Sunday, May 05, 2019

Progress Being Made?

Back in the 50's and 60's whites were fighting to keep their neighborhoods white.  "White flight" was the predominant tactic, but rougher ones were used against the first one or two black families.

I'm often otpmistic, sometimes too much so, but I read this NY Times article  as saying those days are mostly behind us.  That's good.  Some thought we'd never get here.

I can read articles on gentrification as the market working as it did in white flight.  To do this I need to suggest that many whites fleeing from a block where blacks were buying were concerned more with their pocketbook than race.  The working of the market meant that if someone feared blacks, they would sell their house at a discount, especially if their fears were exploited, as they usually were, by the unscrupulous realtors.  One below-market sale could persuade market-oriented owners that to preserve their wealth they needed to sell, which of course started to destroy the value of their homes.

I think it's true that often the switching from all-white to all-black blocks meant property values ended up going way down, partly because people over-extended themselves, because they had to take in renters and subdivide the structure, and because they didn't have the money for maintenance.

Gentrification works through the market as well.  The first white pioneer who has no problems with blacks finds a bargain.  The owner, who may be black, sells at a profit, at least compared to prior years. So both white home buyers and existing home owners can see financial gains over what they had before gentrification started.  However, as property values increase taxes increase and the owners can have problems keeping their property.

It seems to me the key variable in inner-city blocks being gentrified is: who owns the property?  Do we think the owners are mostly the heirs of those who originally bought from the white flight?  Or are they the heirs of the exploiters, white and black, who profited by the white flight? Or has the property changed hands multiple times?  If the heirs of the original buyers there's a chance that what they lost by the block turning black is being made up through gains in value as gentrification increases.  More likely the score card over time shows red ink for blacks, black ink for whites.

My thoughts have now dimmed my pleasure at the message of the article, but we've still progressed  from 1968.

No comments: