WE NEED 100%, NOT 20%, AFFORDABLE HOUSING, AND AFFORDABLE FOR WORKING CLASS PEOPLE!
New housing developments should be 100% affordable to working class people. Right now some laws say these new developments need to be X% "affordable" and typically X is less than even 20%. In Boston it's 13%. Furthermore, the definition of "affordable" that these laws use is not affordable to working class people but rather affordable to people making about $125,000 per year. These laws are a mockery of justice!
Rich people can damn well live in the same kind of housing that working class people deserve--good and decent housing that should be made affordable to working class people by hook or by crook. The people building luxury housing today are thieves, and the people that are paying (with undeserved wealth!) to live in luxury housing are thieves too. There should be no rich and no poor. Everybody who contributes reasonably according to ability should be able to take for free what they need or reasonably desire or have equal status with others to receive scarce things equitably rationed according to need.
Contact us if you'd like to receive some of these stickers to put up around town where you live.
GENTRIFICATION & THE LACK OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING
(Click here to see an egalitarian law ending gentrification.)
(Click here to read "Credibility, But In Whose Eyes," about what it really takes to stop gentrification.)
(Click here to read why so-called "affordable" housing is not actually affordable.)
(Click here to read why "In Manhattan, the homeless shelters are full, and the luxury skyscrapers are vacant.")
Gentrification is when a working class neighborhood becomes too expensive for the long-term residents to remain, as wealthier people move into the neighborhood and displace many of the poorer ones. Sometimes wealthier people move into the neighborhood because of something that recently caused it to be more desirable, such as extending a subway line into the neighborhood for the first time. Sometimes a corporation such as Google opens up in the neighborhood, hiring high-salary employees many of whom wish to live near where they work. And sometimes wealthier people, for whatever reason, buy homes in, or rent apartments in, the neighborhood, "spruce up" the property and arrange for other improvements in the neighborhood.
As wealthier people move in, stores that cater to wealthier people open up. Wealthier people (because in our society money is power) often also succeed in getting parks and playgrounds and schools and similar things in the neighborhood greatly improved.
The result of all this is that rental units--ALL rental units-- that, before gentrification, had low rents now have higher rents, not because they are any better in terms of the quality of the building but merely because they are now in a more desirable location. Likewise, the assessed value of homes--ALL homes--rises, not because the homes necessarily are improved in any way but merely because they are now in a more desirable neighborhood and can be sold for more money than was the case before gentrification.
Thus property values increase, which in turn causes property taxes to rise and in turn rents to rise, leading to poorer people (either home owners who can no longer afford to pay the increased property tax, or renters who can no longer afford to pay the increased rent) being forced to leave.
What Gentrification Means for the Poorer Residents
For poor people looking to rent in the neighborhood (because their job is located in it, or because their family has lived there for generations, for example), gentrification means the rents rise above what they can afford, and they must leave the neighborhood searching for affordable housing elsewhere. "Elsewhere" means a far less desirable neighborhood, typically one requiring an extremely long commuting time (many hours each way!) to get to and from work.
For poor people lucky enough to own their home in the neighborhood (typically because they inherited it), the rise in property taxes forces them to sell it. The sale price will be higher because of gentrification, but the sale price of any house they then buy will also be higher unless it is in a much less desirable neighborhood. Likewise, if they decide to rent, gentrification that is happening everywhere will mean that the only rental units they can afford will be in much less desirable neighborhoods.
Here's the BS Excuse Some Jerks Give in Defense of Gentrification
Some people (who think poor people should live in less desirable neighborhoods) argue (click here to see an example) that building luxury housing in a neighborhood is a "good thing for everybody, rich and poor alike." The argument--sort of like a "musical chairs" routine--goes like this. When luxury housing is built in a neighborhood then wealthy people who are able to "move up" sell their not-quite-as-luxurious home and buy the luxurious home. Then a less wealthy person "moves up" into that "not-quite-as-luxurious" home thereby freeing up in turn their "only moderately nice" home for a poorer person who is able to "move up," and so on down the line so that eventually there are more some undesirable homes in undesirable neighborhoods newly available for poor people to buy. And since there are now more homes (due to the increased number of luxury homes), this increase in supply causes (by the law of supply and and demand) all homes in general to be more "affordable."
This entire theory, about why building luxury homes instead of affordable (to working class people!) homes in a neighborhood is a good idea, is based on the disgusting notion, of course, that poor people should be happy to be able to afford undesirable homes in undesirable neighborhoods and not ever expect to live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. That's BS! The have-nots (working class people, poor people--people who contribute reasonably according to ability) deserve to live in homes and neighborhoods as nice as anybody else's, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos!
The Deeper Cause of Gentrification is Class Inequality
Gentrification is what causes the problem of a lack of affordable housing in a neighborhood. What follows is a close look at what causes gentrification, and what can end it.
The "gentry," meaning the wealthier newcomers, are typically professionals earning relatively high salaries, but they are not typically members of the plutocracy--billionaires, CEOs and other corporate and banking elites with hundred-million dollar salaries and politicians who serve them--that rules in our dictatorship of the rich. Often the "gentry's" wealth and income provide them a standard of living that is not substantially better than most people would have if we had an egalitarian society (please read "Global Wealth Equality: What Would It Mean?" to see why this is so).
People with absurdly large multi-million dollar salaries (like many CEOs) or people with incomes from "investments" that make them nearly or actually billionaires, in contrast, are properly called thieves: they are unjustly hogging wealth at the expense of the have-nots. These thieves are the people renting or buying ultra-luxury extremely high-priced housing that is built by rich real estate developer thieves to drive working class people out of their neighborhood. (A studio apartment in a new "luxury senior housing" development near my home in Boston rents for $6,800 per month!) This luxury housing raises rents and property taxes for the entire neighborhood, which forces working class people out.
In an egalitarian society with no rich and no poor (i.e., based on the economic principle of "From each according to reasonable ability, to each according to need or reasonable desire with scarce things equitably rationed according to need," as discussed further here) there would be no gentrification as there would be no "gentry"--no people enjoying a higher standard of living than others. In an egalitarian society nobody who was willing to work reasonably according to ability would have to leave their neighborhood for lack of enough money to remain in it. Any improvements to the neighborhood would be enjoyed by the long-term residents as well as any newcomers to the neighborhood. This is how it ought to be!
The cause of "gentrification" is, thus, the class inequality of our society. In a society based on inequality, in which some people have a lot more money than others and money is power--including the power to buy homes in the more desirable neighborhoods and kick the poorer people out--there will be gentrification inevitably. Trying to end gentrification without abolishing class inequality (i.e., winning egalitarianism) is like trying to stop the water of a river from flowing to the ocean by building a dam--it can't work.
Gentrification should be made illegal. In an egalitarian society it would be illegal. Anybody who worked reasonably "according to ability" would, for that reason alone, own their primary residence free and clear, without having to pay anybody rent or taxes or a mortgage payment (there's no money at all in an egalitarian society); they would be able to take for free what they reasonably need or desire from the economy (or obtain scarce things that are rationed equitably according to need) the same as anybody else because there would be no rich and no poor. Nobody would need to be a landlord renting to somebody else in order to afford to pay the tax and mortgage payments on their own home. Everybody could own their own home free and clear.
Who, exactly, is the enemy?
When it comes to gentrification, the enemy is all the people who deliberately enforce class inequality to gain at the expense of others. The people who must be removed from power in order to abolish "gentrification" are the plutocracy and those who willingly serve them: politicians who raise property taxes instead of taxing the plutocracy, landlords who raise rents more than required to offset the rise in property taxes, and the police who evict tenants from their apartments when they fail to pay the increased rents. The "gentry" are not the enemy for earning relatively high salaries and wanting to live in a nice neighborhood convenient to where they work. Some of the "gentry" may very well support an egalitarian revolution. Some of the gentry, on the other hand, may act to enforce inequality and attack the egalitarian revolutionary movement. Individual members of the "gentry" should be judged on the basis of how they act. Treating somebody as the enemy just because they are part of the "gentry" serves no useful purpose and only weakens the egalitarian revolutionary movement.
GENTRIFICATION AND EGALITARIAN REVOLUTION
This Boston Globe article is about gentrification, although with just a few extra words added here and there it would be about why we need an egalitarian revolution and a movement that explicitly aims for that. Here's why.
Read the article and you will learn that the once-blue-collar neighborhood of Union Square in the city of Somerville (just outside of Boston, MA) is being gentrified big time. The moving force for gentrification is a Chicago Big Money developer named US2, which is investing $1.5 billion into the Union Square development featuring expensive residential and commercial construction.
You will also read about how the working class people of Union Square and elsewhere in Somerville have organized and won a bunch of seats on the city council (called the Aldermen) and are in negotiations with US2 trying to wring from that corporation some "affordable" housing guarantees and things such as a guarantee that only union labor will be used in the construction.
You will also read about how the working class people of Union Square are totally on the defensive against Big Money US2, because whenever they ask for "too much" they are warned that their demands would make the development less profitable for US2 and at some point US2 will just say no and cancel the development altogether.
You will also read about how Big Money pitted the poorest people in Union Square against union construction workers in the area and their progressive allies. It worked like this. A developer (Redgate) announced it would "rebuild 216 apartments for low-income renters and add 323 market-rate units to the site" [the aging Clarendon Hill public housing complex] with non-union labor. Construction unions and progressives "resisted, saying Redgate was looking to squeeze profits from workers. It argued for rules that would require every job on the project to be union."
Result #1: "That blew a roughly $20 million hole in the project’s budget, said LeBlanc, whose agency is partnering on the project. Developers are looking for other funding sources, but until they find them, Clarendon Hill is on hold."
Result #2. (Divide and Rule): "The episode left Jessica Turner fuming that Somerville’s newly powerful progressives put ideology before better housing for the city’s poorest residents. She heads a tenant group for Clarendon Hill residents, and complained about the alliance the progressives struck with construction unions — most of whose members, she notes, don’t live in Somerville. 'There’s thousands of people on the waiting list for public housing in Somerville. People need a place to live,' said Turner, who has lived in a Clarendon Hill apartment for 10 years. 'These groups say they’re fighting for people over profit, but it’s just not true.'"
An Egalitarian Revolutionary Perspective on This
#1. It is morally reprehensible that the people of Somerville should have to negotiate (in what amounts to begging) with a bunch of very rich people in Chicago about what they--the people of Somerville--will or will not build in their own home town with their own labor, and how they will or will not build it! The only reason that this despicable kind of negotiating (begging) is not widely denounced as the despicable thing that it is, is because it is standard procedure in our dictatorship of the rich. The rich have made it taboo for anybody to denounce this dictatorship of the rich. The ruling plutocracy censors in the mass media all expressions of wanting to remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor. This makes people think that (contrary to fact) hardly anybody else wants to remove the rich from power, and so people keep quiet about this desire they have. This is why working class people in Somerville are not denouncing the dictatorship of the rich and instead merely attempting to wrest from the rich whatever crumbs they can.
#2. The fact that the poorest people in Somerville, who wanted the affordable housing that didn't get constructed in the Clarendon Hill project, are now pissed off at the progressives and union workers, who wanted union wages to be paid for the construction, demonstrates this key fact: Whenever a reform demand, such as that union labor be used, no matter how good, is made, Big Money will use its power (in this case the power to cancel the project) to make some have-nots suffer (in this case lose affordable housing) from the demand, and thus turn some have-nots (in this case those fighting for union labor) against the other have-nots who fought for the demand.
In contrast, a movement that explicitly aims for egalitarianism unifies all the have-nots because all the have-nots will benefit enormously from having an egalitarian society with no rich and no poor. An egalitarian revolutionary movement is therefore what we need TODAY to unify the have-nots.
If the people of Somerville were building an explicitly egalitarian revolutionary movement, making the goal of an egalitarian society with no rich and no poor and real, not fake, democracy the aim, and using whatever tactics they can to confront Big Money with their vision of what they REALLY want (stated in terms of specifics such as such-and-such kind of development in Union Square, and also in terms of general egalitarian principles for how a society should be, as discussed here) then Big Money would be forced to respond to a growing revolutionary movement. How would Big Money respond? Often it responds by making concessions to the movement in the hope of making the people in the movement think that there's really no need for a revolution. This is exactly why FDR launched the reforms of the New Deal such as Social Security and Unemployment Insurance--to head off a growing revolutionary movement at the time, as discussed in great detail here.
“I want to save our system, the capitalistic system,” FDR told an emissary of the archconservative newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. To do so, Roosevelt said, “it may be necessary to throw to the wolves the forty-six men who are reported to have incomes in excess of one million dollars a year” (click here for the source.)
An egalitarian revolutionary movement, unlike the progressives' and union workers' narrowly focused effort to get union labor, will not be so easily portrayed as a special interest group about which other have-nots (like Jessica Turner quoted above) complain: "These groups say they’re fighting for people over profit, but it’s just not true.'"
Somerville Shows that Band Aid (20% Affordable) Reforms are NOT the Answer
In 2016 the Somerville Aldermen (Somerville's name for its City Council) enacted a new law requiring housing developers to include a greater percentage of "affordable" housing than had been required previously. The details are reported in a local Somerville newspaper an article titled "Aldermen approve new requirements for building affordable units in Somerville":
"The ordinance requires 20 percent of developments with 18 or more residential units to be affordable and 17.5 percent of projects between eight and 17 units to be affordable.
"Previously, only 12.5 percent of all developments of eight or more units had to be affordable. So a 12-unit project in the past would have to build 1.5 affordable units, but is now required to build 2.1 affordable units.
Smaller projects are included in the new ordinance: Developers of six- or seven-unit projects would have a choice to pay 40 or 60 percent of the value of one unit to the city’s affordable housing fund, respectively, or provide one affordable unit.
"The new ordinance is a modified version of the one submitted by a group of citizens in late 2015, proposing boosting the percentage of required affordable housing from 12.5 percent to 20 percent citywide, and applying this number to all projects of six or more units."
This new ordinance is typical of the kind of reform that people in many other communities are fighting for, hoping thereby to solve the problem of a lack of affordable housing in their community.
But does such a reform solve the problem? No.
In 2019 Commonwealth Magazine had an article all about Somerville, titled "More housing alone won’t solve housing crisis: Legal rights for tenants must be part of the solution." The article is all about how (despite the law passed in 2016 to increase the amount of affordable housing units that developers must include in new housing developments) gentrification is still driving the poorer people out of Somerville at an obscene rate. To read and study this article is to see very clearly that band aid solutions (such as the 2016 "20% affordable housing units requirement" reform) don't solve the problem of gentrification. The reason is because gentrification is caused by class inequality, and band aid reforms don't end class inequality. Only egalitarian revolution does.
Yes, 20% affordable is better than 13% affordable, but it's by no means an adequate substitute for actually solving the problem by ending class inequality. When we win reforms such as "20% affordable" but leave the rich in power, then the rich get around the reform and the problem it was meant to solve persists, as happened in Somerville.
This Boston Patch article about the proposed development at the current Whole Foods site on Washington St. in Brookline explains why even the "20%" demand of the Brighton Allston Community Coalition will hardly solve the gentrification problem.
Beware of Those Who Want to Improve the Neighborhood, But ONLY for Wealthier People Who Can Afford to Live There
We need to beware of people--anti-egalitarian people!--who are active in the neighborhood, fighting to make it more desirable but only for wealthier people who can afford to live there. These anti-egalitarians often talk about wanting to make the neighborhood better in ways that are perfectly good, such as having new housing that is appropriate for families (if there is a scarcity of such housing), or having more green space (trees, parks, etc.), or having appropriate density of new housing (when such is often not the case), or having better public transportation (when that is lacking), and so on. These are not bad goals to aim for. But when people fight for these goals while refusing to fight to end the gentrification that is driving poorer people out of the neighborhood, then they are part of the problem, not the solution.
In my personal experience, such people even resort to verbally attacking the egalitarians who are fighting to end gentrification. These anti-egalitarians call egalitarians "morons" (that's the word a woman in my neighborhood actually used!) for saying they want to "remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor." They express utter contempt this way for their good neighbors who want an end to gentrification.
The anti-egalitarians also use a straw man propaganda device: they accuse egalitarians of being Communists (we're actually anti-Marxists and anti-Communists, as discussed here) who want the kind of totally anti-democratic regimes that Communist nations all have. They dare not directly oppose the actual aims of egalitarians because they know they'd look like selfish jerks if they did.
Don't Let Reasonable Concerns about Housing Density Be Used to Justify Gentrification
Some people wrongly oppose the creation of more affordable housing in a neighborhood on the grounds that it would make the density of housing (i.e., the number of living units in a given area of land) worse. Good people may certainly have reasonable concerns about the density of housing. Ideally housing density should be neither too low nor too high. The higher housing density of cities compared to rural towns is what attracts people to cities, because the higher city density means there are more people close by and hence more things to do and see in a city than in a rural town. But when the density is too high it is counterproductive.
Housing density should be decided democratically by the people who value no-rich-and-no-poor equality and mutual aid (i.e., egalitarians, the vast majority of people in most communities.) But today, in our society based on class inequality with some rich and some poor (i.e., many have-nots and a few haves), all of the key decisions that determine housing density are made totally undemocratically by the rich.
One such key decision, for example, is this: Where will businesses be located and hence where will the employees want to live and hence where will housing be built for the higher-paid employees? Corporations often want to locate in the same major city, which creates high density housing there. This may be good for corporate profits but not good for regular people.
Another such decision is this: What locations will be connected by good means of transportation? As long as the corporations' employees can get to work and their customers can get to where they need to get to buy their products, the corporations don't have any motive to create better transportation for all of the needs and desires of regular people. If ordinary people want jobs and housing to be more spread out and transportation made appropriate for this, but this doesn't maximize corporate profits, then jobs and housing will not be more spread out and transportation will not be made more appropriate for that.
The profit-motivated decisions of the rich do not necessarily result in a good level of housing density, often far from it.
Truly to create good housing density will require that there be a genuine democracy (as discussed here) in which good people, as equals, with a concern for desirable housing density rather than for enriching the few at the expense of the many, call the shots. Only then will key decisions that affect housing density be made by those who want desirable (for the people who live there!) housing density.
Building an egalitarian revolutionary movement to remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor is the way to a) make the rich afraid of what might happen (being removed from power) if they continue to treat us like dirt by building luxury housing and promoting gentrification, and b) transfer power in society to the vast majority of people who want desirable housing density.
Those who oppose the egalitarian revolutionary movement against luxury housing developments and gentrification on the grounds that we need better housing density are part of the problem, not the solution.