The credit crunch in the US has slowed down the housing market to some degree, but that doesn’t necessarily stop the gentrification of low-income areas. In fact, since the bubble burst and people are feeling a little pinched in terms of the amounts they can borrow, it makes these lower value properties even more enticing.
Gentrification, for those who don’t know, is basically a process where lower-income people are displaced from their neighbourhoods due to an influx of higher income dwellers. These people are attracted by low prices, and tend to involve a lot of yuppies and artists as the first wave. As the values increase, more and more individuals tend to move in, and thus pushing the original inhabitants further away.
Condo developers tend to love this, because they can demolish low-rent buildings and put up those concrete monstrosities you see all over the place and then put the units on the market for a much higher rent. High density urban housing is very attractive at the moment, and this has the unfortunate side effect of removing affordable housing from all over the city.
The LA Times is reporting that the Bronx is feeling this push at the moment. They’re highlighting the fight to save 1520 Sedgwick Ave (pictured above). This address may not really mean anything to you yet, but it is widely credited as being the birthplace of hip hop. Clive Campell (eventually known as DJ Kool Herc) started throwing parties in this building and eventually began to DJ for them. He was the first to introduce “breaks” and try to extend tracks by mixing two copies of the same record together for people to dance to.
It’s not that the parties stayed in this building for too long or anything, but it does have a special place in history. On top of that, the mere notion that this affordable housing building is going to be no longer in the rent-control program is troubling. A lot of the residents could not afford the new rent prices, and it seems like a travesty to have to move them.
But Michael Bloomerg and NY City Hall has the ability to overrule the sale of this building to a upmarket property developer, and I sincerely hope they do. Seeing as it is the birthplace of hip hop, Kool Herc is on board helping the tenants raise money to purchase the building themselves as part of a tenant’s association. Many politicans, including local Congressmen are taking up the fight as well.
You see this kind of thing happening in most cities across North America, from Toronto to Tampa Bay. But here’s hoping that these people win this fight. After all, people deserve a place to live.