Friday, June 22, 2007

S C A R E Y Thoughts

I read this on the Below the Beltline blog, penned by one Dr. Walter de Gama:

Raleigh, as you know, is hardly one of the most progressive places in the nation regarding the tear-down issue, or anything for that matter. Golly, has your progressive City Council even bothered to sign the U.S Mayors Climate Protection Agreement?

It’ll take 10 years, if ever, for Raleigh to sort out the issues of tear-downs and fossil fuels reduction. (Heard us called “Sprawleigh” lately? OUCH). First, we’ll have a blue ribbon citizen/developer task force that will offer watered down remedies, then we’ll have some out-of-town consultants that will cost us a bunch of money only to be ignored, then some lame resolution will languish in a Council sub-committee, follow this up with pages and pages of city staff input that nobody will act on (they talked about hiring somebody to study the issue and “craft new regulations”), throw in occasional blather from interested parties in the paper, the occasional energy scare, and zzzzzzzzz from the populace….

All you folks living inside the beltline in 1200 square foot homes on a quarter or half acre get a choice: a bunch of investors that want your house for a rental that they can ignore until it crumbles, or a bunch of investors that want your house so they can tear it out. Either way, don’t waste your time looking for help from this City Council.

Dr. Walter de Gama speaks in full, click here.

I hope this prediction turns out to be premature.

In an earlier post, Dr. de Gama discusses one other issue surrounding teardowns: the concept of gentrification. "When I wrote sometime back about the trend of older homes being torn down and replaced by much larger and very expensive dwellings I wasn’t exactly sure what it is that I was commenting about. Now I know: neighborhoods undergoing this sort of transition are experiencing gentrification," he stated in April 2006.

... If we look around at other places, like London, England, for instance, we find that gentrification wasn’t so much about race as it was about class. The rich move in, and everybody else takes a hike because they can’t afford to stay. This is no different than the San Jose, CA, area, which has property values that are so exclusive they force anybody who is a government worker to commute in from the fringe. When you get near the urban core in the nation's hot spots, it's a white-collar world, folks.

In other words, what we are seeing in Raleigh now is gentrification in the neighborhoods around downtown that are older but still close to the urban core. Nobody is whining too much about this so far from what I can see, whereas in other cities like Washington entire neighborhoods are being replaced with McMansions. As a general rule “what happened” only becomes glaringly obvious in hindsight.

... Investor fever is hitting downtown; people from all over the nation are looking for places in Raleigh to buy low, flip, and sell high, or buy low, develop, and sell high. No property near downtown is immune.

In the final analysis, the one thing nobody can prevent under any circumstance is the practice of one property owner from selling to another. No government, law, rule, or covenant can stop real estate transactions. Call it the natural lifecycle of a neighborhood, or neglect, or the failure of a community to correct itself… landlords with a portfolio of shabby properties, boarded up shacks that are beyond fixing up, a city that looked the other way for too long while the decay continued, no leadership or responsibility for the criminal element, and finally, people and dwellings that simply age-out…

Once the gentrification train leaves the station, it only picks up steam. All aboard!!

As my favorite teacher used to say, "A word to the wise should be sufficient."

Thanks Dr de and Ms C.

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