The Democratic National Committee asked fifteen cities to submit proposals to host its 2016 convention, and among the obvious contenders one is raising eyebrows: Detroit, Mich.
Conventions bring more than passionate partisans in funny hats. When delegates descend, they bring with them millions of dollars in revenue. (And occasionally some really awful pick up lines. A GOP delegate in New York tried to get me excited by saying, “Ester? That’s an old-fashioned name. I like old-fashioned women.”) Sometimes they revitalize the local sex industry! It can be a big deal to a struggling metropolis.
Solidly middle-class, white collar, and college educated, Darlena Cunha never expected to need to rely on the social safety net. But when confronted by unexpected, high-needs twins, a laid-off husband, and the reality that the house she had just bought had already lost the entirety of its value (and yet still needed to be paid off), she found herself driving a Mercedes to pick up food stamps. Please tamp down your knee-jerk reaction to yell “Sell the Mercedes!” at the screen, at least until you read the article.
In just two months, we’d gone from making a combined $120,000 a year to making just $25,000 and leeching out funds to a mortgage we couldn’t afford. Our savings dwindled, then disappeared. So I did what I had to do. I signed up for Medicaid and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Before she knows it, she becomes “you people,” someone trying to buy inessentials with food stamps and enduring the scorn of know-it-alls.
Once, a girl at the register actually stood up for me when an older mother of three saw the coupons and started chastising my purchase of root beer. They were “buy two, get one free” at a dollar a pop. “Surely, you don’t need those,” she said. “WIC pays for juice for you people.” The girl, who couldn’t have been more than 19, flashed her eyes up to my face and saw my grimace as I white-knuckled the counter in front of me, preparing my cold shoulder.
“Who are you, the soda police?” she asked loudly. “Anyone bother you about the pound of candy you’re buying?”
The woman huffed off to another register, and I’m sure she complained about that girl. I, meanwhile, thanked her profusely.
“I’ve got a son,” she said, softly. “I know what it’s like.”
Yesterday Ester wrote about median one-bedroom rents reaching highs of more than $4,000 in NYC, and earlier this month I linked to a story from Southern California Public Radio discussing the high rents in Los Angeles. As cities become wealthier and price out low-income workers and the middle- and creative classes, what can be done? Shaila Dewan examines this question in the It’s the Economy section of the Times Magazine:
The rules of the market say that in this situation, people should simply opt to live someplace cheaper. But in today’s economy, that’s not so simple. Detroit has very cheap housing, but unfortunately, all of it is in Detroit. Alternately, more desirable cities could build more housing to satisfy demand, but new developments don’t tend to have that effect.
Luxury towers are sprouting up, adding density to unlikely places, from the Brooklyn waterfront to San Francisco’s Mid-Market district. But adding inventory to the high end does nothing to help the middle — one of the many irritating peculiarities of the 21st-century boomtown housing market. Building new apartments can actually push rents higher, and amenities for the masses, like transportation and parks, may have the effect of pricing them out. Everyone wants to live in these places, so no one can afford to. What’s a global city to do?
If you’re a writer who’s willing to relocate, an organization called Write-a-House in Detroit, Mich., wants to GIVE YOU A HOUSE:
WAH Author-in-Residence will receive the deed to a house. For two years prior to receiving the deed, the WAH Author-in-Residence will live in the house rent-free. They will only be responsible for insurance costs and property tax costs. After two years, the deed will be given to the awardee as long as the selection committee and WAH Board agree that certain terms and conditions have been met.
The catch? Well the catch is that you have to live in Detroit. Also these are formerly abandoned houses, and while they’ll be 80% renovated, you are responsible for renovating it the rest of the way (which frankly, sounds kind of fun) (says someone who has never renovated a house).
The WAH Author-in-Residence will also be expected to:
contribute content to the WAH blog on a regular basis. participate in local readings and other cultural events use the home as their primary residence. In general, they will be responsible home owners, engaged neighbors, committed city residents and good literary citizens.