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How to Fight Gentrification’s Real Culprit, Political Privilege

By: Guest Contributor - Mar 20, 2017, 8:51 am
gentrification
When considering gentrification, we must accept the fact that rich people don’t just vaporize by prohibiting the creation of housing for them. (FEE)

By Adam Hengels

Gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste. It is the result of powerful economic forces. Those who misunderstand the nature of the economic forces at play, risk misdirecting those forces in ways that exasperate city-wide displacement. Before discussing solutions, it is important to accept that gentrification is one symptom of a larger problem.

Anti-capitalists often portrays gentrification as class war, painting the archetypal greedy developer as the culprit:

Gentrification has always been a top-down affair, not a spontaneous hipster influx, orchestrated by the real estate developers and investors who pull the strings of city policy, with individual home-buyers deployed in mopping up operations.

Is gentrification a class war? In a way, yes. But the typical class analysis mistakes the symptom for the cause, and ends up pointing the finger at the wrong rich people. There is no grand conspiracy concocted by real estate developers, though its not surprising it seems that way.

Real estate developers would be happy to build in already expensive neighborhoods where demand is stable and predictable. They don’t because they are typically not allowed to. Take Chicago’s Lincoln Park for example. Daniel Hertz points out that the number of housing units there actually decreased 4.1% since 2000 and the neighborhood hasn’t allowed a single unit of affordable housing to be developed in 35 years. The affluent residents of Lincoln Park like their neighborhood the way it is and have the political clout to keep it that way.

Given that development projects are blocked in upper class neighborhoods, developers seek out alternatives. Here’s where “pulling the strings” is a viable strategy for developers. Politicians are far more willing to upzone working class neighborhoods. These communities are far less influential and have far fewer resources with which to fight back. The end result is that rich, entitled, white areas get down-zoned, while less-affluent, disempowered, minority areas are up-zoned. Politicians appease politically influential neighborhoods through limited growth, and then appease developers who see less influential neighborhoods as the only viable place for new construction.

Too often, the knee-jerk response is to fight development in these gentrifying neighborhoods. The consequences of this are two-fold. First, economics 101 tells us that capping supply will only cause prices to rise. Instead of newcomers filling newly-constructed units, they will quickly flood the existing stock of housing, quickening gentrification. Second, thwarting development shuts the release valve that alleviates housing price pressures that caused gentrification in the first place. Since not building is not an option, politicians would prefer to funnel new construction into disadvantaged neighborhoods instead of letting it happen where there is market demand. Development suppressed, gentrification swiftly captures the neighborhood and moves on to the next neighborhood in its path.

When considering gentrification, we must accept the fact that rich people don’t just vaporize by prohibiting the creation of housing for them. If housing desires cannot be met in upscale neighborhoods, the wealthy can and will outbid less affluent people elsewhere. With that in mind, there are only 2 solutions to stem the tide of gentrification. The first solution is widespread liberalization of zoning. This is particularly needed in already desirable locations where incumbent residents have effectively depopulated their neighborhoods over several decades. The only other solution is to eradicate rich people altogether. This, I hope, is not what people have in mind when they declare class war.

Whether you are a class warrior or Market Urbanist, here are some tips to more effectively fight gentrification:

  • The battlefield is not in the gentrifying neighborhoods. It is in the more wealthy neighborhoods where empowered residents fight to keep new people out.
  • The enemy is not the gentrifiers or developers trying to serve them. It is the rich people who use their influence to thwart development in their neighborhoods. The more they fight to depopulate desirable neighborhoods, the more people are left seeking alternative neighborhoods.
  • The mechanism of gentrification is not development. It is zoning, and other regulations that thwart development in currently desirable areas.
  • The solution is not to fight development in currently gentrifying areas. It’s to call for radical liberalization of zoning in already wealthy areas, and to stand up to neighborhood groups who try to abuse zoning to prevent that.
  • The reason people gentrify is not to disrupt ethnic or economically-challenged neighborhoods. It is likely because they have been priced out of the neighborhood they desire.

Adam Hengels is SVP and Director of Development of PAD, a real estate development start-up that builds communities for young professionals. This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Ecuadorian Catholic Church Denounces Fake Pope Quote in Presidential Campaign

By: Elena Toledo - @NenaToledo - Mar 17, 2017, 4:18 pm
A statement attributed to Pope Francis, which was used by Lenin Moreno's campaign, has recently been deemed a fake (

Español The Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference (CEE) expressed in an official communiqué on its website that the use of a phrase attributed to Pope Francis who mentions the risk of choosing a "rich president" had already circulated in the media since before Ecuador's first round elections last February 19. "When you choose a rich president, he will want to continue to be wealthy at the expense of your poverty. Never let him," says the message that is accompanied by an image of Pope Francis. Read More: Guillermo Lasso Denounces Lilian Tintori's Expulsion from Ecuador Read More: Ecuadorian Opposition Candidate Lasso Gains Momentum in Presidential Run with New Endorsements The Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference said that the Pontiff has never said or written such words, supporting his argument with a press release from the Vatican agency Aciprensa. "A publication that attributes to Pope Francisco political phrases has gone viral in recent weeks on social networks, in an attempt to influence the second round of elections in Ecuador," says the Vatican news agency. As a result, the ecclesiastical body requested that no statements be attributed to Pope Francis or to the bishops of the different dioceses of Ecuador for electoral propaganda purposes. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1459522593195-0'); }); Social networking users also expressed their distaste at using the message attributed to Pope Francis to support the campaign of the ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno, who has the support of the current president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. Now, it appears that the quote itself is completely fictitious. Opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso is locked in a tight battle with former vice president Lenin Moreno. The candidates will face off on April 2 in a second round election, since neither candidate won 50%, or 40% with a 10% margin of victory, in the first round. Lasso, a banker and former governor of Guayas province, has received a boost from other former candidates, including Paco Moncayo of the Democratic Left and Cynthia Viteri of the Social Christian Party, but recent polls have given the edge to Moreno. Source: La Republica

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