Raleigh's gentrification gains national spotlight

The whitening of former black neighborhoods:

In the places where white households are moving, reinvestment is possible mainly because of the disinvestment that came before it. Many of these neighborhoods were once segregated by law and redlined by banks. Cities neglected their infrastructure. The federal government built highways that isolated them and housing projects that were concentrated in them. Then banks came peddling predatory loans.

“A single-family detached house with a yard within a mile of downtown in any other part of the world is probably the most expensive place to live,” said Kofi Boone, a professor at North Carolina State University’s College of Design. Here, because of that history, it’s a bargain. And while that briefly remains true in South Park, the disinvestment and reinvestment are visible side by side on any given street.

This is one of those issues that is not cut-and-dried: Depending on how well a house was built (and maintained over the years), a lot of the older homes are simply not safe or healthy to live in. If it was built between 1930 and 1965 or so, there's a (very) good chance asbestos is in there somewhere. Could be the flooring, could be the plaster walls, it could even be in the HVAC ducting system. In other words, just rehabbing an old home can be dangerous, no matter how historically significant that structure is in the neighborhood. But that's just one part of the gentrification equation. It's not always (or even often) an "evil" developer trying to make a buck; some of these folks are conscientious progressives:

Mr. Queen, who had worked in historic preservation, has rehabilitated or built about 100 homes in the historic corridor just east of downtown Raleigh, starting with a house that he and his wife lived in and renovated on the edge of South Park a decade ago. Mr. Queen was his own market: He rejected long car commutes and cul-de-sacs. This part of the city was more affordable than anywhere else near downtown. And he wanted diversity.

“What I didn’t want to do is move to a neighborhood where all the kids look exactly the same as my kids,” said Mr. Queen, who is white. “I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.”

The people who have bought Mr. Queen’s houses have been part of this process, even if they did so valuing the area’s diversity.

Andrew and Kelly Hudgins, a white couple, purchased one of those homes in 2017 in South Park. They looked at a racial dot map of Raleigh when they first moved to the area. They knew they wanted to be where the white dots didn’t dominate, but they worried about furthering gentrification themselves.

All good intentions aside, the net result of this movement has made living in these neighborhoods a hell of a lot more expensive. Too expensive for the families who have lived there for many decades. And they also can't afford a $350,000 house in the suburbs. It's a huge problem, and one that "the market" simply cannot deal with, even if said market wanted to. Which it doesn't.

Raleigh needs a genuine affordable housing initiative, one that doesn't try to leverage developers into dedicating 10% of their units to folks making 80% of the median income. For Raleigh, that would be somewhere around $42,000 per year income. Shuffle the numbers all you want, that's still middle-class.

Here's an idea: Unless I'm sorely mistaken, Raleigh's property tax is a little over 43 cents per $100 value. Guess what? That's low. Very low. While it does bring in a ton of revenue, you could nudge that up a few pennies specifically to subsidize truly affordable housing. I'm not talking $1,500 per month apartments, I'm talking like $500-$650 per month. Within walking distance of downtown, where modest jobs can be found earning $9.00-$15.00 per hour.

The development might not be profitable, but profit comes in many forms.

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