The Vanishing Middle Class

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?


Anonymous said...

Went to the store today and bought a loaf of bread, gallon of milk, 3-1 liter sodas, a salad, and a box of Tide. It cost me $35.

These women are having baby after baby and no father around. If he is around he doesnt have a job. Now its our responsibility to take care of her kids because she cant keep her leg closed and the no account sperm donor doesnt want to take responsibility?

Enough, Im middle class and can barely make it. Everytime we say we need to stop taking care of all these kids some bleeding heart will say "But its not the child fault." Well its not my fault either!!!

We need to take these two baby producers and demand they take care of this child. "But I dont have a job." Thats all right the streets need cleaning. Of course the ACLU will sue everybody.

Reginald these people are lazy and all they want is a government hand out. My view is no more!!!

Anonymous said...

June 2, 3008 10:24 AM

Glory glory halla looo ya the truth keeps marching on!

Keep preaching maybe somebody will hear you!

Anonymous said...

first thing to do when redeveloping: get all of these thugs and hoodlums, out of south Memphis, then began the revitalization. We can't do anything until we get them out, because they just don'y care, they walk around throwing paper everywhere, trashing the houses that are vacant, they just don't care. So in order to get the middle class and their neighborhoods back up to par the thugs must go !!!!!!

Reginald Milton said...

To 10:24 A.M.
Ouch! It is truly hard to make a living these days. I have lived in the inner city my entire life and I have been involved in community activism for over 15 years. It's easy to paint a picture of everyone not being responsible and I will agree there are some who are not. The answer is to be fair but firm.

To 4:50 P.M.
I agree. I have never been soft on punishing those who choose to break the law. But I am also concern that a lot of service providers are focused on enabling more so that prevention. Give people viable options and for those who choose not to take advantage of this help and turn to crime they deserve what they get.

Eric said...


We have no leaders. Most of these people should never have been elected in the first place. We need experienced, professionals but the voters in Memphis aren't educated enough to know that so they vote on name recognition. Don't know if it is true but I heard that the only reason Joe Brown keeps getting elected is that the voters think he's Judge Joe Brown. Not that is sad.

Anonymous said...

Eight years of Bush and this is what we have to show for it. He has destroyed the economy.

Anonymous said...

Bush did not mess up the economy. No one man is that powerful. It's due to the terrible actions and choices of people. It does not matter who gets in the White House as long as people keep, stealing, murdering and all of the other ills going on in our society, the world will continue going down. There is no way we will see a change for the better just because a certain person is in the White House. I wish it was so that the next president could halt wrong lifestyles so that our nation could get back on track. This is the attitude of most people, I want to do it, just tell me I am right and don't dare suggest that I am wrong. I refuse to hear correction. Whatever I chose to do should be alright with you, just let me do my thing. Sad opinion.

Anonymous said...

Vanishing Middle Class?

Hell it's gone. Me and my girl friend work full time. We have two kids and have nothing to show for it. All we do is work. Before everybody give me crap we are going to get married. She won't say it but she wants a nice wedding and she is going to get it because im putting away a little money every month.