First, let me say, as someone who has been sucked into boring, long meetings designed to break your soul, whoever put together the TIRCC breakfast is a miracle workers. It really was just an hour (a little less, if I’m remembering it right) and it was light and informative, with some serious notes thrown in there to remind folks what it is their supporting and why.
But what got me thinking was how folks were talking about the awesomeness of diversity and what great additions immigrants make to our community. Of course, I believe this to be true. And they also talked about the important work they do to help the communities that receive these immigrants to deal with the influx of new people successfully.
Because, of course, as we all know, that’s been the hard part.
(As a side note, they showed this brief film and in the film was a segment where a couple of women with their small children were sitting around talking about how afraid they were of police raids and of the police in general, and it kind of made me want to throw up.)
But the whole thing got me thinking again about the rapid changes in my neighborhood, both on my side of 440 and on the side closer to West End. Our side of the interstate is, with the exception of the big houses along Murphy Road, a typical working class-looking neighborhood in Nashville. We have some a couple of apartment buildings, some houses that have been broken up into apartments, some modest-sized family homes, a bunch of those post-war Monopoly-house houses and a few tiny shotgun shacks.
On the other side of 440, there were more modest-sized family homes, quite a few condos that are just a step up from what we live in and quite a few apartment buildings. All priced, though, so that people like us could afford to live here.
There’s a general problem with all of the houses in my neighborhood, which one of my co-workers discovered when she was looking to buy over here. The bigger old houses tend to have really shitty foundations and tend to be held up by what appears to be glorified firewood–bark still on and everything.
I think there was a moment when homeowners in my neighborhood wondered if they could benefit from the gentrification trend going on in other parts of town. So, for instance, the house that my co-worker looked at, when she looked at it, was listed for $210,000. Considering the surrounding neighborhoods, that’s not unreasonable. Considering the problems with the foundation, it was.
I hear that house sold this spring to a developer for $300,000.
It’s sitting empty, waiting to be torn down.
I’m sure that most of the new, high priced condos in my neighborhood are, at best, half full.
(I’m sure we’ve all heard rumors about how empty some of the new growth closer to downtown is, too, but I can’t speak to that personally.)
I have often wondered who’s buying these condos.
But sitting at breakfast, I began to wonder if I was missing the point. Maybe the point is who is not buying the houses that used to be there.
I mean, let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how close to work it is, we’re still not at the point here in Nashville where you’re going to get more than $75,000 for a three room shot-gun shack with no air conditioning. I mean, no one who intends to live in that house would pay you more than that for it. That house cannot be gentrified.
So, who would buy it? Just across the street and two empty lots away from the $500,000 condos that are still half empty?
If you’re trying to create a neighborhood where rich people can experience urban but not too urban life, doesn’t it behoove you to shut down the possibility of the neighborhood becoming something else?
Deliberately keeping properties bought up and empty will do that.
I probably should have figured that out sooner.
Right now, in my neighborhood, I think this is about economics. This is like a little donut-hole of regularness in the middle of a lot of wealth. Transforming it so that it matches what’s going on down West End or closer to Vandy makes sense, especially if you’re convinced that you can afford to hold onto the empty housing until people whose lives and income match what’s going on down West End discover you and decide to buy in.
But it makes it a bitch for diversity, doesn’t it?