On The Forces of Gentrification

@Jake Reinhardt I don't think that small retailers = poor people. I don't think they do either.

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm 2

On The Forces of Gentrification

@Jake Reinhardt If you owned a building with a retail tenant on a month-to-month lease, and someone came to you offering to pay 3x as much, would you stick with the old guy out of principle? And what would that principle be? I guess I don’t understand why people re-frame this scenario as a David vs. Goliath battle. It tends to infantilize small business owners – helpless “poor people,” as you call them – and strip them of their agency. If you run a retail business, your location and your lease matter more than just about anything. If you’ve got a great location and no lease, that’s on you. Since when are local businesses not businesses? Finally, the true threat to small retailers is not gentrification, but online shopping. If we are going to worry about diminished retail streetscapes, consider your own shopping patterns, which if they are anything like mine have a significant online component. Storefront Y replacing Storefront X is almost a sideshow compared to the threat both of them face on that front.

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 12:24 pm 1

On The Forces of Gentrification

@Josh Michtom@facebook Your final statement is true in the abstract, but in this instance do we really want collective action of government intervention? I think the answer is no. It's not clear to me that there's any advantage to having government try to curate a retail mix or set rental rates.

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm 1

On The Forces of Gentrification

"Retenanting, it seems, is part of the bad aspects." When writing about gentrification, it's important not to treat small businesses like small children. If you run a retail business, and you plan on investing in the business for the long term, you need a lease (or you need to own your own building). Otherwise, your investment is completely unprotected. To do otherwise is to invite situations like the above. But this is neither the landlord's fault, nor the real estate broker's fault; it is the fault of a business owner unwilling to make a legal commitment to pay rent for years in the future. Just imagine if a hypothetical retail store owner had signed a 10-year lease with a 5-year renewal option a couple of years ago. (This is a very standard form of retail lease.) She'd have 13 years left of predictable rent increases, and if she wanted to close her business she could sublet the space at the new market rate and pocket the difference, or sell (assign) the lease to someone else. This is just business; if you are a business owner it is the kind of calculation you have to make every day. I don't weep for businesses who want the best of both worlds - low rent and no legal obligations - in desirable neighborhoods.

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 10:02 am 4

On Communal Living & Class Antagonism in a Poor City

@jalmondale I agree that limits are necessary, but in general, these rules have some sort of ulterior motive. If you are going to allow people to build enormous houses as of right, then they should be allowed to fill them with as many people as they safely can. Otherwise you're just inviting waste. If you want fewer people, lower floor-area ratios and mandate smaller dwellings. I believe fire codes should be the only restriction of number of people per dwelling, with occasional exceptions for transportation and water/sewer infrastructure. There's something ridiculous to me about allowing people to live in enormous houses that require tremendous resources to operate and contain a massive surfeit of habitable space, and then to tell them they have to limit the number of people because of vague issues of "neighborhood character."

Posted on November 25, 2014 at 5:22 pm 1

On Communal Living & Class Antagonism in a Poor City

Phenomenal article. I grew up in the Northern Virginia suburbs, and when the economy really started to heat up there we saw the same thing. In that instance, the issue was single-family homes housing multiple non-related immigrants (and their families). The argument against it was always couched in the language of rationalism (too many cars means traffic, fire hazards, etc.) When I went to college, I saw the same thing again in my quaint little college town, this time relating to roommates in privately owned houses. The city council revised the zoning code to disallow more than 3 unrelated people from residing in a house. Once again, the justification was all about rationalism and good bureaucracy: safety, well-being, traffic. These justifications are dangerous. We have fire codes to prevent fires, traffic engineers and transit departments to optimize our roads, and noise ordinances to prevent disturbances. There is no reason that these issues should be addressed through bureaucratic redefinition of family and household.

Posted on November 25, 2014 at 4:06 pm 0

On The Cost of Buying a Washer/Dryer from Sears Outlet When Six (then Seven) Months Pregnant

@antheridia Thank you for the input! I love everything about it in theory. Great to hear it works in practice. Now to find a deal...

Posted on November 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm 0

On The Cost of Buying a Washer/Dryer from Sears Outlet When Six (then Seven) Months Pregnant

Quick, tangential question for those in the know: Do those combined washer/dryer units work? You know, the type that supposedly does it all in one machine, rather than stacked units? I am in the market and it sure would be nice to have the extra space. But I have heard they kind of blow. But then again, I don't do too much laundry, so perhaps it'll suffice?

Posted on November 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm 0

On Our Vanilla-and-Guilt-Flavored Real Estate Fantasies

Real estate fantasies...man. I know this well. I just wrote the largest check of my life to put down a deposit on a co-op in the city, and watching that money leave my bank account - surreal. And now I'm totally locked in. (Unless the co-op rejects me, in which case I think I'll probably feel a mix of anger/disappointment and relief.) And now that I'm locked in, every new listing I see brings a tiny pang of 'huh, that looks nice, could it be a better deal?' And when I see one out of my price range I think...should I wait? Should I make more money, save some money, hold off a little bit until some vague threshold in the future? And what about the housing market? Up, down, sideways? Am I timing the market right? But I must say, being a renter - even in my cheap rent-stabilized apartment - also gives me tons of anxiety. Shit breaks and it's not properly replaced, mice remind me that #3L is not a suite at the Plaza Hotel, and despite the protections of the lease I'm acutely aware that the apartment will never be mine, and that I don't want to live out the rest of my days in a 1-BR railroad apartment. I am interested to see what life will be like as a property-owning adult. We shall see.

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 5:00 pm 0

On OK, Gentrification is Lousy. Now What?

@Josh Michtom@facebook The "poor door" doesn't actually address the preservation of affordable housing. In NYC, that's done through policies like rent stabilization and J-51 tax benefits, and federally through various demand-side policies like Section 8 vouchers. The "poor door" involves the creation of new affordable housing. It's an important distinction, because at least in NYC, not only is there not much new affordable supply, but existing affordable units (generally those in the rent stabilization program) are being rapidly deregulated and adjusted to market rate.

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 11:23 am 0