Tag Archives: housing

Cranes Soaring to Escape London

New Orleans  One thing that intrigued me in both England and Ireland over the last two weeks was the amount of construction in every city I visited.   These were not little small-time projects, but giant cranes building skyscrapers in most of the cities.

Manchester was out of control.  On the tram in Manchester going to the office, I looked out and could see seven or eight cranes in the distance with existing towers already in place way outside of the city center.  I asked the organizers what’s up, and they pointed behind me to the other side of the tram car, and there were another three or four right there as well.  Going into Leeds train station I counted eight cranes on the horizon of this smaller city.  Walking along my accustomed route to Bristol’s Temple Mead station in the last half kilometer, I was walking between multistory buildings going up with new construction on both sides of the street.  Sheffield almost the same thing.  Then again in Dublin, the members said there were building all over the city center.

I kept asking, “What’s happening?”  Are there new jobs or corporate relocations driving this?  The answers varied, but no one really knew.  In some places, Dublin and Sheffield particularly the fingers pointed towards construction of student housing where developers build privately for universities and cop an extra 25% on the rents to the desperate students.  In other cities, as we scratched our heads, there were no clear answers.  Land was cheaper, we speculated in the north, but that doesn’t factor enough for developers to risk millions and millions.  Most of the construction was high-end rentals or condos it seemed. The only real answer seemed to be that either there already is a mass exodus from the exorbitant cost of housing in London that is driving people elsewhere to have an opportunity to ever buy or even to rent something or that developers realize that London has become so crazy that the hordes are bound to be coming.  Either this is the biggest favor that London has inadvertently done some of the other cities or there is a huge bubble in high-end and quasi-commercial buildings.

One thing is clear from everyone.  Almost none of this is about building social housing or affordable housing so that existing residents in these cities can find decent housing.  In Dublin for example, organizers were telling me that many people are decamping from there to Glasgow because the cost of housing is cheaper there.

None of this seems sustainable or sound policy about how to grow and who to serve in growing, which seems to make a crash unavoidable.

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Please enjoy Grace Potter – Back To Me [Feat. Lucius]

Thanks to WAMF.

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The Big, Fat Long Tail of Neighborhood Segregation

Manchester     The “long tail” is a tech-marketing concept that pundits and futurists promote with some enthusiasm.  The heart of it is that some businesses, especially enabled by the internet and the Amazon world view, could make money on small, niche products, even at low sale volumes, almost forever.  Some things are not small market, but seem to have even longer, larger, and fatter tails, and one of those is segregation in housing and neighborhoods and its continuing ability from the Civil War through the white supremacists push back to end Reconstruction to the rise of the KKK and then embedded as an ideology nationally and in the South not just in culture but also in governmental policy.

In 2017, Richard Rothstein published a brilliant book, The Color of Law:  The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, that made it clear that the residual impact of segregation was a national policy, rigorously applied by government, private enterprise and banking in the middle of the 20th century going forward until the late 1960s and the passage of the Fair Housing Act and other reforms.   The book was also crystal clear that the racial wealth gap endured in robust fashion today, since so much of individual citizen wealth comes from home ownership and thereby neighborhood value, because of the enduring impact – the long tail – of these overly segregationist practices.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Rothstein reprised his Color of Law arguments in looking at the proposals of the Trump administration for housing policy now under Secretary Ben Carson to eliminate challenges to efforts to re-segregate or perpetuate segregation in housing.  Central to enforcement of Fair Housing requirements, upheld by all federal appeals courts, has been the ability to prove adverse impact through the theory and practice of “disparate impact” on racial minorities.  Essentially, even if overt racism could not be proven, if we were able to establish that the impact was averse to minorities, regardless of intent, then there was a remedy.

Trump’s HUD is now trying to unravel this doctrine, as Rothstein makes clear, by forcing complaints to overcome innumerable obstacles.  As Rothstein writes,

complainants would have to imagine every conceivable justification that the city might assert, and prove that each was not legitimate, without knowing what actual defense the city might claim or what standard of legitimacy HUD would impose. If the city then came up with a justification that the homeowners hadn’t refuted to HUD’s satisfaction … HUD could dismiss the disparate impact action. A process that requires complainants to refute defenses that haven’t yet been offered is one that is designed to block civil rights, not protect them.

This is a policy that seems so Catch-22 and bizarre that it seems unimaginable that it is even contemplated, much less in the process of being formulated and imposed.  Unbelievably, the new HUD policy seems to track the racist effort of Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish to prevent a project’s construction with diverse and contradictory claims to disguise their actions as something other than discrimination.  The Supreme Court ruled their effort illegal, but now HUD is attempting to recraft their rejection of St. Bernard’s excuses, as requirements of their rule. Other new HUD policies, Rothstein notes, attempt to delete any mention of “segregation,” further diluting the protections of the Fair Housing Act.

Welcome to America where on one day we can celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King and on the next we can contemplate the work of yet another government agency and another racist administration doing its damnedest to eliminate the civil rights and economic justice won with a return to segregation perpetuating inequality.

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