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The PJs; or, Nychaland
September 10, 2012 5:39 AM   Subscribe

The Land that Time and Money Forgot New York City’s housing projects are the last of their kind in the country. And they may be on their way to extinction (New York magazine).
posted by box (94 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sort of makes me think of China Miéville's "The City & The City", or all the more recent topological/non-euclidian urban studies.
posted by LMGM at 5:52 AM on September 10, 2012


There is no place for low income families in New York anymore.
And not one of the American Oligarchs seems to care at all.
posted by Flood at 6:24 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, something to read while I try to get the managing company of my deceased grandmother's projects to pick up their fucking phone so I can tell them she died last month.

For a lower-middle-class white kid, I spent a lot of time in/around the projects, because both my grandmothers lived there. When one's entire family emigrates from a non-English-speaking country and there's not a lot of money going around, $234/mo. for rent a block from the boardwalk is the best you're going to do when you get old.
posted by griphus at 6:32 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


A noted New York housing expert described the relationship between NYCHA and its residents as “borderline pathological … like an abusive parent-child syndrome.”

Jeez... this describes so many NYC agencies, quite frankly... something about such a sprawling, inchoate bureaucracy with such a history of toxicity and incompetence.
posted by entropone at 6:34 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Compelling reading. Thanks.
posted by Alex404 at 6:42 AM on September 10, 2012


"Although the city’s population grew by 769,000 from 1990-2002, the city added only 217,000 housing units during that period. Because supply has not kept pace with demand, housing prices are rising. If, as projected, the city adds one million new residents by 2030, the city must build over 400,000 new units in the next 24 years, or else the existing shortage will only worsen and the housing market will become even more expensive. Although an expensive housing market demonstrates a strong economy, such conditions can eventually exclude the middle- and working-class residents upon whom the economy relies."

visions for NYC - housing and the public realm (PDF).
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 6:47 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also I can't help but giggle at the "hipsters applying to the projects" reference. The Section 8 waiting list is what, 5-7 years long? I can't imagine "dick around for over half a decade while the shittiest housing slowly opens its doors to you" is part of any 20somethings plan for making it in NYC.
posted by griphus at 7:09 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Breathtaking (yet wholly unsurprising) how the Manhattan Institute pundit didn't mention where all the displaced residents of the 40% of the downsized housing would go, exactly. He spoke of it like some abstract entity--a forest to be cut away at--not a place where people live.
posted by Bromius at 7:12 AM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Of all the housing experts I spoke to, Howard Husock, vice-president of policy research at the rightist Manhattan Institute, was the only one to offer a comprehensive plan about what to do about the projects.
...
First of all, the sheer volume of the projects would have to be significantly reined in. Cutting back to around 60 percent of the current stock would be a good first-phase goal, Husock said. The rest could be repurposed for mixed use or simply sold off. The sale of the more lucrative properties would pay for the upgrade of the remaining developments. To ensure reasonable resident turnover, restrictions on the length of tenancy would be established. Husock thought "five years" would be a reasonable time limit.


While I am pleased that the author is taking the correct tone about the assholes who want to privatize this government service (barely concealed scorn), it is a bleak goddamned day when he can't find someone who has an actual plan to stop NYCHA from hemorrhaging money without tearing down the homes of a quarter million poor people.
posted by Mayor West at 7:19 AM on September 10, 2012


The topic [of rent] came up often during discussions with current residents, eliciting surprisingly little sympathy for newcomers. “I get why people might be upset, but when I got in here in 1977, I knew I wasn’t moving. Where was I supposed to go, a single mother with a disabled child? Great Neck? Hello? Besides, this is a good deal,” said a friend of mine as we checked the river view from the sixteenth-story window of her Harlem project. She currently pays just over $500 for her three-bedroom apartment, slightly more than the NYCHA average of $434. [...] “The other day at the bodega I ran into these four white girls. I started talking to them. They said they were living right across the street in this dumpy building paying $800. I thought, Well, that’s all right. Then they say they’re paying $800 apiece! One of them is sleeping on the couch. Sleeping on the couch in their own house! I went back to my apartment, looked at my view, and thought, Maybe my elevator is pissy, but if that’s gentrification, who’s the joke on now?”
The problem, of course, is that like nearly all social services in a democracy, the existence of subsidized housing requires the cooperation of people who don't reap the benefits directly themselves. And that cooperation is drying up.

Someone living in a $500/mo subsidized apartment may find the idea of a bunch of hipsters pay $2400/mo pretty lulzy, but it's those market-raters who have to pay the taxes and otherwise foot the bill if you want to have sustainable (as opposed to constantly-bailed-out-by-the-Federal-government) subsidized housing. It's those kids -- maybe not today (because, let's face it, 20somethings rarely vote anyway), but if they stick around for another 20 or 30 years -- that you have to successfully make the case for public housing to.

The residents of public housing may, through being an effective voting bloc, keep the funding going despite disinterest or opposition elsewhere (just because they are likely to be more motivated and organized than those who don't want to pay, and our system favors the organized), but that doesn't seem like a good long-term path. There aren't enough people living in subsidized housing to vote themselves funding if everyone else really decides they hate paying for it. And with low turnover, you can't count on a steady stream of people who formerly lived in public housing, either.

I'm not exactly sure how you make that case: it seems like a bit of an uphill battle, and one that hasn't been made in decades. And in truth it's part of a much greater battle, over social services in general. But rather than try to make that argument to an increasingly skeptical public, both NYC and the country in general have relied on increasingly obscure and complex funding mechanisms that hide the rot beneath funky public/private partnerships and crooked bond issues, kicking the problem down the line to the next administration, or the next. Eventually it's going to be dealt with, through inaction if nothing else.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:19 AM on September 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


wikipedia brown boy detective: ""Although the city’s population grew by 769,000 from 1990-2002, the city added only 217,000 housing units during that period. "

I knew things were bad, but had no idea that they were quite that bad.

According to a report released last week, the cost of living in Manhattan is completely off the charts -- 233.5% of the national average -- Brooklyn, Honolulu, and San Francisco are the only 3 others that even really come close to that number, at 160-180% of the national average.
posted by schmod at 7:24 AM on September 10, 2012


I'm surprised the article didn't mention anything about the idea that you should now integrate middle and low income housing into regular buildings?

Housing in Manhattan is a nightmare for everyone. "There is no place for low income families in New York anymore." Well, there is no place for middle income working people either. A few lucky people I know got middle income housing in new buildings in Manhattan, but more and more middle income people are just getting pushed out. It's really eerie being in a place like the projects in Chelsea, where it's only the super rich and the poor living in a small radius.
posted by melissam at 7:33 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The median income in my congressional district is $27,934. This is Manhattan too.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:39 AM on September 10, 2012


I'm surprised the article didn't mention anything about the idea that you should now integrate middle and low income housing into regular buildings?

I'm sure New York Magazine doesn't want to incite whatever the white-flight equivalent of a bank run is.
posted by griphus at 7:49 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


They put up a couple of project towers up right next to the apartments my dad grew up in. I'm pretty sure this is a big reason why he is a republican voter now.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:24 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised the article didn't mention anything about the idea that you should now integrate middle and low income housing into regular buildings?

That seems to be a trend in Boston/Cambridge, such as in my mother's building: new condo buildings with market rate units, but a few units set aside as low income, with the idea that they won't ever be able to sell it at market rate. Because all those rich folks want their children to be exposed to a teacher or firefighter in their building, or something. I'm actually curious how this is going to work out; will the children of the teachers be ostracized for being the poor one in the building? Will people eventually figure out that one or two units in a building doesn't even come close to solving the problem? Should be interesting.
posted by Melismata at 8:28 AM on September 10, 2012


I have always wanted to know why people piss in elevators. Something I've noticed in public housing worldwide.

I lived in Vienna for a decade back in the dark 80's. The Gemeindegebäude of Red Vienna were really something to behold and I'd never made the connection to between those and the projects I've been to in the US. Looking at Karl Marx-Hof one can see why the urban planners wanted to emulate what was radical at the time - windows in all apartments, running water and heat which even in the 80's was not necessarily a given.

I had an apartment (non-Gemeinde) for several years with no outside facing windows, coal stove for heat, shared toilet in the hallway and while technically I had heated water, my water heater didn't work for over a year. Oh, and of course no bath or shower, that's what the district baths were for. And this wasn't that uncommon. My elevator didn't smell like piss, but that's because I didn't have one - just six flights of stairs.
posted by misterpatrick at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2012


Demolish them all and build real neighborhoods.
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 8:35 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is why we need public housing:
“The other day at the bodega I ran into these four white girls. I started talking to them. They said they were living right across the street in this dumpy building paying $800. I thought, Well, that’s all right. Then they say they’re paying $800 apiece! One of them is sleeping on the couch. Sleeping on the couch in their own house! I went back to my apartment, looked at my view, and thought, Maybe my elevator is pissy, but if that’s gentrification, who’s the joke on now?”
Because the market does not - and never has, from neolithic through modern periods - provided decent housing to all people at a price they could afford. People live in subsidized housing for 40+ years because the RENT [in the private sector] IS TOO DAMN HIGH.

If the rent in the private sector is decent, people will move out of public housing. My family lived in public housing for about 18 years -- and we moved out when our income had increased to the point where 30% was the same as the rent for a private sector apartment. In places like New York - or London, or Vancouver or anywhere with a crazy rental/property market - this might never happen for the working class -- and subsidized housing should just be seen as a necessary subsidy offered so that you can have services and workers in your city.
posted by jb at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


What a fucking nightmare of an idea: To demolish hundreds and hundreds of locally owned businesses, build high density apartment blocks owned by the government, and expect people to live full lives.

If you don't own your home (or can't even speak to the person who does own it) and you can't work because they demolished your shop, then what the fuck are you going to do?
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem, of course, is that like nearly all social services in a democracy, the existence of subsidized housing requires the cooperation of people who don't reap the benefits directly themselves. And that cooperation is drying up.

One solution is: end the benefits and have people back to sleeping in hovels or on the streets. But, like I said in another thread, the 19th century sucked the first time we did it, and I don't want to do it again.

The other solution extend the service/benefits. If we expanded social housing so that it was something like subsidized daycare - which is heavily used by middle and lower-middle class people in Canada - it would have more support. People would vote to support social housing if they knew that their kids in their first jobs would be using it, or their aunt who is on disability has access to it. In other places in the world, public and co-operative housing are services that aren't used by just a tiny minority, but by enough people that the majority feel invested in it.

Frankly, housing is just one of those things that the market does really, really badly. In my city, it's building way too many tiny high-end condos, and not enough family-sized housing, paying 40-50% of your income in rent is common, and the only people I know who can afford to buy their own places have incomes in the top 10-20% of the country. There is a huge demand for low-cost housing, and the market does not respond because demand without the ability to pay more just doesn't count.
posted by jb at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


That was a really interesting article. I've got to say it's quite a contrast to the current state of Milwaukee's Housing Developments, which have been improving substantially in various ways since, say, the late 80s. Almost all of the giant, old, monolithic developments have been rebuilt, with our largest development, Westlawn, going under the knife last year. In the last 5 or so years, Convent Hill (whose previous building was surrounded in nets to catch falling bricks that we did not have the funds to repair), Becher Terrace, Highland Gardens, Cherry Court and Olga Village have been redeveloped or built.

Prior to that, Hillside Terrace was redeveloped under HOPE VI, which this study indicates has seen a 51% reduction in crime. There's a more in-depth analysis of the changes at that development starting at page 636 in this report Many of the new developments have green roofs. Olga Village has heat pumps and solar water heating. The Housing Authority also works with other neighborhood groups, such as Growing Power, who helped create 30,000 Sqft of garden at Westlawn.

Changes in funding have been one of the biggest obstacles we've faced, but we now get less than 50% of revenue from federal grants, which is a pretty good improvement. One of the other big changes is the switch to private management for some developments (in our case, "Friends of Housing" either owns or manages a handful of the 20+ developments). I'm personally not a huge fan of this, but it has been working...mostly. All in all, I'd say we're doing pretty good and I cannot stress just how important public/affordable housing can be for people who have no other options. Many of the developments have special resources for people with disabilities or who otherwise need living assistance they could not otherwise afford. After the closing of so many mental health facilities, many of these people struggling with mental illness would otherwise be homeless, probably doing whatever to get by (or not).

I'm surprised the article didn't mention anything about the idea that you should now integrate middle and low income housing into regular buildings?

I'm kind of surprised that didn't come up, either, it's been a big part of plans for us here in Milwaukee, usually referred to as "mixed-income". The idea, of course, being that it's possible to build housing on a large-ish scale at lower costs, rent/sell some of it to people and use the rest as subsidized low-income. It's also helpful in that people of different economic situations are living in proximity to each other.

The consensus is project policing started going seriously wrong in 1995, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani merged the previously distinct NYCHA housing cops with the NYPD. During “the old days,” projects were assigned specific officers. Now each of the nine Police Service Areas (PSAs) cover a number of developments. “You used to know them, now you don’t,” said one resident at the Bronx roundtable. [...] The kicker to this is, as part of the 1995 deal, NYCHA pays the NYPD an extra fee (currently in excess of $70 million a year) for “above baseline” police services.

Having a police force for the developments makes a big difference. Here we have "Public Safety" which patrols and responds to calls 24/7. They know the buildings, the people, and can act with more discretion when dealing with situations that might otherwise get people put back in jail and cause an unnecessary disruption in their lives for minor infractions. I find it hard to believe that the NYCHA can't hire a private police force for $70 million.

Of all the housing experts I spoke to, Howard Husock, vice-president of policy research at the rightist Manhattan Institute, was the only one to offer a comprehensive plan about what to do about the projects.

It appears that this man's plan is only comprehensive except for where it leaves out the part where we provide affordable housing to people. Frankly, any plan for a Housing Authority that does not provide affordable public housing is not a plan, it is an avoidance of responsibility.

Nitpick: On December 3, 1935, Louis Pink joined La Guardia, Governor Herbert Lehman, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to dedicate First Houses on Avenue A and 3rd Street. It was the beginning of public housing in the United States.

Wikipedia cites one of Milwaukee's socialist Mayors, Daniel Hoan: "He brought in a large number of progressive reforms including the country's first public housing project, Garden Homes, started in 1923." Photo of Garden Homes, 1922
posted by nTeleKy at 8:58 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


They said they were living right across the street in this dumpy building paying $800. I thought, Well, that’s all right. Then they say they’re paying $800 apiece! One of them is sleeping on the couch.

I've mentioned this phenomenon a couple times. Four recent college grads will alway beat out a single mom with three kids.

Kids take up space and can't work. Every time I say that maybe recent grads should take into consideration the families they are displacing when they live 6 to an apartment in Brooklyn people react like I kicked their dog. These are neighborhoods with families, people have lived there for generations, they have uncles, grandparents, parents all within the neighborhood. Having that extended support network is even more important for people who can't affort childcare.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:17 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because all those rich folks want their children to be exposed to a teacher or firefighter in their building, or something.

You remember when Senator Stevens said that the internet wasn't a truck, it was a series of tubes? Everyone who knew a damn thing about computer networks made fun of him for that, so much so that the phrase "series of tubes" is a running joke in just about every IT shop in the world now.

That's you and housing policy, right there. Seriously.
posted by mhoye at 9:35 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kids take up space and can't work. Every time I say that maybe recent grads should take into consideration the families they are displacing when they live 6 to an apartment in Brooklyn people react like I kicked their dog.

Is it really the renters' fault? The young workers also need a place to live and they don't have access to subsidized housing. It seems to me that they are getting the rawest end of this situation -- they are the ones living in the terrible conditions, paying out too much money. It's the private landlords who keep jacking up the rent until people must live 6-to-an-apartment who pricing poor families out of their homes.

I currently pay $1200 CND for a small one-bedroom that I share with my SO in a traditionally working-class area; you could say that we've "stolen" this apartment from a lower-income person/family who couldn't afford to pay $1200. But we're not the ones who set the price - we looked and looked for less rent, but every single apartment within a short distance of where we work was in the same price range. A few weeks after we signed our lease, the identical apartment next door was rented for $1300/month to the next person.

the landlords in my city are engaged in legal but still monopolistic pricing practices. They are all raising prices simultaneously and since the demand is always there - since people don't want to/can't live in shanty-towns - they will get what they demand. Maybe they will eventually hit the point where they have exhausted the demand from people who are able to pay such high rents, but not before they get a hell of a lot of people (like me and my SO) paying 40-50% or more of their incomes in rent. In my city, there still is a (bit of a) choice - we could move out into a building in the inner suburbs, though that would add an hour to my commute and take away all of my current exercise (I walk now, I would have to take public transit from anywhere else). In places like New York, there is no other place to go for people like us - too rich for the current subsidized housing, not rich enough for "market prices". You know, what used to be known as "middling".
posted by jb at 9:35 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every time I say that maybe recent grads should take into consideration the families they are displacing when they live 6 to an apartment in Brooklyn people react like I kicked their dog.

The kids are getting displaced, too. Are they supposed to stay in the suburbs they grew up in? There are no jobs there, certainly no entry-level jobs, and even though the housing prices are cheaper, there is usually little or no housing suitable for young single people—if all that's on offer is four-bedroom McMansions, it doesn't really matter if they cost a fraction of what they would cost in the cities.

The problem is that there is not enough housing to go around. Keeping new residents from displacing current residents will not do anything to solve that problem—you're only changing who gets screwed.
posted by enn at 9:41 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


At this point, it's completely unrealistic to expect more projects to be built in NYC, ever. A few 'affordable' units in otherwise market-rate buildings are very unlikely to mitigate the problem. I applied for one of those in Brooklyn back when I was quite broke, made it to the second round of the lottery but no further. That was 2007, and the building only recently appears to be inhabited.

As a liberal it pains me to say it, but I think NYCHA should go ahead and give all the units to the current occupants under some sort of limited-equity plan to keep prices down. Building conditions in the projects would almost certainly improve as a result and it would be a reasonably useful wealth transfer to low-income people.

I think the city should be focusing on development -- the constant downzonings all over the city aren't doing any favors for the housing supply, nor landmarking of neighborhoods of dubious historical value. (Downzoning the LES? Really?) Along with rent control, these tactics produce a never-ending transfer of wealth to 'oldtimers', with the result being that new arrivals are entirely priced out.

I have long been in favor of an NYC program like Portland's "skinny houses" in which the city holds a design competition for an attractive, sustainable six-family apartment building, gives the plans and permits away for free, and allows it to be built within X,000 feet of a transit line, even in more restrictive zones. Coupled with massive transit expansions to low-density neighborhoods. The real estate market here is relatively strong, and the city should really be taking a stab at the affordability problem by making it possible to grow the supply. The resistance to density would be greatly reduced if the aesthetics of new multi-family housing in NYC were improved.
posted by zvs at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Every time I say that maybe recent grads should take into consideration the families they are displacing when they live 6 to an apartment in Brooklyn people react like I kicked their dog.

That's because you're blaming the victim. What should they all do, move back to their hometowns? Stick to their tribe?

The lack of affordable housing isn't the fault of (relatively) wealthy renters. If it was, you'd best find a shack by the creek and give up your place to somebody less fortunate, because I'm sure they exist and would love to have it.
posted by zvs at 9:47 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


've mentioned this phenomenon a couple times. Four recent college grads will alway beat out a single mom with three kids.

Kids take up space and can't work. Every time I say that maybe recent grads should take into consideration the families they are displacing when they live 6 to an apartment in Brooklyn people react like I kicked their dog.


So, because they don't have kids, they are somehow deserve less to live in an apartment in Brooklyn?

The problem is not recent college grads. The problem is the system.
posted by millipede at 9:48 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I found the notion that the Queensbridge buildings are "underbuilt" on their land to be pretty interesting. Almost all (maybe all?) of NYC's housing projects are built on the Le Corbusier model of parkland surrounding a few large towers, which pretty much everyone now accepts has failed.

There's a few things that could probably be done to modernize public housing in New York, starting with eliminating the superblocks they are currently built on and rebuilding the side streets. Then you replace the 24-story towers with 6-12 story apartment buildings that rebuild the street wall.

Some of the new blocks, you turn into new parks. Automobile parking--greatly diminished but still fairly ample, because folks may still have too long a commute by public transit in some places--is handled by an alley between two rows of buildings.

The first story is mostly used for retail, with an emphasis first on grocery stores, pharmacies and other neighborhood prerequisites and then subsidized locations for businesses owned and operated by building residents.

The apartments are divided by income, maybe a 50/35/15 split between low-income, middle-income and market rate units. You sell a certain percentage of those units--maybe 30%--at each market level, or maybe instead you sell a 99-year lease that is automatically repurchased by the city, with interest, upon the deaths of the buyer and their SO (or something like that).

Finally, you put the market-rent people on the top floors so they have a vested interest in keeping the elevators working.
posted by thecaddy at 9:59 AM on September 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


That's because you're blaming the victim.

See, it is strange. This is the only conversation ever where 4 relatively wealthy recent college grads are the victim. And the single mom, scraping by is what?

So, because they don't have kids, they are somehow deserve less to live in an apartment in Brooklyn?

Just because they were lucky enough to go to college means they deserve to force people with less privelege out of the neoghborhood?


It isn't worth discussing, I'm not going to be convinced that 4 white kids are the real victims. Those evil rich people are forcing them to displace people who have been the victims of hundreds of years of oppression.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:06 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So where are the 20-something kids (not all of whom went to college, for whatever that's worth) supposed to live, in your view?
posted by enn at 10:14 AM on September 10, 2012


I'm not going to be convinced that 4 white kids are the real victims.

They're both the real victims. Seriously, what could the 4 white kids do in this situation that would make you happy? Think real hard about how lucky they are?

Anyway, I agree with you that this argument is a waste of time. Back to the 'ideas' discussion:

There's a few things that could probably be done to modernize public housing in New York, starting with eliminating the superblocks they are currently built on and rebuilding the side streets. Then you replace the 24-story towers with 6-12 story apartment buildings that rebuild the street wall.

I believe this is the model that has been attempted a couple times in Chicago; I'm don't know how well it performed. I winced a little when I saw "replace the 24-story towers"... in most cases, that means "evict the current tenants", even if that's not the intention. Having your building fall out from under you, when you're always on society's margins, really reduces the chance you'll come back.

I would agree, however, that reopening cross streets (when possible without significant demolition) would go a long way toward improving conditions. As would adding buildings along the street wall where it's an option. I'll never understand why NYC projects waste valuable street real estate on parking. The result is a dead zone that encourages crime and adds no value.

Finally, you put the market-rent people on the top floors so they have a vested interest in keeping the elevators working.

This is a great, and funny, idea.
posted by zvs at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2012


The first story is mostly used for retail, with an emphasis first on grocery stores, pharmacies and other neighborhood prerequisites

I feel like this is the toughest part of the problem. Grocery stores (and most other non-low-end enterprises) don't see a profit angle from locating in the projects, even when there's plenty of space to do so. Check out the badly underused commercial spaces in the Williamsburg Houses -- a few blocks away on Grand the commercial spaces are mid-to-high-rent (and there's a Key Food, too...). Existing commercial square footage in the projects is probably not up to the standards that a serious supermarket requires...

The city would probably have better luck aggressively condemning empty buildings in dense locations and subsidizing supermarket construction projects. The Fulton St Foodtown is pretty damn nice.
posted by zvs at 10:25 AM on September 10, 2012


I believe this is the model that has been attempted a couple times in Chicago; I'm don't know how well it performed.

It's called the CHA's "Plan for Transformation" and has been studied from many different angles.
posted by yarrow at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nobody is forcing them to come here. They should go build their adorable brunch places and performance spaces in.. I dunno. Cairo IL.

I know what it is like to get forced farther and farther from your support network in the neighborhood where you were born and raised.

Nobody give a shit because we are talking about minorities in the inner city, people that have always been invisible in America. We force them into a ghetto then we force them out when we want the space back.

We would see some real anger if the ultra-rich decided to start snapping up the suburbs to build golf courses.

I just have a bit less sympathy for people who are just passing through, destined to move back to the suburbs when they decide to have kids.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2012


But, like I said in another thread, the 19th century sucked the first time we did it, and I don't want to do it again.

Well clearly there are some people who didn't get the memo, because we seem to be right on track for another go-around.

And that's kind of the issue in a nutshell: people who value social services think that the need for their existence is so obvious that it doesn't bear explaining. And though it's fine to feel that way, it's trivially demonstrable that lots of people don't, even if they pay a certain amount of lip service to the ideas, as evidenced by how they actually vote. So whether the issue is housing or food stamps or cash welfare payments, when people on the left just assume that the case for their need is prima facie obvious, what you're really doing is ceding the issue to those who are willing to take the time make the opposite argument. Not because they're right, but because they're a lot better at explaining their position without starting from a position of assumed moral superiority.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:36 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Housing projects -- and by that I mean the Le Corbusier-style superblocks discussed in this article -- were a well-intentioned but fatally flawed idea, implemented by people and agencies who could not have given less of a fuck about the people they were allegedly trying to help.

As Jane Jacobs pointed out, there's basically no way this layout could have led to anything like a pleasant neighborhood. The well-intentioned folks who planned the projects would have been much better off maintaining the original density of the neighborhoods, replacing the deteriorating housing stock, and investing in social services.

However, this is what we're stuck with. And the people who live in the projects know the score. You can't bullshit them. They know that any change, any change at all, really, is likely to result in a net-negative for themselves and their families. This is the real intractable problem of it; we can spitball plans to solve the housing problem 'till the cows come home, but ultimately, it comes down to moving and displacing people, and the people being moved or displaced nearly always get the short end of it.

I think ultimately, we need to come to terms with two uncomfortable truths : 1) people gotta live somewhere and 2) nobody owns a neighborhood.

#2 is probably going to rile up a lot of people here. People like to associate "home" with a geographical location. But the sad truth is that unless you actually own property, this is an illusion, and it ignores even the most recent history. The lower east side was German before it was Jewish, and Jewish before it was Hispanic. But I'm supposed to be upset about white hipsters moving in? Please. They're just the latest batch of people to occupy those apartments for a brief window of history. It's absurd that in a city as storied and dynamic as NYC, people to talk about a given group "owning" a neighborhood.

I have no problem with gentrification. No problem at all. Especially in a place like NYC, where you still have vast ungentrified neighborhoods that are actually well-served by public transportation. Cry all you want about the diminished character of 21st century Manhattan, but you only need to look across the East River to see neighborhoods that were once ghettoes that are now pleasant, livable places.

However, this goes back to #1 : people gotta live somewhere. I thought it was hilarious, the guy from the Manhattan Institute talking about how the projects "can't pay for themselves". Wel, duuuuuuh. If you're going to have something like public housing, it's got to be like public transportation : something that you expect to operate at a loss because it provides social utility. And I'm all for this. People gotta live somewhere; public housing superblocks were just a terrible way to do it.

If there were a way to accomplish it without screwing the people who currently live in the projects, I'd say : bulldoze the projects, sell the land, use all that money plus the NYCHA's annual budget to fix up the remaining ghettoes in Brooklyn and the Bronx while maintaining the current population density and mixed zoning, give current project residents vouchers so they can afford to live in the rebuilt neighborhoods, and continue to fund the system so that working class people can continue to live in NYC, close to viable public transportation and social services.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:41 AM on September 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Nobody is forcing them to come here. They should go build their adorable brunch places and performance spaces in.. I dunno. Cairo IL.

I feel like you would react differently if I said that everybody already living in the inner city should move to Cairo. After all, no one is forcing them to stay. Why the hell do you think that's acceptable?

Nobody give a shit because we are talking about minorities in the inner city

We're all here arguing about how to make the system work in their favor.

destined to move back to the suburbs
adorable brunch places

This is lazy stereotyping and completely unproductive.
posted by zvs at 10:42 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


The lower east side was German before it was Jewish, and Jewish before it was Hispanic. But I'm supposed to be upset about white hipsters moving in?

When I lived in Ridgewood Queens, I was always amused by people who said I was gentrifying the neighborhood where my great-grandfather bought the first home my family had ever owned.
posted by zvs at 10:44 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with the comment upstream about any change starts as negative. Where are thousands of families supposed to live while the improvements go on?


Finally, you put the market-rent people on the top floors so they have a vested interest in keeping the elevators working.

Finally, you put the market-rent people on the top floors so they have a vested interest in keeping the elevators that are designed with a drain system that activates when it's hosed down during a maintenance period by qualified personnel working.
posted by tilde at 10:47 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


And forgot my original comment - despite what the video showed us, I wonder if the little pink houses aren't Pinks?
posted by tilde at 10:48 AM on September 10, 2012


I feel like you would react differently if I said that everybody already living in the inner city should move to Cairo. After all, no one is forcing them to stay. Why the hell do you think that's acceptable?

I'm not advocating forcing people to stay, how many do you think really want to leave? you think they are movin on up?

First the rent gets increased whenever possible, then landlords stop doing basic maintence to get you to leave, Then you get an eviction notice. That's is when you struggle to find a place to go, but there is no place. That is when your mom starts crying herself to sleep every night. She needs to add another hour to her commute, you have to leave your school.

This is really just too emotional an issue for me to discuss logically. Of course everyone is a victim here, I just can't help but feel some more than others.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:51 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bromius: "Breathtaking (yet wholly unsurprising) how the Manhattan Institute pundit didn't mention where all the displaced residents of the 40% of the downsized housing would go, exactly. He spoke of it like some abstract entity--a forest to be cut away at--not a place where people live."

You can tear a building down, but you can't erase the memory, these houses may look all run down, but they have a value, you can see... This is my neighborhood...
posted by symbioid at 10:56 AM on September 10, 2012


i forgot what this was about after the mobb deep quote
posted by 12bits at 11:10 AM on September 10, 2012


I feel like you would react differently if I said that everybody already living in the inner city should move to Cairo. After all, no one is forcing them to stay. Why the hell do you think that's acceptable?

Are you saying that it's unacceptable to force people to stay in their home neighborhoods? O.o I think what's unacceptable getting priced out of your own home thanks mostly to new residents who would just use your place as a stepping stone to their next place (hence, they could really move somewhere other than your place if they wanted) instead of actually investing in your neighborhood and its support services that would still be supporting you and your family, except you were priced out so...
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 12:00 PM on September 10, 2012


Nobody is forcing them to come here. They should go build their adorable brunch places and performance spaces in.. I dunno. Cairo IL.

Because Cairo is totally a place with a lot of adequate housing, access to goods and services, and jobs for young college graduates. Oodles of them.

I mean, if you're just going to pick a random place in a flyover state and pretend it's a reasonable alternative, at least look at the wikipedia page to see what you're talking about.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:17 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a few things that could probably be done to modernize public housing in New York, starting with eliminating the superblocks they are currently built on and rebuilding the side streets. Then you replace the 24-story towers with 6-12 story apartment buildings that rebuild the street wall.

While its exact implementation has varied depending on the project, this is pretty much the intention of HOPE VI. This is what we've done in Milwaukee with Hillside Terrace, Highland Gardens, and Westlawn, to name a few. It has worked quite well. When the prior buildings are being demolished, the residents are temporarily moved to vacant units in other developments and then moved back (unless they decide to relocate to another site). If you are interested in learning about the impact of HOPE VI redevelopments, try the Interim Assessment of the HOPE VI Program Cross-Site Report from 2003 which looks at the impact of 11 different projects around the country and is quite thorough (100+ pages):

It is important to note that the focus of HOPE VI changed during the study period from mainly redeveloping distressed public housing developments to creating mixed-income communities and creating greater neighborhood revitalization through the leveraging of HOPE VI funds. As a result of this change in program focus, 6 of the 11 sites that are the subject of this report were redeveloped as 100-percent public housing and 5 were redeveloped as mixed-income developments. Thus, going forward, researchers have an opportunity to compare interim outcomes of the two different redevelopment models. There was also a difference in redevelopment approaches––four of the six 100-percent public housing sites substantially rehabilitated existing structures, while the remaining sites pursued full demolition and new construction. This represents another dimension along which researchers can generate valuable insights regarding urban and neighborhood development.
posted by nTeleKy at 12:21 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


More on topic, if I recall correctly, part of Chicago's plan to relocate people from the housing projects was to pay some of the suburbs to take the current residents, who had very little choice in where they ended up. The housing in general was much nicer than the old tower blocks, but even more isolated from possible jobs, goods, and services due to the lack of pedestrian infrastructure.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:23 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you saying that it's unacceptable to force people to stay in their home neighborhoods?

No, I'm saying it's unacceptable to apply this sort of rhetoric to people based solely on the fact that they're newcomers. Or white.

they could really move somewhere other than your place if they wanted

Individual motivation has nothing to do with this. If one gentrifier doesn't move in, you think they won't be replaced? I'll say it again -- where, exactly, do you think random 25-year-olds making $28,000/yr should move? Where would they not meet with your disapproval? And how are you comfortable making the ridiculous claim that they aren't invested in the neighborhood?
posted by zvs at 12:26 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ditto zvs. Zoning can fix a lot of this. There's still a ton of infill and other undeveloped parcels to be found which would be perfectly buildable if only the zoning codes didn't interfere. In NYC above all other places, the rule should be that a parcel, ANY parcel, of land is buildable if you can physically erect a safe structure there. The city shouldn't interest itself in whether anyone wants to live in a 300 sq ft apartment, because clearly plenty of people do. Structural soundness, safety, sanitation - but not more. This is something I've always admired about Japanese infill development which, while not perfect, seems to allow you to build damned near anything as long as you can get the structure together.

Also, Governors Island. Just break the damned contract and build the everyloving snot out of it, high density neighborhood housing from floor to ceiling.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:28 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The housing in general was much nicer than the old tower blocks, but even more isolated from possible jobs, goods, and services due to the lack of pedestrian infrastructure.

Herbert Gans did a great bit on this (half a century ago) in The Urban Villagers and People, Plans, and Policies, describing what happened to the Italian families in Boston's West End after the neighborhood was demolished. Most of them were happy with their housing choices, but suffered from diminished economic nobility because their social network was destroyed -- when everyone moves to a different suburb, the informal connections that help mitigate poverty vanish.

Ironically, this is the same complaint that was leveled against the projects -- they destroyed the existing neighborhood's social fabric (and affordable housing stock). But even the projects are better than dispersal in this respect.
posted by zvs at 12:28 PM on September 10, 2012


diminished economic nobility

Excuse me, mobility.
posted by zvs at 12:30 PM on September 10, 2012


New York is an inhuman machine put together to serve the most ambitious interests of a certain part of American secular society. It has human aspects, because human needs must be met before ambitions can proceed toward realization, but the fulfillment of those human needs is an uninteresting precondition of the life of the ambitions.

George W. S. Trow

Along with the agonizingly slow death of unions in the US, the coming (what seems to be inevitable) privatization of Public Housing should be very clear warning signs to everyone what the next century is going to look like unless drastic institutional reforms are put into place to reverse the trend. In Chicago, they've been tearing down projects, handing out vouchers,and displacing people into equally impoverished and infinitely more isolated exurbs except for the lucky handful with clean enough records to qualify for "mixed-income housing" which usually means a token handful of apartments in largely white buildings with a very low bar for tossing you back out where you came from, not to mention surprise inspections, drug tests and assorted other indignities foisted on you for the privilege.

While I agree that no one "owns a neighborhood" and that to be in constant flux is the natural and healthy state of a city, we're reaching a very interesting point in the game where the likelihood of, say, the working class Hispanic community (or the Hasidim, or whoever) of the LES retaking the pop-up boutiques and gourmet pizza shops on Delancey Street is essentially nil. That's the problem with the "Well, it was Polish before it was Black before it was White" argument. Rich and (mostly) White is an end-point. Because, barring an enormous social shift, economic collapse or environmental disaster (and even THEN), that neighborhood is staying how it is from here until it crumbles into the sea. Is Chelsea going to suddenly become a thriving hub for the Nigerian immigrant community fifty years from now? The Upper East Side wasn't always what it is, sure, but now it's never going to be anything else.

Maybe I'm being short-sighted and lack imagination, but at least in New York it seems as though once a neighborhood reaches a certain level of rich and white, it petrifies. Who gentrifies the gentrifiers, you know? White people aren't going to White Flight away from themselves (I don't think...) and I'm not sure what it would take to devalue the property to the point where anyone else could get a foothold there. So while it's difficult to "own a neighborhood," the obscenely wealthy are certainly making a go of it and Manhattan seems well on its way to being little more than an enormous gated community, happy enough to bus in its labor from surrounding, often poorest-in-the-nation counties.
posted by StopMakingSense at 12:37 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, Governors Island. Just break the damned contract and build the everyloving snot out of it

Agreed. On the other hand, I'm sympathetic to the city for not doing so. It seems like NYC has a diminishing supply of everything. You can't build in half of LIC because it's the last industry the city has left. The Navy Yard stays a weird low-density enclave because nobody wants to endanger those jobs. There's less rent-stabilized apartments every day. Governor's Island is the last bit of underdeveloped space within a short distance of downtown. What's left after that?

If today's trends continue (and I sadly have no doubt that they will), we'll end up turning NYC into London, an ultra-expensive enclave in the middle, with all the poor people living in beat-to-hell 200-year-old housing stock in the middle of nowhere. A book I read somewhere used the phrase "inner-city heaven or metropolitan hell," which seems appropriate.
posted by zvs at 12:38 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


(because, let's face it, 20somethings rarely vote anyway),

If that doesn't frighten us I guess nothing ever will.
posted by notreally at 12:45 PM on September 10, 2012



Because Cairo is totally a place with a lot of adequate housing, access to goods and services, and jobs for young college graduates. Oodles of them.

I mean, if you're just going to pick a random place in a flyover state and pretend it's a reasonable alternative, at least look at the wikipedia page to see what you're talking about.

What exactly makes you think I am an idiot. I know full well about Cairo.

I picked Cairo because it lacks those things. If I was starting a .com, wanted to write apps, wanted to open a CSA, was 21 years old and had a whole shitload of college friends to throw in with me. I would be heading someplace where buildings are standing vacant.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:51 PM on September 10, 2012


In Chicago, they've been tearing down projects, handing out vouchers,and displacing people into equally impoverished and infinitely more isolated exurbs except for the lucky handful with clean enough records to qualify for "mixed-income housing" which usually means a token handful of apartments in largely white buildings with a very low bar for tossing you back out where you came from, not to mention surprise inspections, drug tests and assorted other indignities foisted on you for the privilege.

Yeah, but NYC is not Chicago. There are large swathes of the outer boroughs that could be made habitable for people who used to live in the projects.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:52 PM on September 10, 2012


StopMakingSense, that's such a good point. I wonder if there are are any other places in the world that have an example of a post-gentrified neighborhood.

My young friend and I were talking the other day about the Upper East Side. According to him (I haven't been there lately, so I don't know), the entire neighborhood is nothing but old people who have all lived there for 50 years, they still get newspapers instead of the internet. It's frozen in time, he says, and, therefore, depressing and full of old fogies and he wouldn't want to live there. Maybe that will cause prices to go down?

*pondering* Nah, they'll just sell all the real estate to even richer folks, a foreign prince perhaps.

Still, I'd be fascinated to read about any "post-gentrification" studies.
posted by Melismata at 1:19 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weird thing about the UES is that it seemed like apts were actually a whole lot cheaper than e. village/LES. Didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, considering the old money presence in the neighborhood. I always chalked it up to the UES being boring as fuck, combined with the fact that much of it is actually not terribly accessible to the subway.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:21 PM on September 10, 2012


I picked Cairo because it lacks those things. If I was starting a .com, wanted to write apps, wanted to open a CSA, was 21 years old and had a whole shitload of college friends to throw in with me. I would be heading someplace where buildings are standing vacant.

The problem isn't that the buildings are standing vacant in Cairo, it's that vacant buildings become uninhabitable really quickly. It really isn't as easy as you make it sound to just take a piece of land with a mouldering building and make it fit to live on, especially when there are other services lacking. Not to mention the lack of capital. You need more than a population to make a city, you need infrastructure. Cairo doesn't much of an infrastructure left, even if you manage to get twenty people to move halfway across the country with you.

(not to mention kids do take the risk and move to depopulating areas all the time, see Detroit, or move to art enclaves and communes in the middle of nowhere, ect. ect.)

Which, well, if we're debating the inner city heaven or metropolitan hell, the huge fear regarding the wealthy middle with rings of decreasing income as you get further and further away from the city center is that you're ceding the best transit infrastructure to the people who need it the least. A lot of the comments here are suggesting that there are places with lower density populations in NYC that can take the load, and yeah, there probably is the land somewhere. But you're going to have to put a ton of money into making sure the mass transit, water, businesses, sewer, ect can handle (and in the businesses' case, are willing to handle), the new load.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:24 PM on September 10, 2012


Bingo. A couple of friends from Brooklyn moved to the UES shortly after getting married (they've since come back to Brooklyn.) The rent was affordable, but the apartment was a shoebox, a good twenty minute walk from the train, and there was nothing to do over there but get ripped off for groceries.
posted by griphus at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2012


Er, that "bingo" is re: Afroblanco's suppositions.
posted by griphus at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2012


Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing: "What a fucking nightmare of an idea: To demolish hundreds and hundreds of locally owned businesses, build high density apartment blocks owned by the government, and expect people to live full lives.

If you don't own your home (or can't even speak to the person who does own it) and you can't work because they demolished your shop, then what the fuck are you going to do?
"

There's alot of history being ignored here. These buildings were made as true slum upgrades in U.S. cities, ie places with no electricity, no heating, no sanitation. In D.C. there were tons of aluminum siding makeshift homes in alleyways. The buildings as they were originally built were true upgrades for the majority of people who moved into them. One can say that they broke communities up, and that may be true but there were good reasons to think that it would work (there always are).

However, the federal government quickly cut funding for maintenance, expecting cities and states to fill the deficit for elevator maintenance, cleaning, policing, and so on. Cities however were hit by waves of out-migration, white flight, and emptying of coffers along with efforts to build highways to maintain business bases. It ended up a cluster-fuck. Middle class people who could be proud of the buildings and communities left, and we have the replacements now.

Housing agencies will never be able to replace the sheer number of housing stock within inner cities. There will be a mixture of vouchers, and demolitions, but that's what is going to happen.

I'm going to say it here, the ONLY thing that will make cities livable (and housing affordable) is to allow density, and to keep NIMBY's fighting tooth and nail against new projects in their neighborhoods. The production of lots and lots of tall buildings is the only way that our cities will be open for everyone and not just the incredibly wealthy.

Public housing as it was in the last 50 years though, is over.
posted by stratastar at 1:28 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if there are are any other places in the world that have an example of a post-gentrified neighborhood.

My SO grew up in a neighbourhood in Manchester that was full of very large Victorian homes which were (by the 1980s) largely cut up into rooming houses. Over a century, it had gone from being upper-middle class to being decidedly lower-class. His parents were able to buy a massive house (even compared to a Canadian house) on a relatively low income, because the neighbourhood was so down-at-the-heels.

I have seen many examples of large single-family homes being broken up into middle-tier and cheaper apartments and apartment buildings which were luxury places when they were built which became slums as their condition degraded over time. The prediction in Toronto is that all those new condos will be slums in a few years time, after the market goes bust, because they are so very small in size. Unless the buildings fall down first due to poor construction.
posted by jb at 1:28 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not sure what "we have the replacements now." was supposed to be sorry.
posted by stratastar at 1:29 PM on September 10, 2012


A lot of the comments here are suggesting that there are places with lower density populations in NYC that can take the load, and yeah, there probably is the land somewhere. But you're going to have to put a ton of money into making sure the mass transit, water, businesses, sewer, ect can handle (and in the businesses' case, are willing to handle), the new load.

I dunno, there are lots of dispossessed areas of BK and BX that were viable, middle-class neighborhoods once upon a time. These areas still have transit infrastructure, and I'm sure the water/sewage pipes still work. Pumping money into fixing up these areas may make more sense than trying to keep the pj superblocks afloat.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:29 PM on September 10, 2012


Governor's Island is the last bit of underdeveloped space within a short distance of downtown. What's left after that?

There's over 800 acres smack dab in the middle of Manhattan that, for no reason that I can understand, haven't been developed. It's all just trees and shit. Let's get on this, people!
posted by griphus at 1:29 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Which, well, if we're debating the inner city heaven or metropolitan hell, the huge fear regarding the wealthy middle with rings of decreasing income as you get further and further away from the city center is that you're ceding the best transit infrastructure to the people who need it the least. A lot of the comments here are suggesting that there are places with lower density populations in NYC that can take the load, and yeah, there probably is the land somewhere. But you're going to have to put a ton of money into making sure the mass transit, water, businesses, sewer, ect can handle (and in the businesses' case, are willing to handle), the new load.

True that. Of course, the present system is this happens illegally (see: most of Queens) and the infrastructure never gets expanded.

Not to mention that the time to start investing in all that infrastructure was 20 years ago. Well, we built a new subway line to the UES, which will not do much for anybody except the moneyed, and any expansion to the Bronx or Brooklyn seems like a dim hope. Other than that, nothing really helpful has happened since they built the 63rd St tunnel in 1997. Building the subway to SE Queens would have been great, but it will never happen now.
posted by zvs at 1:29 PM on September 10, 2012


Brooklyn Heights is post-gentrified. In the 70s it was kinda like the west villiage was in the 80s and part of the 90s. It was sort of rich artists and bohemians.

I also think what people think of as the UES, like the knickerbocker club and old money is really only a very small part of the UES. The part directly adjacent to the park between 57th and somwhere in the 80s at the highest. On the east side Harlem starts at 96th,

The parts of the UES, Yorkville really, that are closer to the water than the park and higher than 86th are just like any other part of New York, except slightly shittier because you are so far from a train and everyone thinks it is uncool.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:41 PM on September 10, 2012


#2 is probably going to rile up a lot of people here. People like to associate "home" with a geographical location. But the sad truth is that unless you actually own property, this is an illusion, and it ignores even the most recent history. The lower east side was German before it was Jewish, and Jewish before it was Hispanic. But I'm supposed to be upset about white hipsters moving in? Please. They're just the latest batch of people to occupy those apartments for a brief window of history. It's absurd that in a city as storied and dynamic as NYC, people to talk about a given group "owning" a neighborhood.

This. Look, this is the cycle of how housing happens. People move to an area because they think they can make a better life for themselves there. They don't, and shouldn't have to think about whether or not other people will be offended by their paying the market rates in the area.

I think what's unacceptable getting priced out of your own home thanks mostly to new residents who would just use your place as a stepping stone to their next place (hence, they could really move somewhere other than your place if they wanted) instead of actually investing in your neighborhood and its support services that would still be supporting you and your family, except you were priced out so...

Well, no one is ever getting priced out of their own home, unless you are saying property taxes are going up. Because if you own your home, you can't get priced out of it. If not, that place is not your home. It is a place you reside in.

Also, what is so bad about moving to better and better places as you move up in life until you can afford to live someplace nice? The way you say it, everyone should live in shit until they can afford to buy a place where they ultimately want to live forever.

Also, Governors Island. Just break the damned contract and build the everyloving snot out of it, high density neighborhood housing from floor to ceiling.

Aside from the nature of why that is morally a terrible idea, from a logistical standpoint, do you have any idea what a terrible idea it would be to open an entire island to development just to make a ghetto for poor people?
posted by corb at 1:55 PM on September 10, 2012


Well, no one is ever getting priced out of their own home, unless you are saying property taxes are going up. Because if you own your home, you can't get priced out of it.

My mother bought her home in the 70s at $40,000. It was valued at about 750,000 in the late 90s. Due to property taxes, she could no longer afford to live there.
posted by Melismata at 2:04 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because if you own your home, you can't get priced out of it. If not, that place is not your home.

What a ridiculous thing to say.
posted by enn at 2:20 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mother bought her home in the 70s at $40,000. It was valued at about 750,000 in the late 90s. Due to property taxes, she could no longer afford to live there.

Which is why property taxes are stupid. They were used in the pre-modern period as a proxy for income, because income was way too hard to track, but we have income tax now and we should just hike that and stop taxing property. (Obviously, if your wealth/property generates income, that should be taxed, and it would be as income tax).

Because if you own your home, you can't get priced out of it. If not, that place is not your home. It is a place you reside in.

that is a ridiculous statement. "Home" is not the same as "Property" - it's a word that a place where you have resided for which you have an emotional (and very real) attachment. Renters have homes, even "homeless" people will have places that they feel are their homes.

no, not all of us get to keep our homes. I was "priced out" of my childhood home by growing up and having a decent income, because my childhood home was a geared-to-income apartment in a public housing building. Now some other needy family is enjoying what was, all things considered, not a bad home. But the fact that we never owned that place doesn't make it any less a home.

I totally understand when people are upset about gentrification. I just don't think that blaming other renters makes any sense. It's property owners - whether landlords or owner-occupiers - who drive gentrification (or de-gentrification). We renters are all in the same boat and need to realize that our interests are the same.

As for solutions: the only solution I can think of for gentrification is public housing. We can't stop gentrification, but if we want to mitigate the disruption, we should work to establish lots of affordable housing within that neighbourhood so that long-term residents aren't priced out. Large public housing projects generally fail, but small public/social housing projects can be extremely successful, especially if they are managed on a co-operative basis where the residents are very involved in the management and upkeep.
posted by jb at 2:20 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which is why property taxes are stupid. They were used in the pre-modern period as a proxy for income, because income was way too hard to track, but we have income tax now and we should just hike that and stop taxing property. (Obviously, if your wealth/property generates income, that should be taxed, and it would be as income tax).

Yes, this exactly. Melismata, that's why I caveated: because sometimes property taxes do go up, and it's really awful - but this isn't the fault of the people moving into the neighborhood, but rather the fault of how these taxes are assessed and why this is taxed at all. I am firmly on the anti-property tax line.

I just don't think that blaming other renters makes any sense. It's property owners - whether landlords or owner-occupiers - who drive gentrification (or de-gentrification).

But this actually isn't true. There are a lot of people who bought houses in very nice neighborhoods, only to have their property values go down and the crime go up when more rental places at lower costs started opening up around them. (See: formerly middle-class neighborhoods in the Bronx.) It is really unfair to be upset at people for gentrifying areas, unless you're going to get upset at people for de-gentrifying areas. People move where they move, and business decisions happen around those choices. Now, this isn't to say that sometimes people take really unethical actions when gentrification happens, because sometimes they do. But the bare process as it stands is not evil.
posted by corb at 2:26 PM on September 10, 2012


Governor's Island is the last bit of underdeveloped space within a short distance of downtown. What's left after that?

If historical status, building height, and rent control restrictions were relaxed, a lot of quaint 10-story buildings would be demolished and replaced with hundreds of fifty- or sixty-story residential skyscrapers. There would be a million or two more people in Manhattan, and rents would go way down. Not saying that's a good idea -- just that "underdeveloped" is whatever you define it as.
posted by miyabo at 2:33 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Governor's Island is the last bit of underdeveloped space within a short distance of downtown. What's left after that?

I thought LIC/Sunnyside was really underdeveloped. I was living in a tiny building a mere 15 minutes away from Grand Central. NIMBYism is part of the reason there are so many tiny buildings that house 9 people, where there could be larger buildings housing many more.
posted by melissam at 2:39 PM on September 10, 2012


Some people in this thread seem to be wildly ignorant of how building codes came to pass. (Hint.)
posted by entropicamericana at 2:39 PM on September 10, 2012


There are a lot of people who bought houses in very nice neighborhoods, only to have their property values go down and the crime go up when more rental places at lower costs started opening up around them.

So they object to the actions of other property owners. My point still stands: it is not RENTERS who drive gentrification. It is property owners who set rental prices by whatever the market will bear and - given that housing is a necessity, not a luxury - the "market" (aka people who don't want to be homeless) will bear a great deal - whether that is paying too much of their income in rent or living in substandard accommodations.

as for whether people don't get mad at de-gentrification: generally, people have trouble getting upset when someone rich(er) loses a little money so someone poor(er) can have a home at all.
posted by jb at 2:41 PM on September 10, 2012


If historical status, building height, and rent control restrictions were relaxed, a lot of quaint 10-story buildings would be demolished and replaced with hundreds of fifty- or sixty-story residential skyscrapers. There would be a million or two more people in Manhattan, and rents would go way down. Not saying that's a good idea -- just that "underdeveloped" is whatever you define it as.

Or, as has happened in Toronto and Vancouver, a lot of cheaply constructed condo buildings will be thrown up, filled with studios and one-bedrooms, only to be bought up by investors and rents in the city will go up due to the loss of rental stock.
posted by jb at 2:44 PM on September 10, 2012



I just don't think that blaming other renters makes any sense.


You guys are right of course. I get mad because I see it as a game where everyone "wins" but the people driven out. Landlords squeeze every last drop they can from the property, push people out by fair means and foul. Seriously, one apartment they bounced basketballs on the floor above the bedroom all night, every night. It is much easier to get someone to move by harassment than eviction in NYC. New renters pay what they can bear, which is mostly 4 times that the old tennants could. I don't know why I should fault renters. They are the ones getting took, paying 3k a month rent.

I need to just get over it. None of you guys here did anything to drive my family out of our home. Sorry if I came off like a jackass.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:49 PM on September 10, 2012


You guys are right of course. I get mad because I see it as a game where everyone "wins" but the people driven out. Landlords squeeze every last drop they can from the property, push people out by fair means and foul.

See, this right here, this is the shitty point. It's not "property owners, yo." It's shitty landlords. The kind I mentioned above. They are the evils of gentrification. It's not the four college students living in a tiny apartment and paying way too much, it's not the guy down the block who bought a house for a sum the person selling was grateful to get, and it's not even the guys who lived in your apartment after you left. It's the guys harassing their own tenants. It's the guys using illegal, shitty means, to make a buck.
posted by corb at 2:54 PM on September 10, 2012


jb - London, an ultra-expensive enclave in the middle, with all the poor people living in beat-to-hell 200-year-old housing stock in the middle of nowhere

Would that be the London with more social housing units than NYCHA* in the 12 most central boroughs alone? Or the one where practically none of that area is more than 30 minutes from the centre by public transport? map is at bottom centred on arbitrary flat near St Paul's, link will die soon

*239,565, and I admit there may be non-NYCHA social housing but then I'm not counting housing associations in the London figure either

posted by doiheartwentyone at 2:59 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb: "Which is why property taxes are stupid. They were used in the pre-modern period as a proxy for income, because income was way too hard to track, but we have income tax now and we should just hike that and stop taxing property. (Obviously, if your wealth/property generates income, that should be taxed, and it would be as income tax).

Yes, this exactly. Melismata, that's why I caveated: because sometimes property taxes do go up, and it's really awful - but this isn't the fault of the people moving into the neighborhood, but rather the fault of how these taxes are assessed and why this is taxed at all. I am firmly on the anti-property tax line."


Comeon guys, California went this route and it has just meant pure disfunction. Property taxes are one of the most progressive forms of taxation (and source of funding for local areas) we have, because people put their wealth into housing. If your mom's property went from a value of 45,000 to 750,000; she may be priced out of paying the taxes, but she still made $700,000 of value from just owning the place. That isn't the worst fate in the world, nor is it a good reason to throw out property taxes.
posted by stratastar at 3:00 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Comeon guys, California went this route and it has just meant pure disfunction

No, California did the stupid thing and near-froze property tax for existing owners.

This combined with the housing boom (which while "busted" has left houses in many areas still WAY above 80's/early 90's prices) means plenty of people are paying a fraction of what they "would" pay in property tax.

Which would be OK, except that the state responds by increasing the overall property tax rate. So new buyers pay a LOT more than existing owners, all of the property tax burden gets pushed onto younger people.

This creates horrible friction in the housing market, because if you sold your $500,000 house and bought a new $300,000 house you could end up paying way MORE in property tax. And property tax rates for new buyers are very very high.

That is not at all the same as getting rid of property tax as the above posters were indicating, which would avoid all of this mess.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:23 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Comeon guys, California went this route and it has just meant pure disfunction...

I think those guys are advocating a concomitant increase in income taxes to improve the overall fairness of the tax system.

A large increase in property value doesn't help you buy your groceries, especially if your tax bill has just increased along with it.
posted by klanawa at 3:35 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which is why property taxes are stupid. ... We have income tax now and we should just hike that and stop taxing property.

I strongly disagree. Eliminating property taxes would have the opposite effect. Tying property taxes to assessment based on "highest and best use" is how urban development is stimulated -- it provides an incentive for the previous owner to sell to someone who will develop the property.

It is sad when someone is priced out by property taxes, but I'm not entirely sympathetic to this argument. At the worst case, the person in this hypothetical example acquired over half a million dollars of supplementary income over twenty years! And in the more normal case, home equity loans can be used to mitigate this problem, as do senior citizen tax exemptions (very common in NYC).
posted by zvs at 3:59 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would that be the London with more social housing units than NYCHA* in the 12 most central boroughs alone?

I'm not trying to insult British social policy at all -- I think it's far superior to its US equivalent -- but are you really going to argue that London is affordable as a place to rent or own property?
posted by zvs at 4:02 PM on September 10, 2012


jb - London, an ultra-expensive enclave in the middle, with all the poor people living in beat-to-hell 200-year-old housing stock in the middle of nowhere

Would that be the London with more social housing units than NYCHA* in the 12 most central boroughs alone? Or the one where practically none of that area is more than 30 minutes from the centre by public transport? map is at bottom centred on arbitrary flat near St Paul's, link will die soon


I don't think I made that comment. I'm aware that there are housing benefits in the UK, including for people in the most expensive areas of London. Also, the London transit system is pretty awesome. It might be insanely crowded, but it's fast.

I was thinking not of the UK, but of the Netherlands when I was talking about extending housing benefits into the middle-class -- but the UK may also be a place where having housing benefit reaches more people than in the US or Canada, and thus more people value housing benefits.
posted by jb at 4:21 PM on September 10, 2012


Governors Island is mostly undeveloped and, because of the deed restriction, no one knows what to do with it. It's about 30 acres bigger than Roosevelt Island, and (in my mind at least) that makes it big enough to support a real neighborhood with everything that goes with it. I'm not talking about making it a prison for poor people. I don't see any reason why good stewardship and proper urban planning couldn't make it into a healthy mixed-income place to live. It's only about 2500 feet from the South Ferry station to the Island, and with the political will that connection could be made (there was never a reason to make it when it was only a Coast Guard station). Or alternatively, different solutions could be found. Hell, Robert Moses (not that I'm a fan, mind you) proposed building a bridge to the Island, which only got nixed because of the War. Assuming the average density for Manhattan, there's room for about 20,000 people to live there. That's nothing to sneeze at. Make those streets pedestrian-focused instead of car-focused and you can use the land even more efficiently.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:57 AM on September 11, 2012


Governors Island is mostly undeveloped and, because of the deed restriction, no one knows what to do with it.

Um....they're already well underway with development plans, actually. The bulk of it is being converted to parkland/green space.

I mean, I hear you (I would SO live out there, personally), but I think that ship has sailed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:15 AM on September 11, 2012


If your mom's property went from a value of 45,000 to 750,000; she may be priced out of paying the taxes, but she still made $700,000 of value from just owning the place. That isn't the worst fate in the world, nor is it a good reason to throw out property taxes.

Yes, she made money when she left. But she would have preferred to stay in the house she loved.
posted by Melismata at 7:17 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


zvs - are you really going to argue that London is affordable as a place to rent or own property

Not in general: poorer people without access to social housing are mostly screwed, and the number of people on the wait lists is similar to the number of people in the housing. But those on housing benefit were until recently guaranteed to have their rent covered. My local council once tried to settle claimants 150 miles away because they couldn't afford to pay it.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 1:07 AM on September 12, 2012


And I don't know why I thought zvs was jb, apologies. I don't disagree with the point zvs was actually making and will now cease the derail.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 1:14 AM on September 12, 2012


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