Poor against poor

… 1.-A few years ago, it was said that the perfect solution for the rebirth of downtowns was to make them more compact and to boost gentrification. At that time, gentrification was viewed with good eyes and it looked like a cure-all: more and better homes, new shops and services, restoration and recovery of historical-artistic heritage, enhancement of quality of life, reuse of spaces, more tourism … In a way, it is the objective of the current Spanish Land use Law and urban rehabilitation [“Ley del Suelo y Rehabilitación Urbana”,2015].

…But gentrification soon showed its hidden face. The increase in the value of real estate and its taxation and, above all, the increment in the rental price, gave rise to a growing protest movement. Social activists and campaigners claimed against the expulsion of old residents in the neighbourhood (and new ones who could not resist). Even the installation of new public facilities, allies for gentrification, has been rejected. Nicolás Barbieri told us about this some weeks ago, in his reflection on urban inequalities.


…2.-Compact and dense cities have probably certain environmental and social advantages. But they only work with a huge fiscal effort. This tax contribution must be directed largely towards the construction of social and affordable housing, in its different forms and regulations. Social housing policies have a long tradition in the United States and western countries. They try to afford housing to low and moderate income people. In Spain they had a considerable expansion in the mid-twentieth century but declined at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

It has often been said that some social housing projects encourage segregation. However, I think we cannot draw general conclusions. This should be studied case by case.

Demolition of William Green Homes, Chicago, in 2006. This was a part of Cabrini–Green Homes , controversial public housing project located on the  Near North Side of Chicago. Picture author: Victorgrigas

…Only a powerful public housing policy would avoid, perhaps, the exclusion effect. That should be completed with other measures. For instance, legally restricted rental prices, although it’s not easy in the constitutional frame of the market economy.


…3.-My admired professor Marta Lora-Tamayo recently sent me an article by J. David Goodman from the New York Times with the title “What the City didn’t want the public to know: its policy deepens segregation”. This text explains that a non-profit organization called Anti-Discrimination Center has contested the current rules about allocation and lotteries of social housing in New York. The lawsuit has especially bothered Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is presented as a champion of social housing policy and is already on the path of his nomination as a Democratic candidate for the White House.

Anti-Discrimination Center has challenged the lottery rules   because these norms give a priority (that reaches 50%) to residents of the area affected by the erection or start-up of new social housing. The plaintiffs state that this regulation perpetuates and increases racial segregation. White neighborhoods stay white, black neigborhhoods stay black…  They base it with extensive research.

       The protection of residents is, in general, a traditional measure against gentrification. For instance, the parking reserve for locals that you can see in our municipalities (I have some doubts about validity of this restriction, but this is a different kettle of fish). It’s a right derived from vicinity, derived from the past…But, in  New York against Anti-Discrimination Center the claimants oppose that right and want to “colonize” other areas, with the  probable “expulsion” of old neighbours.

We are facing a legal aporia: the reservation in favour of locals prevents forced migration to other neighbourhoods or cities, but increases racial segregation. Likely, the authorities or the courts will reduce the reserve of 50% and, therefore, will provoke another demand of the new offenders, a hypothetical Anti-expulsion center



Acerca de Joan Amenós Álamo

Professor de Dret Administratiu
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