The concept of gentrification comes to mind when thinking about zoning today. Many people don’t like it – why? With gentrification comes the idea that the figurative ‘white man’ is coming into neighborhoods and turning those neighborhoods into spaces that conform to the lifestyles of middle class and wealthy Americans. With this comes higher prices and the people who have established their lives in particular areas are forced to leave. Their homes become foreclosed and wages remain stagnant, thus furthering the divide.
People are stronger when they work together. In multiple U.S. towns, wealthier citizens have tried to create townships that exclude poorer people. This is not physical in the sense that someone comes in and sweeps another out of the way, but through fiscal zoning.
In the case of Mount Laurel Township, in New Jersey during the 1980s, plans for redevelopment included making Mount Laurel more of a suburban area to attract higher tax rates. Many of the residents, most of them Black, were farm workers making much less than what it would cost to survive in the new Mount Laurel. They also would be unable to afford to move to another area.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled that there must be affordable housing in the town, but the town officials fought against that, which gave rise to Mount Laurel II, which decided that regions must have a fair share of land and realistic housing opportunities for people.
What wealthy Americans don’t understand is that when there are ideal conditions, there are happy people. Crime rate is down, the economy is successful and people are satisfied overall. The Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC) has conducted research on homelessness in Connecticut and has determined that supportive housing is a permanent and cost-effective solution to ending long term homelessness.
We are stronger together – and once this is understood America can move in a direction that will benefit everyone and not just the people who can afford to push others out of a neighborhood. In the words of my Caribbean ancestors: “Crave all and get none at all.”
By Kayra Clouden