Speak out about what fair and ethical development means to you!

United Workers and Eastside groups organizing, marching and rallying this coming Saturday, March 29, 10:30 AM:

Raising awareness to the history of abandonment and inviting you to contribute to the solution!!

600 N. Patterson, Tench Tilghman

More information

Audience feedback on ‘Planning to Stay’ in Baltimore

Hello folks,

IMG-20140320-01382At the presentation with Mindy Fullilove and myself last week Thursday March 13,(held at Red Emma’s and co-sponsored by Red Emma’s and Baltimore Racial Justice Action) the focus on ‘planning to stay’ in our cities and the elements of urban restoration were discussed (featured in her latest book Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities). Participants were invited to stand up and take the pledge of ‘planning to stay’ by turning to their neighbor and speaking this out loud. Folks were then asked to write down on a piece of paper the things they wanted to change and add to Baltimore to make it a place they would want to stay. There were 75 responses from approximately 150 people in the audience. The categories of what should be added included better schools, housing for all incomes, employment that sustains families, better transportation, increased safety, diversity, solidarity, recreation centers, arts, political engagement and competence, and increased co-mingling of our sorted out city in all its areas of living.

The categories of what should be changed were similar with an additional 3 responses that the vitality and culture of the city should remain the same. Individual responses are here: What would you change/add in Baltimore.

A recording of the presentation and discussion is here: Presentation

This was such a thoughtful, comprehensive, and spontaneous contribution of what parts of Baltimore want to see happen for them to enjoy and celebrate their city, making it a more equitable and sustainable city for all to enjoy. We are contemplating sending a letter to the editor of one of the periodicals with a summary of your responses. Our voice as part of envisioning and implementing a democratic process-a revolutionary step- of claiming, changing, and maintaining the city is vital for us who all plan to stay and participate in making Baltimore a city we are all proud to call home, today and tomorrow for the old and the new!

Thank you for participating!!

In neo-liberal societies, revolution must be the norm

The nature of neo-liberalism, the practice of capitalism, assures inequity in all forms: housing, income, education, recreation, health, transportation…and on and on. Why? Because those with more capital (assets, access to assets and resources to assure more assets, education, housing, income, land, decision-making) have the power to grow power unequally through exploitation of those without. This growth of power is enabled by government’s partnership with private capital fueled by its negligence of the public it is fabricated to serve-inequity.

Therefore the only way to move toward balancing this absurd and evidenced power imbalance is through programs and policies which seek to undo this norm of society. We are then always in a state of revolution: whether we are aware or not we are counter-culture if we agree that the current inequity between the rich and the poor is unjust. We are revolutionaries if we agree that government policies and programs grow power imbalance through public:private partnerships that enable private growth on the backs of the people via tax subsidies and tax evasion. When the growing debt of government is the reason used to cut programs to the public but subsidies to the rich are held up as ushering in economic growth for all, revolution must become synonymous with the breath-it is necessary for all to survive and thrive!

We have allowed ourselves to accept as normal this fuel and outcome of capitalism: neoliberalism and inequity. Are we okay with this or are we ready for shameless revolution in every small and large act? Below are several examples of methods and practices being used to challenge the status quo of big business growth, government-sanctioned subsidies to the powerful, and government neglect.

Enjoy and act!

Freddie Mac challenged in foreclosure in Boston
Freddie in Boston

Cutting through red tape to allow small business start-ups, for everyone?
Small business

Poverty as a disease and how big business causes illness through marketing
Poverty and illness

Poverty is a dis-ease

Coca cola preys on illness

Black women, cancer, and inequity

Rich people don’t create jobs, consumers do
Tax the rich

A budget ahead of its time or finally?
A normal budget

Stipends/subsidies that grow power: from the bottom and from the top
Stipend changes poverty’s path

Tracking subsidies to the rich

Power of corruption in Harlem

Tifs for the rich in Chicago

Organizing for equity
Baltimore airport workers protest

Professors strike

The imagination of the right

Tenants take on landlords through advocacy and court
Baltimore and landlord exploitation

Gentrification, inequality, and the paths toward housing equity

  

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Luxury apartments replace public housing in East Baltimore

This writing associates gentrification and inequality with the understanding that association is not causation. Further studies are analyzing the relationship between gentrification and inequality and vice versa. In the mean time, glance at the table compiled from two reports: Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank on cities undergoing gentrification through 2009 and Brookings Institute on inequality in cites in 2012. Seven out of the top 10 cities experiencing gentrification and inequality are the same: Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles. While the years are not consistent across the reports for a rigorous comparison it suggests a pattern of association. In the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank report on gentrification in cities Baltimore is ranked the highest in cities with low price land tracts (95% of land tracts are low price land tracts). However for the period studied -between 2005 and 2009- only 5% gentrification occurred in these tracts. (1) This is consistent with BNIA (Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance) data showing an increase between 2005 and 2007 but leveling off into 2009 (See June 2013 post on this site for graph of rebabbed houses in Baltimore as a proxy for increased house value).

Top 10 cities gentrified 

2005-2009*

Top 10 cities with largest income inequality 2012#
Boston Atlanta
Seattle San Francisco
New York City Miami
San Francisco Boston
Washington, DC Washington, DC
Atlanta New York City
Chicago Oakland
Portland Chicago
Tampa Los Angeles
Los Angeles Baltimore
*http://www.clevelandfed.org/
research/trends/2013/1113/01regeco.cfm
#Brookings Inst. Rpt

In the Brookings Institute report Baltimore ranked 10th out of 50 big cities in the US for the greatest gap between the rich and the poor in 2012. (2)  This current income inequality may reflect more recent gentrification processes which have occurred subsequent to 2009.

There are two big initiatives of revitalization ongoing in Baltimore, one a legacy of a previous mayor (now governor) and the other of the current mayor: 1)The ‘college town gentrification project”:  the big players are U of Maryland, U of Baltimore, Maryland Institute College of the Arts on the west side and Johns Hopkins on the east side (3) and 2) ‘10,000 families in 10 years’ targeting recent immigrants, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered communities, Washingtonians who want lower-priced water views. One tool for these projects is the ‘Vacants to Value’ program initiated by the current administration which aims to sell vacant  property at low cost to new residents  as an invitation into the city. Several  reports from existing residents reveal they are not given equal opportunity to purchase vacant property through this program. The socially engineering project of constructing a new Baltimore is determined to rebuild it with people of a different race and class and de-concentrate the existing fabric of this inner city. In addition the recent report from Baltimore Brew regarding the city’s plan to sell public housing buildings to private developers/managers with no transparency to the public as to the long term plans for these buildings will add to further displacement and likely gentrification. (4) The Housing Department has the right to negotiate on behalf of current and future residents to assure that these units remain affordable yet the public remains uninformed as to these details. Dispersing housing vouchers to current tenants may allow low-income residents to move to areas with better socioeconomic status but it does not guarantee increased income for them to afford the goods and services of these different neighborhoods. In fact the current data shows no consistent patterns of increased employment for low-income residents forced to move when public housing is planned for demolition. (5) The results of these rebuilding and gentrification processes will be important to track to determine correlation between the changing higher income earners in the city, the predicted 28% increase in housing prices in Baltimore, and the income and housing value of displaced and existing lower income residents-the inequality gap. (6)

7-11 in the Johns Hopkins Rangos Building does not accept food stamps

New 7-11 in the Johns Hopkins Rangos Building in East Baltimore gentrification does not accept food stamps, dictating who is invited into the community

Gentrification results in a different class and often race of people inhabiting a previously disinvested area. (7) This results in increased taxes, better public infrastructure/services, greater investment in education, recreation (bike lanes, human/dog parks) etc with the consistent effect of displacing existing residents who cannot afford the increased taxes, services, and merchandise in the area.Displacement of local businesses occurs secondary to new residents desiring different products, usually more costly. Does this lead to greater inequality/gap between the rich and the poor? It can if people are unable to afford something they previously afforded (home, taxes, products, services) whether in their current neighborhood or neighborhood of displacement. In the current neighborhood the new higher income residents create a market that drives housing prices up, as well as services and products. For a low-income earner moving into a higher income neighborhood because of displacement they still pay a higher percentage of their income for the housing if more affordable housing is not constructed in the area. If existing residents have increased costs to live but no increased income to support these costs, there is less left over after housing expenses.

These initiatives of the past and current mayors seek to increase higher income earners while little has been done to train the existing workforce to be competent to benefit from the projected new jobs and assure increased income that can afford the increased cost for housing, products, services and taxes. Neither has there been affordable housing planned to accommodate the displaced residents unable to afford the rising cost of housing and property taxes. Many of the neighborhoods targeted for revitalization include communities which have been disinvested and under-resourced in education, health care, nutrition, recreation, libraries and all the other assets that support a thriving and healthy community. The outcomes of such disinvestment over time result in the health disparities-including drug and alcohol addiction, development delays, lead poisoning, high incarceration rates, depression, anxiety- we witness in Baltimore and similar urban cities of low income and color. (8) This default of benefit to the higher income residents continues the status quo of growing health and wealth inequality supported by powerful public-private partnerships.

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East Baltimore expansion of 88 acres anchored by Johns Hopkins University

The struggle for equity in housing rights for communities of low income and color  targeted for the negative impacts of gentrification and greater inequality continues. In Baltimore residents in Middle East organized and challenged Johns Hopkins University, the city government, Annie E. Casey Foundation and other powerful stakeholders for fair market value for their homes, equitable relocation costs, and healthy demolition processes after being targeted for displacement by eminent domain. (9) Residents in Washington DC organized and established cooperative housing when their rental building was threatened for developer buy-out (10) In Brooklyn tenants organized and formed a union to assure they can stay in their rental housing after private landlords threaten them to move and increase rent in a quickly gentrifying area. (11)  In California Oakland is addressing workforce development in the creative arts and San Francisco is assuring residents are not further pushed out by gentrification (12). To address the issue of increasing property taxes which force out existing residents Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburg, and New York have introduced or passed legislation either capping or extending payment for property taxes. (13) Legislation to mandate a set target of affordable housing being built in all new housing developments and a set target of local hires, workforce training for eligibility for employment, and social programs to assure eligibility can be tools to assure more equitable housing and employment which will sustain incomes and prevent displacement. (14) There is  more discussion about how to prevent gentrification once revitalization begins in adjacent neighborhoods and online media has served as a platform for raising greater awareness of this issue. (15) Lastly, anti-displacement strategies have and can include city, regional, and federal-sponsored research and planning to assess potential for current affordable housing stock and likelihood of displacement as a result of revitalization and funding for  prevention strategies. (16)  An example of a plan to prevent displacement secondary to planned revitalization in Somerville, MA was recently released by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council of Somerville  suggesting a need for 9,000 new affordable units to assure no displacement occurs (17). Besides organizing at the community level planning and training upcoming leaders to replace current leadership at the city, state, and federal levels, who ignore and support the negative effects of gentrification and inequality through private:public partnerships, is occurring and remains a critical path toward housing equity (18)