January 30, 2014

There Goes the Neighborhood: (How) Marginalization Happens

This post is the forth in a series examining how city development impacts the poor. If you haven't read the firstsecond & third posts, start there as it will help make sense of what follows.

Image selected by David Smith & he wants you to know it!
Inner City has been a term used for some time that carries with it implications concerning poor, usually black and brown communities. As inner city neighborhoods are invested in, police are often utilized to clean up the area, and code enforcement comes along to lean on the homes of the poor that are poorly kept. I have known many neighbors who have been too old or disabled to do the work required by code enforcement, and equally too poor to pay someone, only to have liens put on their homes as the city fines them. Another issue is one of property tax: If you are poor and live in a house that your family has owned for generations, these taxes become the main financial burden of the house. As new neighbors invest in their own home and increase the value of the area, your property taxes rise as well. When left unpaid, investors will swoop in and pay your taxes so as to place a lien on your property and gain leverage for the impending exodus from your family home. God forbid you are just a renter in one of these neighborhoods where a landlord (who has always been trying to make some money on the property) realizes that they can do much better than you in terms of tenants and rent. Out you go as hip young suburbanites move into your old place.

As this slow tide of displacement transitions entire neighborhoods through complete demographic inversion, the older suburbs have become poorer, blacker, browner, and completely abandoned by the white folks with the money to move on. Temple Terrace has seen an 18% drop in median income, and the Greater Carrolwood area has decreased by 17%. While money continues to leave these areas and find itself in the urban center, it seems many of these suburbs have seen tremendous growth in Asian and Latino populations. If you have not noticed this as a Tampa resident, just take a drive down Waters Avenue from Florida Avenue to the Veterans Expressway, and pay attention to the shops and restaurants. Ask yourself who might run them. Stop and have yourself some Pho or Puerco Asado along the way. You’ll be glad you did.

Inner city, as the term has been used, is gradually becoming outdated.

So, The question remains: Where are the poor to go? For now it seems that the answer is Suitcase City, which has seen a 53% decrease in median income over the last few decades (as well as the surrounding neighborhoods). The poor, who have always been marginalized in our society, are now being pushed to the literal margins of the city itself. This is the trajectory of our city. It is also a damned shame.

It seems clear to me that our nation, our state, our city, our neighborhoods, and each of our streets can — and should — be judged by how we treat the poor among us. It is often by indirect effects (or indifference and neglect) that the poor are pushed around and into the margins. I am not bold enough to claim some grand design or conspiracy behind the poor emanating to the shorelines of despair in our city, but I do feel very comfortable pointing out the fact that we have not considered them. We have not included them in planning, and we have repressed every voice that arises on their behalf. They are bad for business.

Continue to part five: Justice Amid Gentrification

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