I have a LOT of ideas for things I’d like to see. Things ranging from silly toy and game ideas to ideas for how to save the planet. So many that I could probably fill an entire other blog with them.
But goddess knows I don’t have time in my life to build & tend YET ANOTHER blog or website. And besides, I get bored just going on and on about how fine my ass is and how well I keep you slaveboys put in your places under my feet. There’s a lot more to me than just being your fetish fantasy woman.
(If you’re smart you realize the ‘more’ is what MAKES me your fetish fantasy dream woman, but that’s a topic for another day.)
So I’ve been wanting for quite some time to start an ongoing series of posts where I write about Things I’d Like To See, from the mundane to the outrageous.
Inspired by Jeff Bezos’ call for ideas, in this ‘stuff I’d like to see’ first post I’m going to talk about an idea I have that I believe could revolutionize urban housing. To explain this idea I need to give you a little bit of background: in my hometown, the downtown area has in recent years become a hot spot. Property values have skyrocketed accordingly. Downtown is surrounded to the east by a beautiful waterfront – no room to spread in that direction. To the north & west lie neighborhoods that have already been 100% built up, and where property values have risen high enough to price ‘average’ families out of the market.
To the south is another story. That area has some of the most beautiful parks and waterfront in the city, and several spots that are true historic & architectural gems. Still property values have remained abysmally low. Owners are frequently absentee investors who own large groups of houses, renting to tenants on government assistance. Neither of whom is very much invested in keeping the house in good shape. And there are wide swathes of land where derelict houses once stood, remarkably large chunks of open land to be available so close to the downtown area.
Why are property values so low in this part of town? If you guessed “ghetto” give yourself a gold star. This area is the historically black, historically poor section of town and local lore is so used to dismissing it as the ‘bad’ part of town that it seems like a lost cause. This really fucking gets under my skin – why should prejudice rooted in past hatreds and present snobbery prevent the sensible use of resources? Idiocy like this drives me nuts!
One of the things people fear about “gentrification” is always that when folks move in, start buying up old houses & land and fixing them up, the poor people who could previously afford to live in those places will be driven away. Studies have shown that this is by no means universally true, and that often poor people benefit from the improved services and infrastructure that come with ‘gentrification’. But the genius of my idea hinges on giving the poor people who are already living in the area an ownership stake in the gentrification process.
At this point I want to mention another factor that figures into all this: the severe shortage of affordable rental homes all over the county. Rents are WELL over the 35% of median income which is recommended by the givers of budget advice. And there’s a lot of demand for quality rental housing near downtown: a large university, several hospitals, many businesses – all these places have students & employees who need places to live nearby that they can afford.
My idea would be to start buying up those plots of vacant land, the crappy old houses inhabited by welfare tenants, the derelict places due for demolition – and start rebuilding them as small, multifamily dwellings. We give the people already living here an ownership stake by making each building an actual corporation, with the current tenant owning enough shares to guarantee them a unit in the property once it’s completed. The remaining shares might be held by buyers of the other units or by investors, if they were to be rented. Shares could even be sold to other local interests – places like churches and community groups, places that would themselves have a vested interest in seeing the neighborhood improved and would also benefit from the additional income such a project might bring to them.
This idea could be even more revolutionary in that it gives us the opportunity to rebuild a huge portion of the city using cutting edge ideas such as universal design, edible urban landscaping, green energy sources, and so much more. These places could be built to contain the sort of luxuries – like a pool or hot tub, a fancy garden, a really awesome treehouse for the kids – that middle and upper class families might take for granted but which would open a whole new world of experience for the current residents of the southside. It could be revolutionary in helping to lift untold numbers of people out of the cycle of poverty and violence just by giving them a nicer way of life. One that they OWN, just like any other investor owns stocks or a home, not being dependent on a handout.
I have pretty deep knowledge of my local real estate market. But I can’t claim to know other markets in other places. However I suspect if the idea is sound it can be applied to other markets as well. What I lack is the expertise to navigate things like zoning issues, major construction, setting up a corporation and selling the idea in the community. I’d need a team of people with a lot more know-how than I to execute this scheme. And I’d need capital, enough to at least get the ball rolling with one real estate development project. Which might not even be that huge of an amount; the city and county are also getting behind the idea of developing this area into something more, and there are a number of funding sources available to help with projects like this.
So yeah. That’s my idea for how to fix urban blight, improve the rental market, take the city one giant leap into the future of sustainable housing, and do something major to address endemic poverty all in one go.