Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What is happening in OTR?

Let me just say it plainly: I want facts.

I have two conflicting attitudes:

1) The new Gateway Quarter in OTR is (or could eventually be) my ideal neighborhood.

2) I have no interest in living there if my doing so is encouraging a social injustice.

I have tried to create the best definition I could of what "gentrification" means. See my entry entitled: "What is gentrification?". I have read a few papers written by people who should pretty much be the best experts on the subject. This one offers a definition of gentrification that differs from mine. The purpose, in my view, of that paper is to bring a new phrase into the discussion: "equitable community development" and to differentiate the meaning of this phrase from "gentrification". In this one they explain that, in addition to "gentrification", the term "economic mix" is also dangerous and it's use is frequently accompanied by numerous negative underlying attitudes.

But at this point in my life journey, the semantics of urban planning and community development are only minimally interesting to me. In other words, I don't want the "Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine" to be linguists; I want them to help me make a decision. What is right and what is wrong in this neighborhood. Be concrete and specific. That is what I want.

The experts will clearly say (if you pay attention) that the market-rate housing and an increase in home-ownership are not bad things. They will clearly say that market-rate housing and an increase in home-ownership are good things, but they are opposed to the use of these two things as the only tools to "improve" a neighborhood.

So, what do they want? Well, for starters they are asking for the same thing I am:

"In order for development to be equitable, we would need an accounting and monitoring system that tracks the rise and fall of property values and demographics in the neighborhood in order to ensure a just distribution of benefits from development and to avoid a patchwork of wealthy, isolated enclaves amid deep poverty in OTR."

That means they want facts, and numbers, and data, and studies that can be used to really say what is going on in OTR. If we had some way to know what was happening (for example if we had details regarding "displacement") then we could in turn answer whether or not what we're doing there is good or bad. I honestly don't know who should have responsibility for that kind of information, but we NEED it.

The paragraph that tells what they want continues like this:

"In addition to a serious effort to gather information to inform decisions, we need to be able to direct some of the benefits of rising property values, local incomes, investment opportunities to local residents. While this is not the place to lay out a detailed plan – for that would require broad consultation and revision – we note that TIFs, Real Estate Transfer Taxes, inclusionary zoning, and development fees are among the ways that some of the increased value of property and opportunity in OTR could be captured for more inclusive purposes. These mechanisms are in addition to those already operating, such as housing round funding, the ABC, LISC managed community development operating support, and city spending on infrastructure, safety, transportation and so on. "

So, I'm asking: Can anybody show me a specific law they want passed or repealed? I'll vote for it. Just put it in front of me. Give me an action item.

In the rest of the paper we're basically referred to PolicyLink to look for more concrete "best practices". That is an exercise I'll have to save for another day.

For now I'm interested in an answer to the following question:

"What specific injustices, if any, were committed in the creation of the Gateway Quarter condominiums?"

Much blame is put on 3CDC for "pushing out" residents. How was this done? Was it illegal? Where are the residents now? Is OTR actually so full that people are being displaced out of it?

I encourage any and all feedback. I am learning all the time.

Further Reading: