Monday, March 29, 2010

“Housing has to be rethought as a social resource, not simply a series of opportunity for profit. ‘Livability’, of course, means rational planning of city flows, from transportation to waste systems, but also requires attention to the fatal ills of human poverty and neighborhood blight.”
- Martha Rosler, If You Lived Here

I left our meeting with the People’s Homesteading Group with a sour resentment for city government. While touring through PHG’s developments, I as well as the rest of our group was struck by the quality and luxury of the renovated town homes. The difference between the market-rate and low-income housing was slight, with the former being more spacious and manicured. Logically one would assume that the better quality, higher resnt housing would require more time and financial investment. In a voice of marked exhaustion, our PHG representative pointed out that the low-income home took an additional 4 ½ years and tens of thousands of dollars to develop. This is due to the endless paperwork, stringent regulations, and stop-and-go building process characteristic of state involvement. Needless to say the low-income development was a major blow for PHG’s limited resources. The organization was recently forced to lay off all but two employees, both of whom are receiving limited incomes. This could have been avoided had had the PHG chosen to pursue market-rate housing alone. However this is contrary to the goal of the homesteaders, which focuses on aiding the existing community rather than profiting from incoming residents. I question a city policy that forces affordable housing developers into financial suicide. I would like to believe that the city values healthy, mixed-income urban development. However it is circumstances such as this that lead me to believe government policy supports high-income domination, ultimately leading to gentrification and displacement. Were this not the case, People’s Homesteading Group would be receiving ample support, as hope of a healthy city lies in organizations that favor social resources over profit.

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