- Nov 2016
To what extent do these mixed-income efforts providemechanisms to integrate low-income people into well-functioning communities withaccess to amenities and opportunities, and to what extent are they mechanisms to facilitatethe appropriation of urban space by and for more affluent residents and the interests ofcapital in the context of a broader neoliberal agenda
From what I've learned this semester, this is the question at the root of urban planning and development: how will this effect the upper and lower classes respectively? To what extent are these projects meant to integrate these two vastly different groups of people? At what point do they just become money-making schemes? In the case of the BeltLine, the original intent of the project was to create a space accessible to and affordable for all. The popularity of and the potential profitability of the project has cause priorities to shift in favor of the upper class.
Notions of social organization and concerns about social control and safetyprovide one important theoretical argument for mixed-income responses to concentratedpoverty and the problems of public housing, and also underlie many of the tensionsthat emerge in on-the-ground encounters between newcomers and established residentsin gentrifying contexts. As state-sponsored efforts at ‘positive gentrification’ and socialintegration, mixed-income responses to public housing reform complicate thesedynamics, raising particular questions about rights, appropriation, use values, thedelineation of public and private (space, ownership, action, responsibility), and tensionsbetween freedom and control.
The issues surrounding integrative mixed-income neighborhoods are understandably complex and often call into question the rights of existing residents while facing considerable backlash from both income groups. The term "positive gentrification" seems almost an oxymoron these days, at least for current residents. Gentrification is more or less synonymous with whitewashing in the sense that poorer minorities are forced out of the neighborhood after it is revitalized. This often discourages gentrification. At the same time, the higher class is concerned with the the safety and upkeep of their neighborhoods, which may encourage plans to oust the lower class.
As David Harvey (1988) makes clear, use value and exchange value are intimately tied in thecontext of land and development, the unique qualities of which distinguish it from other kinds ofcommodities. Use and exchange value are constructed differently by a range of different actors(residents, landlords, realtors, developers, financial institutions, government) and reflect a broadrange of (changing, situational) needs, idiosyncrasies and habits. Mixed-income developments areamong the ‘catalytic moments in the urban land-use decision process when use value and exchangevalue collide to make commodities out of the land and improvements thereon’ (ibid.: 160), thenegotiation of which plays out in concrete ways on the ground
After searching for mixed income developments in the United States and coming up with results that more or less discussed how much of a failure they have been, I decided to search for public housing successes in other countries. The best examples were by far Vienna and Singapore, which both maximize urban space and succeed in integrating income groups. They offer residences for people of all classes, and there is a noticable difference between housing developments in the United States and these two countries.
New York City
Mixed income housing has the potential to overcome some of the barriers that are exacerbatedby segregation, but it will take more than just physical integration. ‘Right to the city’ providesa foundation for social integration that goes beyond a superficial level of social interaction.Through encouraging diversity, a respect for different cultures can be fostered.
This reminds me of Sara Schindler's article about discrimination and segregation through the physical design of the built environment. In contrast to what Schindler address in her article, middle income housing seeks to eliminate segregation by physically integrating communities through middle income housing. As the article says, however, this is easier said than done. In order to enfranchise (if you will), members of the community must feel that they have a right to where they live and connect to their community.
It’s important to note here the role that the Superblock at Westhaven Park plays in bothheightening attention to issues of gang- and drug-related crime, and serving as thepresumed source of many of these problems.
This is an issue that seems to come up fairly frequently in our discussions of Atlanta and the built environment, although it's generally a fear that seems relatively unfounded. Superblocks are generally unappealing and unwalkable because they create areas that lack interaction and economic activity. That sort of desolation in a city environment generally means that gangs and undesirables are more likely to congregate in these areas, and therefore people are afraid to walk there. Here we see that fear validated--most of the crime in Westhaven Park originates from the Superblock. Areas like these can be improved dramatically by doing things like adding trees and narrowing the streets to encourage foot traffic.
I’m an African American black female. I have a master’s degree. I mean I don’t stunt mygrowth because of the environment that I’m in, and I talk a little bit to the kids. I give themthings to try to draw some attention to myself so that I can communicate with them, but Ialso have — on the other side of that I can see that there’s some jealousy and envy from lackof understanding because I’m not going to revert to some of their negative ways which is, youknow, the talk, the walk, the clothes. I’m not gonna do that. I’m gonna be me. And my car’sbeen scratched up. My mirror’s been broken off. I can’t put my name on the mailbox. Theykeep taking it off. I mean going through stuff like that and it’s very frustrating and verydiscouraging because it’s my own people, you know?
I think it's interesting to note the dynamic between community members. While the physical community exists and includes everyone who lives in the mixed income housing neighborhoods, the black community exists separately from that. The renter's attempt to separate herself from the "negative ways" of her neighbors raises a couple of questions in my mind. Why should her neighbors' behavior be considered negative? This question is similar to one the article poses: what's wrong with hanging out? This "othering" and separation between races and classes is at the root of segregation, and while we tend to believe that there is only response on the part of the "superior" residents, it is clear that the their counterparts react negatively to the separation and othering as well.
Thus, we conclude that mixed-income development, at least as implemented andexperienced at these three sites in Chicago, fails to avoid fundamental social challengescommon to other gentrifying neighborhoods, such as differential influence over acceptedbehavioral norms, stigmatization based on race and class, and general discomfort anddistance based on perceptions of difference.
The conclusion of the experiment was surprising and unexpected to me. I sincerely believed that the physical integration of the community would allow the residents to overcome the social challenges outlined in the article. It also makes me what the extent to which same income neighborhoods are successful in terms of overcoming social issues like race, or even general differences between neighbors. Are the problems surrounding the gentrification of neighborhoods rooted in class, or are they rooted in other issues, like race or the appropriation of space? I think it would be interesting to conduct studies that would serve as a standard of comparison for the Chicago mixed income housing units.
the transformation of public housing
Another reason why mixed-income development face particular backlash is stigma surrounding public housing. As Blumgart says in his article, "Public housing in the United States is associated with failure and misery," and I would agree. Most, if not all, of the "projects" in Atlanta have been demolished. A good number of them lack public funding and fall into states of disrepair while people are still living there. They are breeding grounds for poverty, crime, and troubled children. The public housing policies in the United States are terrible, but, as the author states, "there is nothing inherently doomed in the concept of public housing."
Blumgart, Jake. "4 Public Housing Lessons the U.S. Could Learn From the Rest of the World." Equity Factor. Next City, 26 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.
On theother hand, the fact that these efforts are essentially market-driven strategies thatprivatize former public housing developments — transferring property and responsibilityfor development and management to private developers and largely relying on attractinghigher-income homeowners — may lead to the privileging of exchange-valueorientations that are specifically opposed to Lefebvre’s notions of city life, whichprioritize use value and habitation
This is one of the most frustrating aspects of urban development in my opinion, and it's completely at odds with Lefebvre's right to the city, which is rooted, as the article says, in value and habitation. The city is more or less meant to be public space, funded for the people and by the people. Unfortunately, the neo-liberal values of American culture come creeping in and private companies feel the need to swoop in and make a profit with no interest in the public good. In the case of real estate, they tend to gentrify struggling areas and effectively eliminate any possibility of the original residents living there by installing more expensive housing and businesses. Once established, these neighborhoods and businesses exclude the original residents from the community and the private companies profit off an area that wasn't really theirs to begin with.
ROBERT J. CHASKIN and MARK L. JOSEPH
In her article, Maria Saporta explains the reported reason behind Atlanta BeltLine founder Ryan Gravel's departure from the BeltLine board of directors. Joined by fellow board member Nathaniel Smith, Gravel resigned in order to draw attention to the lack of attention the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership has given to "issues of equity and affordability." According to the article, the Atlanta Beltline Partnership is the private sector organization responsible for fundraising, advocacy, and affordability along the BeltLine.
In the full story, which is published on the SaportaReport and includes the full resignation letter signed by Gravel and Smith, the two former board members express concern over the ABP's emphasis on fundraising above affordability. In their letter, they also expressed concerns and regrets over the loss of community input in the project, saying they believe that "who the Atlanta BeltLine is built for is just as important as whether it is built at all." Despite the increase in funding, the ABP has ignored its obligation to create affordable housing along the BeltLine. According to the letter, recently acquired funds will support fewer than 200 affordable units out of the required 5,600. Their resignation will, hopefully, result in "elevated concern" for the affordability and equal access of the BeltLine.
Saporta, Maria. "Beltline Founder Gravel Resigns from Board." Atlanta Business Chronicle, 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.
Saporta, Maria. "Ryan Gravel and Nathaniel Smith Resign from BeltLine Partnership Board over Equity Concerns." SaportaReport, 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.