about gentrification. Cities are on the rebound thanks in large part to amenities that are drawing people back.
The solution to this untenable situation has to include housing policy that assures affordability -- a la rent control -- along with the chance for people to improve their investment if they are owners or their lot if they are renters.
Mr. Yglesias writes: “After long decades of urban decline, cities that are once again growing need to think about creating housing abundance not just niche programs for the poorest of the poor. A better city that more people want to live in needs to sound like a good proposition—like it means more jobs and a broader tax base than can support more services — rather than an engine of displacement.”

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