What’s up with Gentrification?

I find it interesting that there is an effort to address the issue of gentrification in Miami’s urban neighborhoods. The most interesting source of information regarding this movement is found at takebacktheland.blogspot.com.

First and foremost, I appreciate the effort of the blog’s author, Max Rameau, of the Center for Pan-African Development, in communicating his displeasure towards the local government regarding the lack of low-income housing and alleged indifference towards gentrification in the city.

For those who aren’t sure as to what gentrification means, here is the definition from dictionary.com:

1.

the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.

The obvious problem being that the low income portion of the social fold is being disregarded—literally and figuratively.

The efforts of movements such as Take Back the Land are under appreciated. Gentrification will continue, but without activism, the more disadvantaged elements of the community will be swept aside with little to no consideration. Take back the Land is a movement that deals with urban development, housing, and land acquisition issues in areas that are on the fringes of government and popular interest—neighborhoods such as Liberty City and Overtown. The government’s resources are spent less in these areas due to the lack in tax revenue emanating from them and the difficulty in maintaining security. The higher crime rates in these low income areas keeps new businesses away and prosperity at bay. In terms of the big picture, these situations can be corrosive to the overall urban evolution of the county. These are also the same areas plagued with homelessness, lack of home ownership, and drug use. Certainly, there is little popular interest concerning these areas. I, myself, am guilty of the indifference.

 

These areas, which are predominantly African American, have suffered from government neglect for decades.. In the case of Liberty City, the neighborhood served as the repository for those who were displaced in the 1960’s during the construction of the I-95 through Overtown. Overtown, the once prosperous and long time civic and cultural center of the African American community in Miami, was all but dismantled. During the 1970’s and 80’s, when the African American community had next to no political and economic representation, unruly police officers were disciplined by being assigned to these neighborhoods. In other words, the worst cops were assigned to patrol duty. This led to a series of altercations between the residents and law enforcement that resulted in high profile police brutality and manslaughter cases— many cases were never reported or were dismissed—, which ultimately culminated in violent rioting. Granted, this is in the past, but given this starkly negative track record of government involvement in these areas, movements such as Take Back the Land, are right in defending the interests of these under-represented and disadvantaged residents.

Although I do not necessarily agree with all of the initiatives and claims put forth by this organization, it is impossible to ignore its importance in helping balance the interests of those who are less fortunate vis-à-vis those who are capitalizing off of the rampant development. Importantly, as Miami continues its historic transformation, gentrification will be unavoidable and a rather natural effect of urban progress, but leaving it unchecked is dangerous and can lead to social discontent and instability.

For further reading on the turbulent history of Miami’s African American history check out Black Miami by Marvin Dunn

Take Back the Land will be organizing several community awareness events during Super Bowl week:

Monday, January 29
6pm Spokescouncil Meeting
Arcola Lakes Park, 1301 NW 83 St., Miami
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
9pm @ Umoja Village, 6201 NW 17th Ave.

Tuesday, January 30
• 10am. Banner/Sign/Puppet Making
Umoja Village Shantytown
6pm. Gentrification Teach In
Umoja Village Shantytown
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
9pm @ Umoja Village

Wednesday, January 31
9am. Anti-Coal Conference Action
10am. Tour of Shame
3pm. Set Up Tent City at County Hall
111 NW First St., Miami
7pm. Party at Tent City
7pm. Global Land Struggles Discussion
Tap-Tap Rest. • 819 5th St., South Beach

Thursday, February 1
Action Against Gentrification and For Low-Income Housing
12 noon at Tent City
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
8pm @ Tent City

Friday, February 2
7am. Vets for Peace War Memorial
Ocean Drive between 8th & 10th st. Place tombstones on South Beach
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
8pm @ Tent City

Saturday, February 3
1pm Free Speech Rally
South Florida Peace & Justice, Torch of Friendship • Biscayne Blvd. and SW 1st St., downtown Miami
Tent City Party
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
8pm @ Tent City

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8 Comments

Filed under BoB Articles, Gentrification

8 responses to “What’s up with Gentrification?

  1. FrenchyMiami

    low income families make a big chunk of people renting houses in neighborhood that are developing. They are the heart of cities where working people live. They will not leave since they need to be where work is. They will just have to pay higher rents to continue to do so until the market quiets down and assets stop being accumulated by investors. Nonetheless they do so gaining a much higher quality of life in cities that are at a very different stage than they were 25 years ago…

  2. The problem is that many can’t afford to pay the higher rents. Some of them are in Section 8 housing. Others, who are not, are caught in situations where new landlords acquired the property they live in with the intention of capitalizing off of a nearby development wave. However, a development wave implies a higher cost per square foot during the acquisition for the new landlord. Section 8 housing will likely not cover the landlord’s recurring expenses so they have to start coming out of pocket. This leads to an urgent situation for the landlords where either they increase the rents and hope that existing tenants can pay or find new tenants that can. Often times the state of the building will not lure in new tenants at higher rates. That means that the landlord has to invest in improving the property just to justify the rent increase–more money out of pocket. So, the remaining options are continue losing money until the timing is right for a strategic move, or sell off the property, or proceed with plans to develop. In the third scenario is where the tenants get pushed out and gentrification occurs. In formerly derelict communities, when development runs rampant and land values soar, gentrification is the ensuing effect on the inhabitants. the question is: how do you make the transition easier for those those inhabitants.

    • That’s awesome Hanna! Wish I had known about your grlleay. I must have walked by your place a few times.I had a chance to go into the garden once back in May 2005 but it was for a and I didn’t have any time to wander and take pictures.I really hope I get a chance to go to NY during the growing season. It was a drag taking pictures and peeking through fences.

  3. Manuel Rodriguez

    Real Estate taxes and Insurance premiums are so high that many landlords cannot make a return. They sell to new investors who are forced to raise rents or they raise rents themselves. If they cannot pay their bills they risk losing their properties. People have to stay in scholl longer or just learn skills. Plumbers and electricians get $50 to $90 per hour. That is more than attorneys make in 125 countries.

  4. Insurance premiums are a definite crisis for property owners, and there really aren’t too many rate mitigating alternatives one can employ. You combine the mortgage, rising insurance, and recurring maintenance expenses, and landlords are in between a rock a hard place. The landlord’s concern is the investment not the tenants. As unfortunate as that may be, it is the reality of the situation. Gentrification activists will claim that the government is allowing for landlords and developers to sweep existing tenants away, but the reality is that the real estate market is variable and at times volatile, and although the human element is vital, it tends to get overlooked by the rise in land acquisition and maintenance costs, which leads to the displacement of low income tenants when landlords shift their plans.

  5. Manuel Rodriquez

    You have to recognize that landlords will lose their properties if they fail to pay their mortgages, their real estate taxes, their insurance premiums and their maintenance. After all the expenses there is often little or no return. That is why you see abandoned buildings in the inner city. Why you have crack houses. Why you have vacant lots. Many landlords struggle.

    Tenants need to show respect for property and they need to work hard so they can buy their own homes.

    Many neighborhoods are full of renters who do not care… Drive through Liberty City, Overtown, west of N. Miami Avenue, see how those areas look…

  6. Pingback: One Year Later « Boom or Bust: Miami

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