10.09.2017

Do We Really Want Diverse Neighborhoods

A couple of years ago I tweeted this:




As you can imagine, race and class inform both pushbacks.  We are nervous about rich folks moving into poor neighborhoods because we have seen the effect of gentrification on households and communities, an effect that has historically fallen disproportionately on households of color.  On the flip, affluent communities use things like minimum lot sizes to zone out poorer households from being able to share in their neighborhood amenities and quality schools, and this often has a racial dimension to it.  People feel strongly in both cases, enough to turn up the heat socially or regulatorily such that it's hard to make and then keep a truly mixed-income neighborhood.  (Taking a snapshot in time of a rapidly transitioning community of course doesn't count.)

My neighborhood is a rare example of income diversity, although it's not without its detractors on both sides.  Many people consider it to be gentrified, and blame Penn for setting forces into motion that have led to the displacement of long-time residents in this historically African-American neighborhood.  Others offer a wide range of protests against new developments, some high end and some low end, which has the effect of making it harder to add new housing supply and therefore impairs affordability. 

I hope and anticipate that our neighborhood will continue to be a welcome place for households at all price points and walks of life, for which I am grateful.  That is important for my own quality of life and for the kind of education and neighborhood experience my kids are growing up in.  I imagine many people share similar values, and yet the way things are structured (which we then actively and passively participate in), we end up in socio-economically homogeneous communities.  Speaking to those of us who are of means and therefore have choices, as much as we are increasingly attuned to the importance of diversity and express a heightened willingness to fight for it, still we sort ourselves with people like us and do other things that prevent more diversity from happening.  Do we really want diverse neighborhoods?




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