Alternet, from what I can tell, is an Internet-based news site about fifteen steps to the left of Eugene Debs. Most of the articles read like they were written by a privileged white kid who just went to college, grew dreadlocks for the first time, and discovered that poor people exist. Serious glassy-eyed liberalism, even by my standards.
Nonetheless, there’s an interesting article on there that I stumbled across yesterday. The basic premise is simple — as urban living in denser, walkable communities becomes more popular among empty-nesters and young professionals, the urban poor that have been living in these neighborhoods are being forced out by gentrification. As a result, inner-ring suburbs are starting to become the next generation of slums.
I can’t argue with the premise; it makes sense. While Buffalo is still a poor city, downtown in particular is experiencing a serious housing construction boom. Luxury apartments are going up in waterfront neighborhoods that used to be nothing but housing project towers and grain elevators. As people with money move in, the bodegas and wig shops are moving out and gourmet grocers and upscale flower shops are moving in. It’s a complete turnover in the character of the neighborhood, and it stands to reason that the people who can’t afford to live there any more have to go somewhere.
I can’t argue with the conclusion, either. The inner-ring suburbs of Buffalo — Cheektowaga, Amherst, and Tonawanda — are starting to have “city-like” problems. Dropout rates are climbing, as is crime, and abandoned houses are becoming more and more of a problem. Unfortunately, most of the programs designed to help lower-income families are city-based, and the suburbs are pretty unfriendly to public transport.
It will be interesting to see where this leads in the next twenty years or so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see most cities develop a “poverty belt” in their oldest suburbs surrounding the city, as some people move back to the urban core and others are carried to the exurbs by white flight.