In Presenting Gentrify Your Own Self

Yesterday I was in Memphis presenting Gentrify Your Own Self! on a panel with other Education Philosophers. I guess by now two questions are forming: 1. Did I really entitle an academic paper Gentrify Your Own Self? The short answer is no I didn’t. The proper title of my paper is *ahem* Educational Success in Under Resourced Neighborhoods through Self-Gentrification. 2. How is this about education philosophy? Well the answer to this question is a little more lengthy: So in every class I have taken, in every faculty meeting, in every educational video, in every ghetto, every city , and suburban place I’ve been (see what I did there?) there is always a conversation about the achievement gap between Black and White students. The brilliant solutions are to let go of teachers and administrators who actually care about students, make educational standards really difficult, and let’s test them to death so that Black students really don’t want to attend and do well in school. Effective huh? The problem is that the issues in schools are societal. Simply put, when Black people headed for the suburbs and the stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, humongous master bed and bath, and two-story foyer (sorry, still smarting over that last over-the-top House Hunters episode), they left behind some rich historical areas. The city and Low Country alike are all up for grabs. And we Black folks aren’t grabbing. We’re selling. We’re fleeing. We’re forgetting. And the culture established in these communities left with the people, and now you can’t play your acoustic guitar as loud as you want to because there’s a noise ordinance. I also include the culture of school success in the list of disappearances from the Black Community. I believe if Black communities are fixed, it’s a solution to solving our achievement gap problem. And the way to fix our communities is to Gentrify Your Own Self!

So I presented this theory at this conference. I figured that either my ideas would be met with applause or they’ll chase me out of the city. I got the polite applause. But I rubbed someone the wrong way. And that’s ok. When presenting a philosophical paper, it is expected that it will be met with some criticism. The key is being able to stand by the work. My critic said that she had a problem with my calling for the Black community to gentrify themselves puts onus on the Black Community to solve problems that they didn’t cause in the first place. My answer: Yes it does. And it should. Now the question that I have is what is wrong with being proactive and making a situation that will never change work for us? Gentrification will never go away, not as long as people see value and opportunities in places where we do not. So instead of being caught up in righteous anger, we need to see the value and start making moves to control our own destiny. What do you think?

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The Road to Memphis and a Seat at the Lorraine

Oh where to begin. There is so much to say, so I’ll start at the beginning. I grew up with the Logan Family. I have been living with them since the age of nine. Periodically, throughout the years, I would return to Mississippi for a visit. If you are a Mildred D. Taylor fan like I am, then you know who I am talking about. The book, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry has always stayed with me because it was about a strong Black family who struggled to hold on to their property in the 1930s and 40s. The story reminded me so much of my own family that I was compelled to write, The Promise of Palmettos. Ms. Taylor was as much of an influence to me as my own family, so I was over the moon when she wrote Let the Circle Be Unbroken and The Road to Memphis. No wonder the Civil War/Reconstruction and World War II are my favorite eras in history.

This weekend, I was excited to finally walk in the steps, somewhat, of main character, Cassie Logan as my husband and I headed to Memphis ourselves. Although Cassie was a fictional character, I got chills as I rode along Highway 51, the same roadway she and her friends took from Jackson, Mississippi into this city (I was coming from the direction of Millington). As we made our way through Memphis, I became excited as I took in the architecture of downtown, traveling along the streets and taking in the sites I had only read about. My jubilation was quickly and abruptly squelched however, when we came across Jackie Smith at the Lorraine Motel. One may ask, “Who is Jackie Smith?” Well she is a woman. A Black woman who has set up shop across the street from the very place where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. She has her folding table set up beneath an umbrella to protect her and her little pamphlets from the hot sun. Three signs are hung from her table:

1. Stop Worshipping the Past, Start Living the Dream
2. This site Honors James Earl Ray
3. Gentrification is an Abuse of Civil Liberties

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My husband and I just stood there with identical incredulous looks on our faces, taking in the foolery and watched as people passed by this woman’s table and asked questions. And she rationalized her ignorance. Ms. Smith is protesting the Lorraine Motel Historical Monument. She refuses to enter the museum because she feels that it goes against everything Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for. Instead of preserving the site, she feels that the motel should be low income housing. Therefore, she has sat at her perch, across the street for – wait for it – The past. Twenty-three. Years. I have to say that my problems with Jackie Smith are so huge that I am going to have to address her and her little signs one by one.

1. Stop Worshipping the Past, Start Living the Dream
To me, history isn’t something with which to dwell, but to learn from and be inspired by. Although Cassie Logan was a fictional character, her experiences with segregation and discrimination were very much real. To forget, is disrespectful. Let me say that again. To forget is disrespectful. It is disrespectful to discount the past sacrifices made that got us to this point in history. It is on the shoulders of our ancestors that we stand. So Miss Lady thinks that the site of Martin Luther King’s death all paved over and white washed would serve his legacy better? According to her, we are forgetting his dream. Excuse me? So instead of working to help the people that she feels this site should have been for, this lady sits there and hands out pamphlets that spout her ignorance. Meanwhile, people who gather at her table are seeking her permission to forget about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. My husband and I hear the murmurings, “She’s got a point,” from the crowd as she is telling the public, with her protest, that it is okay for them to not acknowledge that era of our American History. If we people of color do not remember and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who fought for our Civil Rights, why should everyone else? And if we don’t, who will? If madam has ever read a history book, listened to the stories of her ancestors, and gotten over herself, she would know that Black people, even before Martin Luther King, Jr., knew that to be successful in this country, they had to have an education (vocational or formal) in order to be elevated to the middle class. As a result, they would be economically successful.

2. This site Honors James Earl Ray.
What does sitting there with a one-woman show, steps away from where the shots were fired to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr., actually do? Who does it even help? People – Black and White – visit the Lorraine Motel. They shed tears. They say a prayer. They teach their children. Among this, I am not seeing how any of this honors James Earl Ray. If anyone is setting up a monument for King’s murderer, it is Jackie Smith. She is murdering history with her propaganda. Her pseudo philosophies are just firing the fatal shot all over again. Only instead of killing the body, she’s killing the dream King left behind. And I resent her very presence. Sun up to sun down, she’s out there. How exactly is she contributing to the society she feels the Lorraine Motel abandoned? That is all I have to say about that foolishness.

3. Gentrification is an abuse of Civil Liberties.
I get that people have issues with gentrification and rightly so. The displacement of residents and the loss of history are the serious downsides. But in order for economic prosperity and revitalization to occur, gentrification needs to happen. Also, consider the fact that gentrification is no longer just confined to small pockets in the urban area. The process is globalized as government entities recognize that the purposeful placement of the middle class brings in a much needed tax base, resulting in economic stability. And Martin Luther King, Jr. was all for that. Also, the globalization of gentrification means that it is not going away. At all. That is why we need to gentrify our own selves! If you can’t beat the process, be a part of the process. And if Miss Lady is saying that the Lorraine Motel is a sign of gentrification, then why isn’t she sitting outside of other gentrified spaces like the rehabilitated commercial properties, the gated infill neighborhoods (Uh, you don’t gate urban single family residential spaces, but that’s another blog post), or the pedestrian walkway/trolley route with her little pamphlets?

I cannot with Ms. Smith. I can respect a difference of opinion. But I cannot respect this so-called stand that she has taken. In fact, I am going to need her to have all of the seats available.

Now I want to speak directly to Miss Smith: If you want to take a stand for the homeless and the poor, then take your stand by doing something that will actually help them. Sitting outside of a historical site, baking in the Tennessee sun and freezing in the Tennessee winter for the past 23 years will not get the homeless and the poor the tools that they need to strive for that economic prosperity that King preached about in his I’ve Been to the Mountain Top Speech. Remember that speech for the sanitation workers given in your fair city the day before he died? You say stop worshipping the past? Really? The Lorraine Motel Monument has been built, drawing hundreds of people daily, so clearly people want to pay homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. They want to. So that ship has sailed. Meanwhile, you madam, still remain on the shore. Going nowhere. Such a shame, though. Think of all the people you could have helped if that was truly your agenda.

Cassie Logan would be ashamed of this. All she and people like her endured so that we can have our civil rights, and this Jackie Smith woman is the payback. But her signs mean nothing to me. That road to Memphis has been my inspiration and I will carry it with me always.

Rent Em Spoons!

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So everybody is going crazy over the altercation between Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s sister, Solange. Well I’m not here to go through the wherefore and whys of this spectacle. I will let the other bloggers do that. I am however, more focused on the physical aspect of the attack itself, which to me was quite amusing. If you were like me, you may have watched the melee…a couple of times… Solange really wanted to get to Jay-z. Really wanted to. So much so that when she couldn’t put her hands on him due to the bodyguard holding her back (He really earned his paycheck that evening), she began kicking him. She was reaching for every part she could with her feet. I laughed hard watching this. Not because of the beating that Jay-Z received from his very, very, very, very, angry sister-in-law, but it reminded me of this television episode of Martin. There is this particular episode when Martin; his girlfriend, Gina; and their friends Pam, Tommy, and Cole were brainstorming ideas for a business they wanted to open with Martin’s $4,000 IRS refund check. Well dear Cole, who has proven on more than one occasion that he’s not too bright, came up with the idea of “Rent Em Spoons.” Basically, you give out free soup, but you rent out the spoons 🙂 ! This explanation immediately put Martin in fight mode. In spite of the violence that it ensued, Cole was determined to get his idea across. The third time Cole yelled out “Rent Em Spoons,” his friends, anticipating the imminent attack, had to hold Martin back to where only his feet were free, using them to try and kick Cole. View here.

I mean Martin was desperate to beat Cole down. Like Solange. And like my two-year-old. Yes, like my two-year-old. When I try to pull my little boy away from the object that he desires like food, a toy, or his blanket, he can’t vocalize his frustration, so he will kick and stretch to try to reach the object with his feet. His father and I call these antics, “Rent Em Spoons!” While I don’t condone violence, I think the Rent Em Spoons fighting method can be cathartic. Even if you hit nothing (Although Solange managed to land a few blows), I think it’s an effective way to let someone or something know that if you could just get your hands on them… Anyway, there are some community issues that make me just want to go, Rent Em Spoons! Count them down with me:

6. Big Box Stores – Admittedly, I love Target. However, the Big Boxes in general make me crazy. It requires so much land to build one. Not only for the actual store but for parking as well. Then there is the runoff once it rains that pollutes our rivers and streams. Even if you are not an environmentalist, you must admit Big Box Stores have killed their share of small businesses. And every time you look around, someone thinks it’s actually a good idea to put one of these up. And you can best believe this is after an old store has been abandoned, leaving a shell and a lot wasted land. Rent Em Spoons!

5. Subdivisions without Trees – When I was working as a planner and preparing my rezoning reports for the subdivisions, I would always give the stipulation that the developer only remove just enough trees to place the house. Unfortunately, not all jurisdictions require a “no clear cutting” clause. When I pass subdivisions with endless rooftops and not one tree, it makes me want to completely Rent Em Spoons!

4. Gated Communities – To you, it’s security. To me, it’s promoting exclusivity. Rent Em Spoons!

3. The Continuous Building of Schools Waaaaayyyyy Out in Suburbia – I hate it when there are schools closer to the urban center that are falling apart and need to be rehabilitated, and yet, all of the money goes towards building state-of-the-art facilities way out yonder where there is only like 50 people. Again, it’s such a waste of land. And money. Then when there aren’t enough students in the older schools, they are the ones that are closed, leaving behind rundown, unused eyesores. Rent Em Spoons!

2. Applebees – Nothing personal against Applebees. I enjoy the occasional 2 for $20 menu as much as the next person. I am actually more opposed to the concept of Applebees and similar restaurant chains. They keep us out of downtown and keeps us from enjoying the community’s indigenous culture displayed in food, arts and crafts, and music. You can’t enjoy those in suburban restaurants. Rent Em Spoons!

1. Deteriorating Neighborhoods – We grow up. We get money. We leave. We don’t return. We want to head for the gated community, with no trees, near the big box retail and the Applebees, and send our kids to the brand new state-of-the-art schools. Two things here: First, Gentrify Your Own Self! and Secondly, Rent Em Spoons!

So there you have it. The things in the community that make me go all Rent Em Spoons. What about your community makes you go all Rent Em Spoons?

Spike Lee, Please Gentrify Your Own Self!

I have to admire my sister and brother-in-law. Before the recession, the young couple moved into a Florida neighborhood that was in transition. Making a home in a Spanish-style cottage with a large ficus tree in their front yard that I find awesomely Floridian (but they find it to be the bane of their existence) they had plans to throw family barbecues, raise their children, and just live life. Had the economy held, I am certain that many families, Black and White, with their same values would have found their way into the walkable neighborhood, that is located near commercial and not too far from the beach. There is even a park nearby where you can put your toddler on a stroller and just…stroll. If I lived in South Florida, I would want the house across the street. Had it all gone right, this neighborhood would be the place to live but hard to get into because of the rise in desirability. Unfortunately, the recession did happen and that cute little neighborhood did not become the wave-to-your-neighbor-from-the-porch-where-everybody-knows-your-name-invite-everyone-over-for-barbecue-go-for-a-stroll-with-the-kids-and-oh-did-you-redo-your-bathroom-my-house-is-worth-a-fortune-after-ten-years-and-I-am-jealous-but-really-happy-for-you-kind-of-neighborhood. Instead, my sister and brother-in-law’s neighborhood is… a place that they want to leave. And I don’t blame them. Their neighborhood is so on the other end of the spectrum from what they expected, that it’s not even remotely funny. My sister and I actually had this discussion a few weeks ago. She is awesome in that she reads everything that I write so she had been following my Gentrify Your Own Self! series. After about the second or third “gentrification” post, she asked what I thought was a pretty good question: When do you say that the safety and happiness of my family is more important than trying to gentrify myself? My answer: Safety and happiness is always the first priority.

If my sister does move elsewhere, I do know that two things are certain:
1) She and her family did their best while living there. They kept a nice home and were good neighbors. They were just ahead of their time.
2) If the neighborhood does turn into what it should have been, she won’t get angry at those who decided to take their own chances and move in because she knows that like her, they saw the neighborhood for its potential.

I haven’t actually gotten to the real point of this post yet but I am about to. Sometimes, I wish I were rich in money. If I were, I would have bought homes in my sister’s neighborhood long ago and worked hard to turn it into the flourishing area that it was meant to be. I guess the universe heard me talking because over the last few days, I have been seeing across my Facebook newsfeed these articles about actors/screenwriter/director, Spike Lee – Yes, creator of one of my favorite movies, School Daze – go off on gentrification.
When I read the first article and listened to his addressing this audience about the subject, I cracked up. It was like listening to a comedy routine with some real truths about how gentrification can negatively impact people of color. I understood exactly what he was saying. I related. His father could not play his guitar in a place he’d lived in for over four decades, my family can no longer go fishing in the waterholes they’d known about for over two centuries. ‘Hoods that Spike Lee grew up knowing had been renamed and our ‘hoods on Hilton Head are … What exactly is a sea pine? He talked about raised rents, uncollected garbage, and enough dogs for the Westminster Dog Show. I have witnessed property tax hikes, eminent domain, and limited beach access. So while Spike Lee sounded funny when he went off, it actually can be a bad situation for those people who remain behind. Then I read the second and third articles… Those, I found less amusing. If you will bear with me, I am working through some really deep emotions. Spike Lee wrote some really awesome films. I love, love, love, the Brooklyn Brownstones featured in several of them. Heck, I wanted one of them. I really respected how Spike Lee represented his roots in each of his films. But according to the articles I read, he sold his home for his personal reasons. And of course now, his home is worth quadruple the price he sold it for, but eh what’s a few million dollars when you’re making movies that people still enjoy watching? But it is his right to sell his home if he wants to. We cannot control that. If you recall, I actually wrote about this in The Promise of Palmettos. What he does not have the right to do, after choosing to sell his real estate/home/heritage/culture/legacy, is to go off on people who saw the Brooklyn neighborhoods for the good investment that they are and acted on it.
I wish (please forgive me, Spike Lee because it pains me to say it) that he really had seen the future in Fort Greene and the other Brooklyn neighborhoods. All of these actors and entertainers coming out of Fort Greene, Bedford Stuyvesant, Harlem, Boogie Down, Mount Vernon, and other communities in NYC and not one of them thought it was a good idea to reinvest in their own real estate/home/heritage/culture/legacy?! If anybody could have gentrified their own selves, Spike Lee and these other entertainers could have. It would not have been easy. It’s not for anyone. It is doable. It was doable for my family on Hilton Head Island. And if you want to talk NYC, my own family who lives in Harlem (What did they say it was called now?) still lives there. Why oh why didn’t Spike Lee take to heart the script he had written in Do the Right Thing ? You know that scene where the three old Black men who had hung out at the side of Sal’s Pizzeria stared narrow-eyed at the Asian grocer for having “the nerve” to try to make a living in their neighborhood. Art imitates life. Spike Lee, through his movies, saw gentrification coming. He had the means to maybe not prevent it, but benefit from it, in a way that his father could still play his acoustic guitar as loudly as he wanted, he could have had his Michael Jackson party and do all of the things that made Fort Greene, well… Fort Greene. And yes, it may have still been the “Westminster Dog Show,” because a great neighborhood is a great neighborhood. It draws people of all cultures that we have to learn to respect and enjoy. Not eradicate.
Am I being judgmental? Maybe I am. However, I am not going to dictate the social responsibility of every Black person of means but I want to give people something to think about. I also want to let Spike Lee know that it is not too late to Gentrify His Own Self, if he chooses to. I implore him and others to think about ways that we can make gentrification beneficial to our own community because it’s not going away no matter how loudly we protest and how many “F” bombs we drop. As for my sister and brother-in-law, if they do decide to leave, it means that they’ll have the opportunity to make their mark somewhere else. The most important thing is that they are happy.

If you have not had a chance to read Spike Lee’s thoughts on Gentrification, please view the article below:

http://nypost.com/2014/02/26/spike-lee-rants-on-hipsters-brooklyns-gentrification/

Gentrify Your Own Self: The Hubby Edition

Please welcome guest blogger and my husband, Kevin Edward DuBose, who has some insight into this recent winter snowstorm and why it is becoming increasingly important to Gentrify Your Own Self! I expect he will be gracing us more with his blogging talent in the future. Without further ado, I would like to present Gentrify Your Own Self: The Hubby Edition.

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today


The snowpacalytic events of the past couple of days have motivated me to jump in on the Gentrify Your Own Self! movement and put in my two cents. I think the missus is on to something with her recent blog posts. Be warned, I am not the writer she is. However, like my better half, I am a trained city planner. And I too see something incredibly wrong with our American Dream. In fact, symptoms of the problem are being played out live and in color on CNN as I type this. Yes I am talking the weather but I am also talking about our lifestyles.

Poor Atlanta! They are the poster children of dysfunction today. And the rest of the country wonders how two inches of snow can shut down the Capital of the South. The Governor of Georgia is blaming the weatherman. The CNN anchorwoman is ‘tryna read’ the Mayor of Atlanta (Notice my quoting the Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) there…) Ms. Anchorwoman should proceed with caution, because Mayor Kasim Reed don’t play (excuse the grammar please). His neighbor is Khandi Buress and she will send Momma Joyce and her aunties up there to tell her something. Meanwhile, in the midst of this madness, people are stuck on the highways and kids are disconnected from their families while they ride out the situation in their school lunchrooms.

Would we have this problem, if we truly had neighborhood schools like we used to? Let’s face it, the neighborhood school thing is dead. We keep sending our kids further and further away to school and we continue to move further away from the urban core. Back in the day, if a kid was stuck at the school or in route home, no problem. Momma or Daddy or someone would strap on the timberlands and hike up to the school. Problem solved. A snow day used to be a grand thing. We are getting out early? Cool! Let the cabbage patch dancing begin! Now we are terrified about our buses sliding off a rural road or children being stuck miles away from home.

So who is really to blame here? Well the problem is us. Yes you and me and everyone else trying to make the Joneses green with envy. My wife has discussed the HGTV house hunter mindset that is destroying our urban core. I won’t rehash that. But please note that our neighborhood busting ways are causing major problems with regard to urban services. Our kids don’t go to school within 2-3 miles anymore. We don’t have sidewalks (in most communities) any more. Thus, the simple task of getting kids home on a snowy day is a bigger challenge than it should be.

So what is the answer? How can we fix the problem? Urban schools are being closed by the dozens every year while new state-of-the-art schools are being built in the suburbs. Families who live in the urban areas drive by closed and abandoned schools to take their kids to whatever is left. Suburban kids have 45-minute bus rides to and from school. I feel like Dap on School Daze, as I scream “Waaaaake Uuuuuup!” people.

Unlike my wife, I am not suggesting that you consider the incredible cute cottages and Victorian houses in the old neighborhood as places to raise your family. Forget about those split level houses and 1950 ranchers that dot the neighborhoods around downtown. You don’t want to live where schools are in walking distance and sidewalks connect the commercial areas and parks. You deserve a big 5000 square foot house for you and little Fluffy the Poodle. You deserve that three car garage and double tray ceiling. Stay where you are. In fact, move even further away from the City. Meanwhile, I have got a fool proof plan to fix everything. Drum roll please! The way to fix the problem is real simple people (Why do I have to think of these things?) Here is the concept: Let’s put the schools inside of WalMart. I guarantee there is one of those close to everyone in the suburbs. And we can always get to Walmart. The road to Walmart is the best salted road in the entire neighborhood.

And as Ne Ne Leakes of RHOA would say after she makes her point, Boop!

Gentrify Your Own Self: We Got Our Work Cut Out For Us – Part 2

thIn Part 1 of We Got Our Work Cut Out For Us, I talked about how much I loved HGTV programs, particularly the shows where people are either buying or redesigning a house. I discussed how homebuyers who prefer downtown living want their cake and eat it too, which annoys me. However, that is nothing compared to how I feel when I watch buyers who are looking for a suburban homes. It’s these comments that really get to me because if the homebuyers who are looking to buy downtown want their cake and eat it too, these suburban searchers want the cake, the cookies, the candy, and the milk. But while we are on the subject of suburban living, please indulge my urban planning soapbox for just a moment. What we all don’t seem to realize is that the further away from the urban center we move, the more infrastructure is needed to accommodate the growth. The citizens of these edge cities and suburban areas demand new schools to be built way out to yonder in order to accommodate their children. Then there are the water and sewer wars between neighboring counties. The water issue is so bad that people are sneaking over the boundary lines with a bucket and a siphoning hose. Well, not really, but it is bad. Oh and how far do emergency services extend anyway? Are they blasting Public Enemy’s, 911 is a Joke out in the ‘burbs now? I don’t even want to mention the countless hours in traffic with the people traveling to work. Ever been stuck in Atlanta traffic?

“Sprawl” had been the buzzword when I was practicing planning. I’ve been out of the field for a while, so I don’t know if that continues to be a concern or has it ever been beyond those who practice urban planning and community development. So let’s get to the suburban comments that grate my nerves.

1) It’s dated – First of all, let me start by saying that there should be a clause in the HGTV contract that states that those two words have been used to death and to utter them again, will result in immediate cease filming. Second of all, if you purchase the house under your budget, you will have the money to update it. Third of all, in my opinion, older homes have the best bones. My favorites are the 70s split-level on streets with mature trees. if you insist on living in the ‘burbs, at least purchase a house that doesn’t blow over on a breezy day.

2) I can see my neighbors/no privacy – Oh the narcissism. Unless you come home from church to see a neighbor sitting square on your porch walk, I really don’t think this is a real issue. Normal people, emphasis on “normal,” are too involved with their own lives to care about what you are doing. And if they happen to wave, would that really be so terrible? Just wave back. So I suggest that you invest in some window treatments, shrubbery, and a fence if it bothers you that much. Because unless you move to the moon, chances are you are going to have neighbors. Sorry.

3) Not enough room to entertain – Translation: “If my house isn’t big enough, I can’t show it off to make my family and friends green with envy.” Anyway, I thought you wanted privacy…?

4) The yard is too small – Are you tilling the soil? Harvesting crops? How much land do you really need? I can certainly understand wanting a yard with enough room to throw the football around with the children (and the relator did show you one), but unless you’re raising Drew Brees, your yard really doesn’t need to be the size of the Superdome.

5) No character – Take thyself to the city. That is unless your definition of character is not my definition of character. To me, character is more than double-tray ceilings, ceiling fans, chair rails, and granite countertops with matching backsplash. While that’s a kind of character (Well, not the granite whatnot), but I am thinking more of carved detail in the wood, stain glass windows, archways, ceiling medallions – signatures in the home that tells me the era it was built.

I am sure there is more, but I can’t continue. I cannot help but to wonder if people come up with these statements on their own or is it society that says that resolving all of the issues mentioned in this post and the last post makes a dream home? Anyway, as long as people have these canned responses, it will be very difficult to convince people to return to their neighborhoods. Anyhow, that’s just me thinking out loud. Stay tuned for Part 3.

Gentrify Your Own Self: We’ve Got Our Work Cut Out For Us – Part 1

thCAWM89Y5My husband and I love watching the HGTV channel. Our favorite programs are House Hunters, Property Brothers, Buying and Selling, and Property Virgins. I like Love It or List It as well, but my husband bailed on that one. In his defense, the fact that the designer never confers with a local planning department to bone up on home improvement regulations, neglects to seek variances before adding in-law suits, and tears down grandfathered garages that she cannot replace, is enough to make this urban planner couple’s teeth itch. I still watch because I am a glutton for punishment, as my sister tells me often. I love these HGTV shows because there is something about picking out the best home for your family or seeing an awesome design transformation that’s somewhat entertaining. Of course, with pleasure comes the flipside. It comes with the pain. And it is very painful. As both a viewer and an urban planner, there are comments made by homebuyers that make me cringe. Then I vent on Facebook. That’s the reason for my sister’s “glutton for punishment” comment.

A couple of posts ago, I challenged the masses to Gentrify Your Own Self! Since writing that blog post, I am seeing these HGTV shows in a different light and if these people on television are the representation of society, then we’ve got our work cut out for us. Oh I am still entertained by these shows, don’t get me wrong, but directing people to reclaim their neighborhoods may be easier said than done. What is picking up fervor instead, is claiming the subdivision! Ok, not all of the people have this mindset, but I am finding that the average HGTV homebuyer falls into one of three camps: 1)Those who want to be near the city center, 2) Those who want to live in the suburbs, and 3) The “I don’t care where, I just want a house big enough to entertain” folks. No matter the camp, there are some comments made by the home buyers that have me doing the constant Face Palm. Then I log onto Facebook to make my snide comments and you know how I hate being sarcastic.

Part 1 of the We’ve Got our Work Cut Out for Us Series will address the homebuyers who want to live near the city center. When these people come onto the shows, I’m like, “All right! They really get it” I can get these buyers to understand where I am trying to go with self-gentrification. They can pave the way. These buyers understand that when you live in the city, you’re near jobs and transportation. They would be utilizing the infrastructure already in place so that we tax payers aren’t paying an arm and leg to have them built. If we would have more like these thoughtful people, there will be fewer cars on our interstate, which will decrease traffic jams, accidents, and harmful auto emissions. These homebuyers really get it and I can appeal to them with my “Gentrify Your Own Self!” movement. Oh…but wait for it. These folks have just finished touring their first house and immediately show me that they do not have one clue about city living.

1) The bedrooms/closets are too small – Um folks, if you’re moving closer to the urban core, chances are the housing stock are turn-of-the-century homes or older. Bedrooms were for sleeping. Plus people who lived during that era didn’t have endless amounts of clothes and shoes, therefore, they didn’t need large closets. Please, if you’re truly serious about city living, buy an armoire or a closet organizer and call it a day. The other alternative is to look for an infill, which are designed actually to accommodate modern-day living, while maintaining the historical integrity of the neighborhood.

2) The yard is too small – You’re kidding me, right? Are you serious right now? City living means more homes to the acre. If you ask me, this is an efficient use of land. Also, if you are moving into an up and coming neighborhood, chances are there is a park nearby. Lastly, smaller yard means less to mow. I’m just saying.

3) This kitchen/bathroom is awful – Older homes, remember? If the home has never been updated or if it has been a couple of decades since an update, please just plan on having a renovation budget.

4) I was hoping for a garage – Dude…You just better hope there’s on-street parking. Moving on.

5) This is all you get for the price?! – Location, location, location. The closer you live to downtown and all of its conveniences, the higher the housing costs. Also, as an urban neighborhood transitions economically towards becoming more affluent, the property values rise. So go ahead and thank your perspective neighbors for the high asking price.

So this is why we’ve got our work cut out for us. I think most of us – me included – have been spoiled in terms of what constitutes the ideal home in which to raise a family. The ones who claim they want city living want their cake and to eat it too. They want the conveniences with none of the sacrifices and it only gets worse. Hold on to your hats, next post, I will be addressing the suburbanites and their wants.