First Comes the Artists, then Gentrification…”What’s a Mother to do??!!”

The artists move into the industrial, run down part of town.  Rents are cheap, spaces are big. Cafes and bars start to open. The area becomes hip, creativity is flowing…and the lawyers move in. Nice restaurants and high end clothing stores open up.

Get 'em while they're hot!

The prices skyrocket. The artists are forced to move out, the Soul fades…ah, but it’s a good investment! The Condos pop up, get ’em while they’re hot!

There are so many parts to this scenario that irk me, I don’t know where to begin!

First off, who created the value of this highly desirable place?  I’d say the artists.   I’d also say the suburbs are so boring, people are starved for soul, a “realness” with vibrant, alive streets. So we as a society get some of the credit, in a reverse kind of way.

The next think that irks me is how, in our mad rush for a great place to live, we end up doing great damage to  the very thing we love; …We drive the aliveness out by gentrifying the neighborhood , cleaning things up.

So, here I am, wanting to help develop a vibrant, alive, mixed use, mixed income deeply sustainable neighborhood, smart infill in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If it were to come to pass, guess what will happen to all the affordable workforce housing, and all the senior cohousing cluster units, all the smaller units that bring a great diversity into the community? In one generation of homeowners, (or renters), the affordability will go bye-bye.

The Open Market Advocates would say, “well, just build more, somewhere else!”

The affordable housing pool advocates say “Hey, split the increase in equity between the housing pool fund and the homeowner, and build more affordability units somewhere else”.

Either way, say bye -bye to the soul of this neighborhood. Another part of Santa Fe turns into Fanta Se. “What’s a Mother to do??!!”

Here’s my take on the situation….we gotta get more creative and come up with alternatives to open market gentrification. There are more benefits to be had than “making money off of your well designed neighborhood” besides cashing out, selling the home, and moving on to the next great investment.

Building social and economic safety nets into the community design brings a resiliency and timeless continuity money can’t buy. Some of strategies include

  • aging in place designs and downsizing options in the neighborhood,
  • twice a month mortgage payments (cuts 7 years off a 30 yr mortgage),
  • a flexible mortgage so any missed payments just extend the back end/payoff time,
  • shared amenities and facilities to lower everyone’s operating costs, etc (see 29 Ways to Make Money Off of Your Well Designed Home and Neighborhood)

And there are strategies where the neighbors can profit share from their well designed neighborhood to produce a source of income.

The commercial spaces in San Diego’s Market Creek Plaza are partially owned by the community. Imagine if you are  profit sharing, along with your neighbors,  off of the leases from the commercial properties in your neighborhood.  Where are you going to shop? Walmarts, 5 miles away, or at the grocer in your neighborhood? For the convenience, the “not needing a car and all that expense”, a simpler, healthier walkable lifestyle, and safe streets with neighbors out and about, as well as a revenue stream from shared ownership, you just might be willing to pay a little more at your local shops.

All these strategies are alternatives for compensating neighbors in lieu of the “flip this house-American Dream”. Our mixed use, mixed income neighborhood, with lifelong learning and open space”, can stay perpetually socially, economically and ecologically sustainable if we can get creative.

The creatives can continue to thrive and create jobs, the next generation can afford to start a family, the entrepreneurs have affordable start up space, and the middle and upper income neighbors get to be active participants in a great neighborhood.

Taming gentrification is essential strategy. If we can get creative, we can make sustainable real!

Share your ideas on gentrification taming, and alternatives to the “flip this house” open market!

Image courtesy of GoGreenEnergy



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