In cities all across America, an infiltration of wealthy investors, developers, and bankers is driving poor and middle-class families out of their own towns.
What’s at work here is the relentless financial shove of high-dollar gentrification. House by house, block by block, moneyed interests suddenly (and often secretly) buy up properties, bulldozing modest family homes to erect sprawling edifices for the rich. It’s a profiteering money grab that intentionally prices out regular homebuyers. Worse, it also artificially skyrockets property taxes for the area’s longtime homeowners, forcing them to sell out and leave town.
This financial whirligig is enormously destructive to a community’s crucial sense of fairness and… well, community. For one glaring example, look at who likely does NOT live in your city: School teachers, fire fighters, police, nurses, utility crews, and others who’re essential to making any city work.
If the so-called “free-market” can’t (or won’t) provide affordable spaces so these families can “come home,” where they belong, then the community itself must step up to meet the need with creative public initiatives.
The good news is that many cities are doing just that, including where I live. Fed up with losing teachers who endure spirit-sucking hour-long commutes from distant suburbs, Austin’s school board recently created its own affordable housing arm. It’s starting to build hundreds of rental homes affordable to teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and other school employees. In addition, the district has formed a “public facility corporation” that partners with local developers and groups like Habitat for Humanity to build and sell family homes at prices within reach of the city’s school employees.
Housing is not only a basic human need, but also a community essential that can’t be left to the whims and greed of developers.
Fighting gentrification requires collaboration across many sectors and issues— here are a few organizations that are working strategically to make things happen:
Right to the City’s national alliance encompasses over 90 community-based racial, economic, gender, and environmental justice organizations.
Renters Rising is a national alliance of renters working to shift the balance of power between renters and corporate landlords to guarantee that renters are able to live with dignity.
Learn more: This report from the Center for American Progress on localized anti-displacement policies gives background as well as suggested effective policies in the fight to keep communities intact.
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