Do you know that it is generally recommended that housing expenses shouldn’t be more than 30% of what you earn, leaving 70% of your income for food, clothing, and other necessities?
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 12 million renters and homeowners are spending more than 50% of their income on housing, including utilities, thereby making it difficult for families to afford other necessities, i.e. transportation, clothes, food, entertainment, medical care, etc. Towards this end, in many American cities middle and upper income people are moving into neighborhoods that had previously suffered disinvestment and decay. These severely “house cost burdened” families want and/or need to move into sustainable neighborhoods accessible to more transportation options, affordable housing, jobs, businesses, services, and social activities.
These new residents renovate housing, stimulate business, and contribute to the tax base. Additionally, you have investors, who are purchasing these properties from low income families and stripping them of their equity, legacy, and property, which they worked hard to obtain and maintain for their children and grandchildren. These benefits of neighborhood revitalization are, in some cases, achieved at a potentially serious cost: the displacement of existing neighborhood residents by eviction, excessive code violations, increased property values/taxes, rent increases, changing demographics, etc.
Unfortunately, this may contribute to divisiveness, animosity, or ill feelings between longtime and new neighbors. This is quite unfortunate because what makes these central city neighborhoods and residents so special is their “sense of community” which has helped residents survive and thrive throughout the years!
There are strategies that can and/or should be implemented to safeguard longtime renters and homeowners, thereby bringing peace and unity in the community. Some strategies should include the examination of federal, state, and local policies toward neighborhood reinvestment and displacement, including various alternative approaches for dealing with this issue.
I applaud the City of Columbus and Franklin County Board of Commissioners for taking the initiative to be proactive in bringing unity in the community by preserving some stability in up-and-coming neighborhoods by:
- Establishing a Community Land Trust, which will contribute to the preservation of mixed income neighborhoods.
- Working with Developers to make sure a percentage of their housing development and employment opportunities are set aside for residents of various socio-economic strata!
- Offering the Homestead Tax Exemptions for low income senior citizens or disabled, who own and occupy their properties.
An example of another innovative strategy implemented in other major cities includes:
- Longtime Owner Occupancy Program (LOOP) – reducing or freezing property taxes to promote neighborhood stability and provide a dividend of sorts to those families who remained in the neighborhoods through the years of high crime, population loss, disinvestment, and declining property values (Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia).
Lastly, on a neighborhood level, there are strategies residents themselves are implementing to make a difference, including but not limited to the following:
For example, some of the activities Weinland Park residents have been involved in:
- Community Connectors – resident leaders, who advocate; market programs; organize events and bring diverse residents together, i.e. Rally in the Alley
- Community Clean-Ups – neighborhood focused beautification and clean-up efforts
- Community Civic Association – a group of residents and stakeholders who meet monthly and make decisions about the community, i.e. housing, safety, youth, etc.
- Community Zumba – a Latin inspired dance fitness class offered weekly for area residents, thereby affording children, youth, and adults of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to get acquainted and have fun with one another
- Community Gardens – residents, who use gardening as an opportunity to interact and get acquainted with other children, youth, and adults in the neighborhood
To learn more about OSU Extension – Community Development and what they’re doing to bring unity in your community, county, or throughout the State of Ohio, feel free to visit our website.
Susan Colbert is the Franklin County Extension Program Director for Expansion and Engagement.
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