Posts Tagged ‘Income Inequality’

Polarity

February 7, 2021

            “We must work on homeless issue” is the title of Newark’s 2ndward council person Jeremy Blake’s response to the 1-8-21 news of the end of low barrier shelter/beginning of another thrift store on East Main St. (guest column Newark Advocate 2-7-21). “I voted along with all of my colleagues on the City Council to spend taxpayer dollars for a consultant to perform work and then provide recommendations on how to end chronic homelessness.” Even though the consultant resigned due to her own finding that the community was not committed to the solution (let alone the problem), Mr. Blake argues that the consultation was but a step in a further process of meetings and conversations. Such a drawn out and extensive “process” never seems to accompany council matters with regard to TIF’s, renovations, redevelopment, development, or even annexation for the sake of development. Indeed, Blake’s approach laser focuses on the homeless aspect without mention of the homefull. Is such a concept possible? Or is it like thinking of night without day, wet without dry, good without bad? Reporting for the NY Times (2-4-21) Stefanos Chen headlines The Down Side to Life in a Supertall Tower: Leaks, Creaks, Breaks. “The nearly 1,400-foot tower at 432 Park Ave., briefly the tallest residential building in the world, was the pinnacle of New York’s luxury condo boom half a decade ago [2016], fueled largely by foreign buyers seeking discretion and big returns. Six years later, residents of the exclusive tower are now at odds with the developers, and each other, making clear that even multimillion-dollar price tags do not guarantee problem-free living.” “The building, a slender tower that critics have likened to a middle finger because of its contentious height, is mostly sold out, with a projected value of $3.1 billion.” “[Sarina] Abramovich and her husband, Mikhail, retired business owners who worked in the oil and gas business, bought a high-floor, 3,500-square-foot apartment at the tower for nearly $17 million in 2016, to have a secondary home near their adult children.” “She’s aware that the plight of billionaires won’t garner much sympathy, but says she is speaking out on principle. “Everything here was camouflage,” she said. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have never bought.”” How many times have we heard that hiring a consultant is the way to solve a problem? Do consultants wear camo? Today’s NY Times provided some PC sympathy. Conor Dougherty headlines Pandemic’s Toll on Housing: Falling Behind, Doubling Up, Eviction moratoriums don’t keep arrears from piling up, and aid to renters may not reach the most vulnerable. (2-6-21) Analysis uncovered these relevant insights: “The nation has a plague of housing instability that was festering long before Covid-19, and the pandemic’s economic toll has only made it worse.” “Even before last year, about 11 million households — one in four U.S. renters — were spending more than half their pretax income on housing, and overcrowding was on the rise. By one estimate, for every 100 very low-income households, only 36 affordable rentals are available.” “Reflecting the broader economy, the pain in the U.S. housing market is most severe at the bottom. Surveys of large landlords whose units tend to be higher quality and more expensive have been remarkably resilient through the pandemic. Surveys of small landlords and low-income tenants show that late fees and debt are piling up.” “But for every million or so households who are evicted in the United States each year, there are many more millions who move out before they miss a payment, who cut back on food and medicine to make rent, who take up informal housing arrangements that exist outside the traditional landlord-tenant relationship. “What happens in housing court will miss most of the people who need help,” said Davin Reed, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. While rents have fallen in many big cities, vacancy rates for the cheapest buildings are essentially flat from last year, according to CoStar Group, a commercial property group. That is: Nothing about Covid-19 has changed the fact that there is a longstanding shortage of affordable housing, so anyone who loses an affordable home will still have a hard time finding a new one.” “It is a world of cash rent and oral agreements that are unstable and easily torn — a big reason that various studies show informal tenants are more likely to become homeless. “People who have places they can be evicted from are better off than those who don’t,” said Marybeth Shinn, a professor at Vanderbilt University who studies homelessness.” But conversations about and “solutions” to the homeless problem are primarily focused on the problem “along the banks of the waterways which travel through the neighborhoods of the second ward that many of our chronic homeless call home.” (Blake) Analysis finds this akin to addressing agricultural weed eradication programs without mentioning how it is we farm in the first place. Newark is not exceptional to anything Dougherty writes about, nor what Chen covers. When speaking of big money west end development no mention is made of those who are couch surfing and doubling, tripling up to find shelter. And in researching a solution to the homeless issue, no word on the quickly acquiesced and subsidized big money developments. Flat earth versus a globe that spins round and comes round, night without day, homeless without homefull, it is obvious where the roots of American polarity spring forth.

Location, Location, Location

May 19, 2019

On 5-16-19 The Freedom School of Licking County screened “Inside Akron’s Tent City” at the GMP hall in Newark. The film was about the tent city on private property in Akron available as a shelter opportunity for those without any. The showing was partially as a response to the unacceptable actions by the Jeff Hall administration in bulldozing the tent shelters of those without any alternatives this past winter. After the showing there was a lengthy discussion regarding various aspects of what can or could be done, what is being done, and what has been done elsewhere. Newark is not alone in having a population in need, of shelter, nutritional food, transportation, medical care and education. It is also not alone in refusing to address the need in any comprehensive or systematic manner. Ever since the first President George Bush advocated for his “thousand points of light” as a solution to community needs, Newark has embraced that solution. And the need only grows. One area of muddlement found in our culture today is that any discussion addressing these needs involves one and the same subjects. This mix up becomes divisive, branding a certain population as “always and every way in need.” A recent obituary described the deceased as a “proud and strong willed self made man.” The insinuation is that he was “self reliant” in meeting his needs. As the movie pointed out, it is damn hard and continuous work surviving Ohio’s climate without resources. True, the same person who is without shelter may be without any transportation options, which in turn challenges accessing food, medical care, or education. Analysis shows that food pantries are not located near grocery stores or restaurants. This is no coincidence. Food pantries rely on such establishments for donations of unmarketable yet still consumable goods. The business in turn wants credit for its contribution but not a direct link, knowing its customers would not pay for what they believed could be acquired otherwise. Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient is all but mandatory. So we find headlines like “Bikers bring 30,000 meals to feed migrants at facility in New Mexico” (USA Today 5-19-19) but never any announcing “Newark Landlord Makes 20 Units Available For Those Without A Place To Live.” Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient is practically impossible when it comes to addressing the need to shelter those without one. Knowing the other person is in class to be educated because they also need to learn is normal. Knowing someone else in the waiting room is in need of medical attention the same as you is not controversial. But having the next door neighbor living in an apartment just like yours without paying rent while you do can become quite dicey. Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient with regard to shelter has de facto been relegated to government. Analysis finds this to be ironic since the founding fathers went out of their way to prioritize those who have property from those who do not (see how and why the senate differs from the house of representatives as well as the electoral college). Meeting the need for shelter differs fundamentally and generically from that of other needs. It cannot be met through entering a room, receiving assistance, and leaving. It requires locating the individual recipient of care amongst those not in need or with other needs (see the hoops group homes, half way houses, etc. must jump through). And we all know that real estate is Location, Location, Location. Mayor Jeff Hall’s solution to those in need of shelter in Newark is to locate them OUTSIDE Newark. This is in keeping with the constitution’s founding fathers and the thousand points of light. A city’s official policies to real estate ownership and its citizens is fundamental to addressing the need for shelter for those without one. No one said it would be easy. “Landlords to challenge Seattle’s fair housing law” (Charlotte West, NBC, 5-19-19) makes that clear. Seattle opted for a “ban the box” ordinance for its returning citizens when seeking accommodations as one way to deal with shelter in a city where affordable housing is a challenge. “”There are laws and policies that are in place that prevent us from being successful people,” [ordinance advocate Michelle] McClendon said.” “But Seattle’s fair housing ordinance goes one step beyond “ban the box.” It doesn’t allow landlords to consider criminal histories at all. However, landlords who share single-family residences with their tenants or who rent out an accessory dwelling unit (aka “mother-in-law apartment”) are exempt. Property owners may continue to check the sex offender registry in some circumstances.” “Ethan Blevins, staff attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, represents the Rental Housing Association of Washington and other landlords in the lawsuit against the ordinance. He said that his clients recognize that people of color are disproportionately impacted by criminal records. “That sort of discriminatory impact begins much earlier with racist or discriminatory law enforcement practices,” he said. “The landlords shouldn’t be the ones who are saddled with the burden of dealing with a problem that was actually created by law enforcement practices that need to be reformed.” Blevins added that landlords oppose the ordinance because they want to be able to thoroughly vet tenants by using all of the information publicly available to them.” Analysis finds the need for shelter to be unique amongst the many public concern needs addressed by communities. It ultimately always hinges on how we govern ourselves. The basis of that governance (Constitutions and charters) de facto prioritizes property rights. And we all know real estate is Location, Location, Location.

What A Concept!

February 24, 2019

In the past year plus, Amazon had courted a vast number of American locations for establishment of its HQ2. When the dust had settled, it announced two HQ2’s – one in the greater DC area, and one in NYC, the borough of Queens to be specific. This came as more than a double whammy to those urban centers who earnestly offered to give all (and more) to have the mega giant’s home (away from home) office in their neighborhood. Popular discontent with the prospect of thousands of more employees, commuters, urban upheaval and displacement due to real estate values rising, gentrification, etc. while infrastructure costs, schools, and medical care, emergency services would receive no commercial Amazon support, created a popular uprising. Amazon withdrew its 2 HQ2 vision (and had to settle for just one). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her followers were credited (or blamed) for the erasure of the dream (or scheme). Many critiqued the outcome on the usual suspects attributed to “growth” in Licking County by Newark’s GOP mayor, the GOP county commissioners and (the GOP) Grow Licking County – “Jobs!” would bring wealth into the hood and revitalize the neglected economy. In Queens, it isn’t exactly vacant farm fields that would get transformed but the populace recognized early on that their rents would go up, along with their taxes and commute times (even for groceries). Real estate values going up is great for those who own it to make a financial killing (investment), terrible for those who depend on it to stay alive (for their livelihood or as a place to live). Analysis can only find that the folks in Queens could discern the difference. On the other side of the Atlantic an analogous situation exists with the slow motion train wreck called “Brexit.” London has been the traditional financial equivalent of Wall Street (indeed, many Newark consumers have their loan and credit card interest rates tied to the LIBOR rate which finds its home in, you guessed it, London). The various global banks and commercial entities which had their HQ1 (or 2) in London are now exiting. “Which City Is Winning the Race to Be Europe’s Next Finance Hub? None” by Sophia Akram appeared in Ozy (2-24-19). Seems no single European city will take in the financial refugees. Cities like Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin, Madrid, Milan, Amsterdam, etc. have suitors and potential mates but each only a few. No city wants them all. The usual suspects (covered by the AOC confrontation in Queens) are listed: “These growing pains — overpopulated cities, purpose-built towns and spillover into neighboring areas as well as soaring rents and property prices — aren’t surprising, says O’Malley [Eoin O’Malley, associate professor of politics at Dublin City University]. And how governments deal with them could determine whether these cities can truly cash in on the opportunity presented by Brexit, he adds. “Whenever you’re bringing in relatively high-paid jobs, it’s probably displacing the people living in those areas to the outskirts of the city,” says O’Malley. “There’s a lot of pressure on the government to build more social housing, and that’s probably the big issue in Irish politics at the moment.”” Gasp! Government build more housing? What a concept! Try selling THAT to Tim Bubb, Nate Strum or Jeff Hall. “And it will take time for the cities bidding to replace London to be able to fully absorb the incoming demand from foreign firms and professionals. O’Malley says Dublin, for instance, currently lacks adequate affordable housing, transport infrastructure and non-Catholic schooling.” “[Paris] is preparing for what O’Malley warned would become the gentrification that pushes residents from the city to its suburbs. The city, meanwhile, is expanding the Paris metro system to cover a “Greater Paris” metropolitan area.” Double gasp! Metro system expansion? What a concept! Grow Licking County prefers good ole self reliance, thank you (“Nate Strum, economic director of Grow Licking County and the Licking County Chamber of Commerce, said a new effort will focus on unemployed in neighboring counties with higher unemployment.” Mallett, Advocate: Employers thinking outside box on job recruitment, retention, training 2-22-19). The good folks in Queens heeded the USPS motto; “If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.” But the real concept camouflaged in all this (but staring us right in the face) is the dispersion of wealth. Since Occupy back in 2010/11, the public consciousness has grown with regards to wealth distribution and income inequality in the U S and abroad. Most are cognizant and articulate with the 1%, 99%  concept. Locating all the wealth within one sector seems to have been actually undermined by the likes of AOC and the Queens resistance to Amazon’s HQ2. And Brexit, no matter how it turns out, has likewise created a rupture in the concentration of wealth within a limited geographic location. It is a crack, indeed a relatively minor one, but Analysis does find that it makes factual the redistribution and dispersion of wealth, affecting more than just an exceptional few. Triple gasp! Wealth redistribution? What a concept!