MANSFIELD: Controlling Gentrification


Due to proximity to the wealth and employment center of Greater University Circle, residents of adjacent communities of color — such as Wards 6, 7, 9 and East Cleveland — are justifiably concerned about the possibility of displacement if property values and rental costs rise as their communities continue to develop. Tales of gentrification running amok in less affluent neighborhoods San Francisco, Washington DC and parts of Harlem (just to name a few) understandably stokes fears, and some unscrupulous politicians fan those fears until they turn into raging flames of distrust.

But renewing parts of older neighborhoods and attracting an influx of new, more affluent residents doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, one in which current residents lose while newer residents win. If neighborhood development is done right everyone can win.

Nonetheless the apprehension of folks of color in these neighborhoods is understandable, particularly in light of an article entitled “The Race Based Mortgage Penalty” that recently appeared in the New York Times. The article stated that “minority communities that were targets for predatory home loans before the recession have become vulnerable yet again to mortgage discrimination. This time, many banks are simply writing off communities of color and denying them loans at all.”

The alarming piece went on to detail how persons of color, even those in high income categories and in possession of good credit scores, still could not escape discrimination in many cities across the nation.

However, a program called Greater Circle Living is making efforts to level the playing field by offering financial incentives to employees of nonprofits in its footprint to either purchase, rent or upgrade their current homes, which can be located in a number of surrounding neighborhoods. Next there has to be more willingness on the part of all parties to create more housing options for low- income and even permanent supportive housing for previously homeless individuals.

To accomplish this, in order for everyone to win, all sides party to negotiations over the direction development should take in these communities have to bring experienced, trustworthy people of high integrity to the table. The problem we previously had here in Ward 7 (where I live) is that our political leaders, going back to our beloved Fannie Lewis, failed to engage the services of qualified individuals to represent the interests of the ward when deep-pocketed developers would come calling.

And because they felt they were out of their depth (and they were) they felt they could simply slam the door on the future. But they were totally wrong. The future will kick the door in. Rather than run scared and constantly shout “Gentrification! Gentrification!” as if the word is synonymous with some terrifying monster bogeyman, we need to be represented by professionals that can broker fair deals for ward residents and assure diversity throughout the ward. But of course the devil is always in the details.

I know how much I don’t know, and I hope and pray that others in the ward are of the same mindset. We need skilled and experienced negotiators at the table since they know how to get the best deal for residents of Ward 7.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.


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