The other week I spoke about how the Annesdale Snowden Association was working to maintain their community.
Regrettable Annesdale Snowden is becoming the exception as the middle class neighborhoods are disappearing. Communities in the United States are becoming all wealthy or all poor. The Brookings Institution released a report showing the American dream of buying a home in a working class middle income neighborhood is quickly disappearing.
It is my view that this growing bifurcation is at the heart of the housing crisis. Many who were in the market to buy a home were forced to decide either live in a lower income community that was declining in value or to purchase a home in an upper income community that was clearly beyond their income. For a lot of Americans they were forced to take the risk and live beyond their means, a decision that for many has become a nightmare.
If we can find any good out of the housing crisis it may be that it has slowed the exodus of people leaving middle income communities.
Now city officials must look at tools to convince these residents to stay and not become exurbs. People flee when there is a sense that they are loosing control. It is less about race and more about income discrimination. Americans have spoken and they prefer to live among those of similar income status.
What can be done? Cities are going to have to give residents back their neighborhoods. Some ideals might be to...
- develop physical barriers to better define a specific community.
- close off streets within a community to create fewer entries and exits.
- allow neighborhoods to develop covenants rules.
- support the development of neighborhood associations.
- redefine areas of the city. Instead of South Memphis, North Memphis, East Memphis etc. we need to break these areas into smaller defined communities, what I call niche communities. An example would be what is happening in Soulsville U.S.A. We are literally forming a community out of a larger community.
For once and for all we are going to have to bite the bullet and tackle the tax issue. We can not tax our way out of this crisis. What happens is as upper income people flee the city will turn around and punish those that decide to stay by increasing the taxes on their homes. This isn't even penny wise, it's just pound foolish! I hear some throwing the words, "Mixed Income Communities" around as if by just saying the words it will make it happen. You can build mixed income housing, but sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that mix will soon settle into either a wealth neighborhood through gentrification or a poor neighborhood through upper income flight unless we are willing to support the civicness of the community as well. We invest too much in the bricks and not nearly enough in the mortar.
If we are going to solve the problems of Memphis it will take innovative leaders willing to take chances, come from behind their desks, get their hands dirty and - "Do I dare say it?" - put the citizens ahead of their jobs.
What do you think?