11.8.16

THE TRADE-OFFS OF SNOB ZONING.

In Marietta, Georgia, a complex that used to be starter apartments, back when real incomes were lower and real housing prices higher, has turned into cheap rentals.  Thus, the Wise Experts have it removed, to the dismay of City Commentary's Joe Cortright.
Along the way, the economic and and racial makeup of the apartments transformed from nearly 90 percent white in 1980, with a poverty rate around five percent, to 20 percent white in 2010, with a poverty rate of nearly 25 percent.

Despite the usefulness of filtering, which increased the diversity of suburban Marietta, the city perceived these units as growing concentrations of poverty and, thus, a problem. So it used the proceeds of a voter-approved bond measure to purchase and begin demolishing the housing complexes. It’s worth noting that no one ever claimed that the buildings themselves were a problem, despite their age. Rather, it had everything to do with the demographics of their occupants.
In Mr Cortright's narrative, it's more class snobbery at work.
In any large city—say New York, Los Angeles or Washington—the wholesale demolition of affordable housing to provide discounted land for new businesses would undoubtedly be treated as the most pernicious form of gentrification. But because it happens in a suburb, somehow it doesn’t count, or at least isn’t objectionable.

Perhaps this reflects a deeply ingrained but seldom-voiced bias in our views about place: Suburbs are for rich, mostly white people. Cities are for poorer people and people of color. Anything change that runs counter to this worldview (like gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood, or efforts to build affordable apartments in suburbs like Marin County) is an affront to the order of things. The apparent prevalence of this outlook shows just how hard it will be to make progress on economic integration.
Gentrification, we have noted previously, is emergent and complex and not amenable to interventions by Wise Experts let alone by boutique multiculturalists.  And perhaps the willingness of this suburb to rid itself of potential Section 8 housing is the predictable fruit of fifty years of do-your-own-thing and situational ethics and the bad habits of poor people being excused as "their culture" or "a response to conditions" or the most pernicious of all, "authenticity."  Thus, there are people behaving badly, irrespective of race, color, national origin.

In a world in which "why are they allowed" becomes just another ratchet downward, what else would you have the remnant do?

There is one bit of good news, though.  The apartment complex will be redeveloped as corporate welfare for a professional soccer team.  The team will pay $1 a year "for the first ten years of a thirty year lease."

What's the over-under on Atlanta United holding up another community for an improved practice field in 2027?

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