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OldeEast

Safe Neighborhood vs. Affordable Housing

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I have heard a lot of discussion about creating affordable housing in the area east of downtown. Anyone who looks at the real estate sites can see that the area has some of the most affordable homes in Raleigh. There are beautifully remodeled homes that sell for less than 200,000. There are 3 bedroom homes that rent for much less than the market rate. The whole area is scattered with duplexes and apartments that are affordable and vacant.

What is the definition of affordable? Here is one that I hear OVER AND OVER. "I would love to live near downtown, and the home prices are within my budget, but I cannot AFFORD to live in a neighborhood with so much crime. It's not safe for me or my children."

After having been a victim of crime in the area, and after seeing the problems (drug activity, shootings, prostitution, etc.) getting worse, I have decided that affordability is not as important as getting rid of the crime. In fact, until the streets are safer, affordability is not important at all. It doesn't look like the leaders of the CACs have the ability or the will to take on the slumlords in the neighborhoods. There are so many residents who think having a safe neighborhood should be the top priority. Maybe there needs to be another group to deal with the crime - residents who care enough to take on the problems - and who want to work WITH the RPD and the City instead of giving excuses and working against them. Maybe a group could be formed to work independently of the CACs and focus solely on ridding the area of crime. Just a thought.

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it's not the houses that are being renovated and sold at below-market rates that is driving crime in the neighborhoods. in fact, those are probably helping to alleviate crime. one thing that might help is if more people DID buy homes instead of rent, and if they are active in their CAC. i really don't think octavia doesn't care about crime, she is one of the most active cac leaders i know. and also, if you go into the neighborhood with the attitude that its unsafe, you arent going to be very friendly with your neighbors so you'll remain isolated instead of getting to know your community and the kids on the street and the local business owners.

i agree, something needs to happen, but i think it can come from the CACs. they are supposed to act as the unifer for the neighborhood, so they can come together and be a recognized entity.

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it's not the houses that are being renovated and sold at below-market rates that is driving crime in the neighborhoods. in fact, those are probably helping to alleviate crime. one thing that might help is if more people DID buy homes instead of rent, and if they are active in their CAC. i really don't think octavia doesn't care about crime, she is one of the most active cac leaders i know. and also, if you go into the neighborhood with the attitude that its unsafe, you arent going to be very friendly with your neighbors so you'll remain isolated instead of getting to know your community and the kids on the street and the local business owners.

i agree, something needs to happen, but i think it can come from the CACs. they are supposed to act as the unifer for the neighborhood, so they can come together and be a recognized entity.

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Obviously, we need to deal with the bad apples in the landowner community. Tax incentives for renovations may be a good way to go. Keep them affordable, at least to a degree that normal hard-working person can get in, but definitely make a decently clean criminal record part of the applicaiton process.

You're never going to get rid of all the rentals in a neighborhood. Face it, they are a neccesity in a world where not everyone can afford to buy. Heck, I'm a college graduate full-time employed professional with 8+ years experience in my career field, and unless I wake up tomorrow morning with some sweepstakes folks outside my door with a big giant check, I will most likely still be a renter for a good few more years at the least! That said, I know a slumlord when I see one and would not put up with that type of crap.

The cities certainly need to get a better grip with how to deal with them...that's for sure. One would think it'd be in a landlord's best interest to keep properties in good shape and keep crime out. If the bottom line doesn't break even from doing so, then I'm certainly open to incentives to help out.

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"I have decided that affordability is not as important as getting rid of the crime."

This, coupled with the convenience of the car, is why we developed suburbs.

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"I have decided that affordability is not as important as getting rid of the crime."

This, coupled with the convenience of the car, is why we developed suburbs.

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Hey if $4-$5.00 gas is what it takes to help get people to move downtown and spur more urban projects then I'm all for it. It was bound to happen sooner/later. Gas is going to go up this week just as it has every week since about January and it's going to go up again this week. Barrel cost jumped by $11 to $140/barrel on Friday and the national average for gas hit $4 today. Some spots in Raleigh are already at $4.06 and California is already at $5.

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http://wral.com/business/story/3010167/

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While encouraging people to use mass transit is a good thing, prices of gas going much higher will only create more problems. Current prices are starting to drive (no pun intended) those who can least afford the increase in gas prices towards being unable to make ends meet and into bankruptcy. As it stands now, Raleigh has little to offer in variety of housing prices, so people being encouraged to come downtown will be minimal, as many people couldn't afford the prices. Anything that pushes people to the point of having to choose between affording gas to get to work and putting food on the table for their families is not worth it. People struggling to do this is evidenced by food banks struggling to keep up with demands for food as of late. More and more people are turning to food banks because they can't afford to feed their families, which IMO, makes the raising rates of gas immoral and unethical.

On top of that, people who would want to may have trouble selling their homes in the burbs and as a result, can't move. I am dead set against any further gas price increases. Downtown Raleigh has practically nothing to offer if you want book stores, electronics, or any general shopping for that matter. Until that changes, people will likely stay put, as they would have to travel anyways to get to that stuff.

I'll use myself for an example...I live, work, and play all off of Capital. Moving downtown would actually be more of an inconvenience and I would have to travel even further to get to what I want. Not to mention, my employer doesn't have offices downtown. For that matter, the majority employers aren't downtown either, so until that changes, a lot of people won't go there. If the employer is in RTP, they'll just move closer to RTP. If they work closer to Wake Forest, they'll move out that way. I feel it will only disburse people even more, as they move into pockets around their area of employement. People will follow the money and the money is by no means all in DTR. The only way will be to bring employers down there, THEN, people will go there and retailers will follow. In addition to that, there needs to be an end to the housing crisis, which is anchoring people where they are and more housing options for people of all income levels. On top of that, more retail. Until then, DTR will be relegated to the higher income earners and hardcore.

On a side note, some countries (South Korea for instance) have started subsidizing gas for those under a certain income bracket and from what I've heard, officials in the US govt. are warming up to that idea...

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The reality of yours and everyone elses situation just plain sucks. In the end its not all about downtown, but creating sustainable neighborhoods outside of downtown. And I don't mean grass on your roof. I mean, compact, efficient street patterns, served with great public transportation, and compact efficient use of building sites. Downtown is far from you Gard, because all the development between you and it is super low density, one way in one way out (Capital) with a single bus line that comes every 30 minutes at peak times. This was not good even when gas was 99 cents a gallon.

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Great topic and good points, Olde East. You are right, crime is the number one issue limiting accessibility to affordable housing near downtown Raleigh.

I don't know about all the CACs, but Octavia Rainey of North Central is great about fighting crime and the rooming houses that breed it.

I agree that slumlords are a big part of the problem. The trouble is, their rents are usually just as high as rents of respectable properties. The slumlords charge a lot of rent and spend no money on repairs, but they will take criminals and irresponsible tenants who cannot rent at respectable places. The downside for the slumlords is that they have to evict tenants more frequently, and their properties deteriorate. But you will see that the richest landlords, the big empires like Joyner, Shrader, Gurley, Stanley, etc., use this model, so it must work for them.

Since the market will not take care of this problem, it is our responsibility as citizens to convince our City leaders to put standards in place for landlords. The City tried a few years ago with the landlord PROP laws, punishing landlords with too many code violations, complaints, criminal behaviors, etc., but it was watered down by the powerful landlord lobby, so it is a weak tool.

I also believe that the RPD could do better. The burglary and thievery is fueled by the 24-hour open-air drug markets that are scattered across SE Raleigh and nearby. The RPD knows where they are if I know where they are, and I do. It seems to me that if they would just park a blue & white there 24-7, with a uniformed cop sitting in it, they would either make a lot of arrests, or shut the market down in a few days. Then the dealers would have to find new properties from which to operate, the customers would have to find the new market, and a lot of crime would be prevented. Then when a new location is established, the RPD should repeat the procedure. I don't see why this would not drive the drug market out of town eventually. BUT I rarely see cops at these spots.

Another problem is the new investors who have bought properties in these old neighborhoods closer to downtown, but aren't taking part in the improvement process. I have a friend who bought a very nice old house on Swain St. a few years ago, but has said the area has "not appreciated as quickly as she had hoped." I asked her what she is doing with her house. She said it is a rooming house. I speculated that perhaps the appreciation was being held back by slumlords buying properties and renting them out as rooming houses. Yeah, yeah, she said she will soon restore it as single family.

But really, the area is so much better than it was ten years ago. It will improve; it just takes patience, hard work, and pressure on our politicians and government and police department. Keep calling the cops when you see anything. Call the landlords. Call City inspections. Keep your place nice. Come to the Community Development Department hearings and support their efforts. Get to know your neighbors, even the rougher ones. Help each other.

All these things are what happened in Oakwood over the last 40 years, and that's why it evolved from a slum to a nice safe neighborhood. The reward is that those folks who bought houses there in the early years and fought for the neighborhood are those who enjoy a great neighborhood even though they paid very little for their houses. They worked for their improved neighborhood. The appreciation has already happened there. It is mostly still to come in the SE Raleigh neighborhoods near downtown.

Another good thing about these old neighborhoods is that they are still nice enough and safe enough that there are still a lot of the old folks whose families have been there for years. As long as these old folks are willing to stay, their homes won't get into the hands of the slumlords. Most of these old neighborhoods have not, and will never, gotten as bad as the slums in cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Richmond, St. Louis, even parts of Durham. Therefore, they don't have so far to go to become nice neighborhoods.

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Our entire economy rests on gas prices and supply. You better HOPE prices stop increasing or you'll see a giant recession in the economy coupled with massive inflation and unemployment. Those two items won't do a darned thing for downtown.

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If you guys are interested in this topic, you should check out the July/August issue of the Atlantic Monthly that just came out this week (so not online at theatlantic.com yet). An article called "American Murder Mystery" explores how the Hope VI program demolition of inner city housing projects (like Halifax Court in Raleigh) has fueled an explosion of crime in the suburbs as the poor disperse away from the inner city, and how the desired effect of living in a suburb with higher income people causing changes in lifestyle/aspirations of the poor simply isn't happening...they are taking the social ills of the projects out with them across the cities. Article also takes a few sideswipes at projects like the replacement of Halifax Court...providing some anecdotes about how the rich/upper middle class move in to these redeveloped projects, and a few token poor people stay in the mixed income housing units, and they never really interact or form a community.

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Not directly a part of this topic, but kind of semi-related....

Fox News was reporting that housing sales have taken an unexpected turn and are going back up. The western US saw an 8% increase while the southeast saw a 5% increase. The northeast still showed a decline, but it slowed. They also noted that a large number of the increases were in places there were hit the hardest by the housing crisis. Great to see the market readjusting itself and finally stabilizing some. Analysts are now expecting housing values to level off late this year and began increasing again around mid 2009. This will make it much easier for people who want to sell, for banks to open up a little more to financing big projects and will allow the Fed to slowly raise interest rates so that the dollar can rise against other major currencies, which in turn will help hold down gas prices. With the housing market coming under control, we can focus now more on keeping gas prices in check.

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But really, the area is so much better than it was ten years ago. It will improve; it just takes patience, hard work, and pressure on our politicians and government and police department. Keep calling the cops when you see anything. Call the landlords. Call City inspections. Keep your place nice. Come to the Community Development Department hearings and support their efforts. Get to know your neighbors, even the rougher ones. Help each other.

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"Affordable" mean different things to different people. Short term savings -- a smaller deposit, pay by the week instead of month -- makes rooming houses more "affordable" than an apartment. When someone has a criminal record, their housing options are reduced further, all but pushing them into a slumlord's waiting arms. And they can't speak against their slumlord, since they could be evicted at any time with their belongings in a pile.

In regards to the city offering money to perform necessary repairs, they hire a friend of a friend who does shotty work and the house is as bad as it was with nothing to show for the money and/or the landlord gets "swindeled" out of the money. Last month the N&O did a story on someone who received $18,000 for repairs in 2006, only to need a recent reprive for housing code violations. The Independent has coverage, with a report of the surrounding community's efforts. The program's loans are for owner-occupied homes and are forgiven over several years if the owner stays in the house. If the owner passes the house on to a family member, they can continute to "pay down" the loan. There is a $5,000 cap, though exceptions (like the one in the N&O articles) have been granted.

Apartment complexes are expected to have renters by their very nature. Everyone living there rents. Part of the rent goes toward upkeep of the common areas of the complex, etc. When someone rents a house, they have no connection to the property or neighborhood. As a result, they do just enough to get by, which often leads to deteriation of both the house and neighborhood. There may be better renters than home owners, but that is the exception more than the rule. In one study of the area east of downtown, several experts said that a neighborhood is stable if the renter to owner-occupied homes is 40% rental or less, but the area was 70% rental due to slumlords buying up properties as older generations moved out or passed on and their family didn't want to move back to the neighborhood. Community Devlopment is trying to sew seeds of home ownership through via my house and others in the neighborhood. Some work and have spawned private investment in other houses (including several near me), and some don't since some owners don't get involved in neighborhood improvement.

The city has assembled a large chunk of land near the Martin/Haywood corner (which Greg Hatem/Empire Properties offered to help redevlop several years ago but was denied by the "community"), but has been held back from issuing a request for proposals from developers because a few vocal members of the community do not want an economically diverse neighborhood but one that only serves and concentrates people with little to no income. This creates zero positive role models and does not lift a community but dooms it. Projects like Carlton Place and Chavis Heights have added to the inventory of affordable housing stock. Carlton Place has more than 60% of the units reserved for lower income households, which is far from a "token" presence. I don't know what the numbers are at Chavis Heights (now open) but it is at least 40-50 percent lower income, if not more. Yet this is never enough for those who use the excuse of keeping out gentrification as a means of keeping the neighborhood racially segregated. And outsiders who write off the whole area and want to contain the poverty to the "bad part of town". There is an explosion of crime in the suburbs because there is no sense of community. In Brier Creek they left their garage doors open and cars unlocked. Just because they spent a lot of money for their house does not give them the freedom to not safeguard their valuables. The tearing down of the apartments of North Hills East has done more to "spread crime in the suburbs" more than any project downtown. A lot of people moved back Capitol Park and Chavis Heights. No former residents are moving back to North Hills East. And the recent U.S. economy that drives the wedge between the haves and have nots even further apart due to offshoring jobs is only making matters worse.

A variety of things can make a neighborhood "safe". Home ownership is one part, and helped turn around Oakwood, Boylan Heights, Glenwood/Brooklyn, Five Points, and Mordecai. Those neighborhoods were not safe by any means, but became safe when the houses were restored to their original glory. Neighbors worked with police to make the area better, instead of treating them as adversaries. Block by block, house by house, stability was reestablished, and even stronger than in most suburbs.

An N&O article covered "yuppies" buying Southeast Raleigh houses years ago, but little has changed since that article was published. The East Visioning plan mentioned in that article was hijacked by CAC leadership, kicking out residents who were offering their input for what they wanted to see and replacing them with outsiders who were allowed to chart the future for a neighborhood they had no direct connection to.

I helped start the Downtown East community watch five years ago, covering an area roughly bordered by East, Hargett, Haywood and Martin. I'd like for it to cover a wider area, but there was no feedback from neighbors outside of that core area. There is an email list if anyone here is in/near that area and wants to join. I've made several efforts to intergrate with my neighbors, old and new. Some have been nice, but some, due to not trusting anyone who doesn't look like them, have been unreceptive. Depsite what the Atlantic Monthly wants to tell you, no one can *force* someone else (I've seen it on both sides -- new residents and old) interact or form a community. Should we stop doing HOPE VI projects because some people are anti-social? I hope not. Many community leaders, including Octavia Rainey, have time and again said they preferred the community created by *segregation*. They pick their crime battles for their neighborhoods (see the prostitution stings near Jones/Lane/Seawell), leaving few resources to combat crime elsewhere, especially the open air drug market on East Martin Street.

"We" developed the suburbs because a few developers figured out how to con the city into expanding infrastructure -- roads, water, sewer, schools, police, fire, etc. -- and stuck the existing tax base with the bills. It was "cheap" because of shoddy construction techniques and undervalued raw land. A process that repeats itself to this day via low impact fees and unchecked sprawl.

*Demand* (the part of the economic equation some people forget to mention) for oil goes up when you can't walk to your neighbors, let alone the grocery store, school, etc. The suburban mindset of putting as much land between you and the next person ensured everyone has to own a vehicle (or two or three). Coupled with underfunding and mis-managing mass transit, a perfect storm was created for unsustainable sprawl.

Today I can catch the bus to RTP and save $3/day on just gas costs alone. If enough people followed my lead, increased bus service would make the difference in communting time even less. With rail service, the difference may be next to nothing. Meanwhile, gas demand would go down, prices would drop (unless speculators bid it even higher), and traffic congestion would be reduced. Neighborhood groceries and other shops and services would reduce gas consumption all the more, a sustainable, positive loop instead of the current negative, resource consuming cycle.

The ironic thing is that more people in a neighborhood, instead of empty, boarded up shacks that double as havens for drug dealers and mentally unstable homeless people, would get rid of crime. But there is a segment of the population who makes money selling shiny new exurbs and "redevlopment" projects who spread fear, uncertantity and doubt to maintain their devlopment gravy train.

Why didn't the suburbs fail? You could live there, but not work, shop, or play. Because the cost for all that was subsidized in the opportunity costs taken away from the existing neighborhoods downtown. That cost has been paid now (F Street reopening, Convention Center/Hotel) and is starting to pay dividends. With the existing worker population (State Government and F Street rivals any other area other than RTP) and growing population base, downtown's best days are ahead of it.

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Great post as always, ncwebguy.

You note that not much has changed in your area since the N&O published the article about yuppies buying into the area, two and a half years ago. I believe the major reason is that we are in an economic and housing slump. During these times, neighborhood improvement tends to stagnate or move slowly. When the economy improves, we will see more rapid improvements. It's not a steady process, but stop and start.

Regarding the Atlantic Monthly article: I am shocked, shocked to learn that demolishing the housing projects and dispersing the residents has resulted in a dispersal of crime. I also happen to know that places like Little Italy in Baltimore are breathing a huge sigh of relief, no longer being in the shadow of high-rise projects.

Regarding Halifax Court: No rich people have moved there; it is all rental, so it's not likely to happen. A few middle class people have moved there. And that is a good thing. There are upper middle class people in nearby neighborhoods. That's good, too. It's good to mix incomes; I hope I don't have to enumerate the reasons again here. The poor families who now live in Halifax Court may or may not have "formed communities" with the middle-class people there, but at least they can let their kids play outside without worrying if they will be shot. They can let their teenage boys out of their sight without worrying that they will start working for the local crack dealer.

The crime that is now being dispersed is a result of prior concentrations into housing projects of people without regular jobs. It took a couple generations of people living in those projects to learn their bad habits, and it will take a couple generations to unlearn those bad habits.

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Regarding the dispersal of crime...I have always noted the "ring of decay" in cities and Raleigh is no exception...as development ages out starting at around 20 years old and often being neglected to 40 years old, deterioration of property and, ensuing lowering of property value and hence acceptance of crime in an area seems to follow.....the "ring" phenom started with automobiles, and ground zero was downtown(s). In Raleigh the "new" was Boylan Heights, Cameron Park, Brooklyn. Then those areas decayed, and "new" became Brentwood and everything at about the Beltlines radius. Now "new" is out at TTC and Brier Creek while the areas between 440 and 540 mostly decay. Also the ground zero, downtown, revives. in 20-40 years, I predict there will be decay along the 540 arc and crime will find its way there. Not sure if I am plugging into the thread very well, but I see some correlation between neglect of property and allowance/tolerance of crime, and the pattern that leads to it...

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Nice rants, but please read the article before going off on a spiel. It was a thoughtful piece that focused on Memphis (which now has the highest crime rate in the country) and the findings of some criminologists/sociologists. I don't recall a single mention of Raleigh in the article. As I've said, the article wasn't some screed against Hope VI. It made the point that the theory that if you eliminate high concentrations of poverty and spread those people out that they will somehow magically take on middle class values by osmosis has not come to pass. Article also makes the point that they sent these people to the suburbs, but they didn't sent the support services out there, so in some cases, it has gotten worse. (sort of like moving Wake County Social Services out by Wake Med, although public transportation access is fairly good out there as far as I know.

Similar to the reaction in this thread, article also discusses how these researchers are afraid to really publicize their findings, for fear of inciting the usual rants from the usual suspects...

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Jeff, I haven't read the article and was not planning to rant about it, but I am wondering if the researchers determined any alternate courses of action. If the current and past models of public/affordable housing are not providing any benefit, what is a better way? It is impossible to completely eradicate crime, as much as we all would like to do so. It is equally as impossible to eradicate poverty

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Regarding the dispersal of crime...I have always noted the "ring of decay" in cities and Raleigh is no exception...as development ages out starting at around 20 years old and often being neglected to 40 years old, deterioration of property and, ensuing lowering of property value and hence acceptance of crime in an area seems to follow.....the "ring" phenom started with automobiles, and ground zero was downtown(s). In Raleigh the "new" was Boylan Heights, Cameron Park, Brooklyn. Then those areas decayed, and "new" became Brentwood and everything at about the Beltlines radius. Now "new" is out at TTC and Brier Creek while the areas between 440 and 540 mostly decay. Also the ground zero, downtown, revives. in 20-40 years, I predict there will be decay along the 540 arc and crime will find its way there. Not sure if I am plugging into the thread very well, but I see some correlation between neglect of property and allowance/tolerance of crime, and the pattern that leads to it...

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Great post, miamiblue; lots of great points.

But sometimes it works: Not quite two years ago, my brother bought a nice old bungalow in moderate condition on a rough street in SE Raleigh. The bungalow's most recent tenants were a rough crowd and we had to go to court to evict them. The day my brother moved in, we watched the crack customers constantly come and go from behind the crummy quadruplex across the street. A week or so later, a tough type told my brother "This is my block. I'm watching you."

But my brother got to know all the neighbors. They are mostly good people, and they watch out for each other. Actually, during the settling-in process, we had a pile of trash in front for the city to pick up, some of it left over from the previous tenants. I told the old lady next door that we were sorry about the trash and it would get gone soon. She said she was just happy that we got rid of the trash that was living in the house!

My brother has not yet had a break-in, in almost two years. The tough guy who threatened him has never reappeared. The quadruplex was bought by a responsible landlord who renovated it and has good people in it. His block is now nice and quiet, and he was a part of the process.

So my brother has a nice old house on a nice block in a convenient location, yet his costs are very low; he could never afford such a house in a more fixed-up neighborhood.

The next street over is still really bad, but they don't bother my brother, and it will get better.

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I totally understand where miamiblue is coming from, and those reasons (and others) are why neighborhood revitalization has been a slow proces:

1. The criminial element makes it difficult to do rennovations. When my house was being built, several windows were broken, some multiple times, because the criminal element didn't want the neighborhood to improve. Or the crackheads who used the house as a place to use drugs, sleep, etc. were so mentally unstable that they didn't know they were doing serious harm to someone else's property. While rennovating a rental house (that my neighbors and I plan to sell as soon as we can), someone ripped the copper from under the house, which set back work several days. We were lucky to not lose tools, supplies, etc.

2. The only people who can do the necessary rennovations have the luxury of living somewhere else while rennovating the house. Houses that are on the market are in such a state of disrepair that they can not be lived in during the rennovation work. Any houses a better state are held onto and rented out. And then everyone wonders why the neighborhood is so dominated by renters and not owners. We hired neighborhood residents for some projects to help pour money directly in the local economy, but working around their "day job" schedules made getting work done difficult as well.

3. Houses where someone else did the work already have those costs (plus profit) priced in, effectively pricing out wannabe urban pioneers who aren't as handy and/or want a "turn key" house to move into. I don't know how to solve that problem.

From his description, I think I can guess which block AskMrBown's brother lives on. It is scarry being on the redevloped/non-redeveloped edge, but the "no risk, no reward" and "everyone pays their dues by meeting the existing neighbors and staring down the bad guys. I hope it is a sustainable trend, but it requires motivated people who are willing to take the risk *and* invest the time/money/sweat equity to have an affordable *and* safe place to live. The area east of Oakwood/north of New Bern has had a fair share of success stories, and new homes are now under construction on Seawell and Cooke Streets. I *don't* know who is selling them, but someone sent me a web listing for one of them, so research can be done.

I offered a walking tour of the east side of downtown last year, and a couple of people replied, but it went from too hot to too cold almost overnight, and this spring it has gone in reverse. But if anyone is up for it, feel free to send me an im or email at this screen name a t yaAAAhoo (minus the extra As). It could be part of a meetup/lunch or just the walking/biking tour.

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The article in The Atlantic JeffC referred to is now online, and it isn't technically a screed against HOPE VI, it points a *lot* of blame on Memphis's problems (and briefly mentions Charlotte's) its way, including the subheadline. The "researchers" are afraid that their version of the truth won't be accepted by people who don't want it to be seen as "racist".

The author in particular should be afraid that several other causes of the increased crime problem were only mentioned in passing or not at all. They also dangerously equate "rise in crime in suburbs" with "rise in crime in the city overall". The article even mentions that this happened in some cities, but not all, yet continues to hammer home the "things were better before" talking point. The article, and it seems all of the other research, fails to recognize how much crime went *unreported* in and around the old housing projects due to fear of retribution and/or lack of trust in the police department. That skews the baseline for crime when poor folks lived in projects.

Other contributing factors briefly mentioned in the article inclueded the fact that Section 8 voucher recipients *chose* to move into lower class neighborhoods one small step above being officially labeled as lower income/poverty. This did not break up the project, it only shifted its physical location. It also points out that police in these areas were unprepared for the influx of crime and/or did nothing about it until well after the gangs had established their new territory. RPD's gang enforcement/suppression unit works on keeping gangs on the run until they can't re-establish new roots and then die. This didn't happen in Memphis, yet the reporter lets their police department without any blame. Police who work beats in/near projects are usually new recruits out of the academy and/or gung ho officers who want to make a name for themselves. As they get older, start to raise a family, and/or burn out , they are reassigned to the suburbs to lighten their work load. These suburban officers had no idea what was going on by maintaing a "wait till people report the problem" stance. The article mentions that new policing tactics and data mining has helped, yet still blames HOPE VI/Section 8 for creating the "problem" in the first place.

The article also mentions the lack of intergration into the relocated citizens' new communities, but doesn't blame them. Or even ask if an effort was made on their part (see AskMrBrown's brother) or on the part of the existing community. There are hints of a self-segregation, via groups of housing project members moving to the same apartment complex, and the social segregation decisions made by the former projects' residents. The article mentions that only 5 percent of former project residents move back, attributing it to not wanting to move twice (even though they knew that would be necessary) or tight restrictions -- being elderly, disabled, in school or employed. Why does those "restrictions" get labeled as tough? HOPE VI is set up to *reward* people willing to make some changes on their own, not give new houses to people who were physically able yet refused work. Or, more likely, sustained themselves via black market activities like dealing drugs, prostitution, and under the table jobs like child care, hair styling, and various manual labor tasks.

There are several contributing factors ignored by the article. 1. People expected too much of their "new life". The article mentions someone who threw away just about all her old furniture. That wasn't part of the deal, and cost money to replace. Paying 25% of their new rent is cheap, but the new stuff (possibly paid for with high interest credit cards) eats away at money that should have gone to better nutrition, education/self-improvment, and other worthy causes. That leads into 2. The "hyperconsumer culture" of the suburbs, and "keeping up with the Jonses (no offense, Jones 133!)." In the projects, that was never an issue because no one had nothing. They didn't have a car, let alone need to get fancy rims.

3. The increased influence of gang culture in the younger African-American community happening at the same time as the projects were coming down. Kids in the suburbs may have started gangs even without their new neighbors from the "hood". All they needed were connections to drugs, money, and weapons, and everything else falls into place. The ongoing "war on drugs" hasn't hampered supply *or* demand, and the baby boomers' kids are starting to come into money to start their own drug habits.

4. Influx of new criminals, from other parts of the state moving to Memphis (similar to people leaving Northeast NC) and Katrina refugees who established a new life and never moved back.

5. "Affordable" home ownership due to shoddy construction of cookie cutter suburbs and the subprime financing that made buying homes possible. As those neighborhoods went downhill almost from the beginning, they became magents for Section 8 recipients. See this discussion of this issue, and guess which city is the "poster child"? That's right -- Memphis. Guess who did a story on it? Yep, The Atlantic. Yet the word "foreclosure" isn't mentioned in the "American Murder Mystery" story. Why should it? The story is it is a direct result of HOPE VI/Section 8, and heaven forbid we deviate from that.

6. It isn't the lack of access to services they had in/near the projects, but the lack of access (or motivation to obtain) education they should have had all along. Moving to the suburbs might put them closer to a community college, but there is no guarantee of that. And if they spent the money saved by lower rents on a flat screen tv instead of an education, is that HOPE VI's fault? No one can be forced to get an educaiton.

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^

interesting response to the article...you should copy this post into an official letter to the editor...Atlantic Monthly has a nice feature where they run letters to the editor, and then get the authors to respond to the points.

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