Gentrification: A case study in missing the point

What if nobody could force those homeowners to leave?

So, I saw a piece recently that described my landlord as an evil racist colonist because she bought a house in an area that’s slowly being made into a much nicer place to live and used to be crime ridden (a former boss had his door kicked in twice by robbers before he finally bought a steel core door). Looking around, it seems that gentrification is also RACIST WARFARE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Appeals to emotion aside, it looks like a lot of people hate gentrification. On the one hand, I can understand that. Blacks haven’t ever had a lot, as a demographic, so selling the one thing you could call truly yours has got to be yet another humbling experience.

In a sense, for the price of moving 10 miles, gentrification could be a massive redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks.

On the other, if they wait and only sell when they really just can’t afford Whole Foods for another day, that’s probably a $40k–100k payoff. That’s take-a-year-off-to-learn-how-to-be-an-electrician-or-welder money. That’s an economic windfall that could be the difference between a solid middle class income and zero prospects.

In a sense, for the price of moving 10 miles, gentrification could be a massive redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks. Blacks bought low and can now sell high… really high. Seriously, take that money and run. In the words of the bard, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?

If a black person decides it’s better to sell to a white person than to stay, who are we to tell them otherwise?

More importantly, if a black person decides it’s better to sell to a white person than to stay, who are we to tell them otherwise? Are we now also going to participate in suppressing their humanity? Wouldn’t that be oppression? Nobody is forcing these people to leave. At worst, they have to drive a few miles to find an affordable grocery store, but the schools get better and the neighborhood safer, so that’s probably a decent trade off.

Right?

But it’s not that simple, is it?

If this were all there was to it, I’d be forced to dismiss the wailing as petty tyrants trying to get their way (and to a large extent, it is). To our great chagrin, though, there is significantly more to it.

Property taxes begin the list. They are the bane of the poor home owner in a gentrifying neighborhood. You know the story. A poor family has paid off the mortgage, but then their house gets re-appraised and they simply can not afford the new financial burden.

This is wrong. Unequivocally. Without exception. That family has paid for its property with years, decades probably, of sweat and toil. It is theirs, and to expel them through forcible confiscation of wealth without moral cause is evil.

Just like hiking property taxes, eminent domain is a blight on society.

Moving on, we also must address eminent domain. There is actually an article in the Constitution protecting this particular power of the State, but that document was never perfect. Sublime and a towering achievement of humanity, yes, but not perfect. Definitely not that.

Its implementation is even more thuggish than property taxes. Some homeowner can pay the taxes, but an investor wants to build a strip mall for new clientele. The resident will not sell. No worries! Who needs consensual transactions when you can just talk to the councilman you have on speed dial into removing the eye sore on the corner?

Just like hiking property taxes on somebody who has put in the work, eminent domain is a blight on society.

Reform

The defining element of these tools of the state is the initiation of violence. These homeowners have respected the property of their neighbors. They have remained peaceful, probably even productive. There exists no cause for evicting them, yet the state arbitrarily decides to flex its muscles to do so.

We must resist these programs of violence.

Just as we must also respect the black homeowner’s right to sell at a profit.

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