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Gentrification and the housing crisis

Jackson Croy

Jackson Croy

Jackson Croy and Eleanor Dudley, Editors-in-Chief

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In the 1920s, the federal and state government began attempts to provide affordable public housing for many Americans. The concept gained momentum in the following decades, and in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson passed the Housing and Urban Development Act. The Act allocated federal funds for cities to redevelop downtown areas, extending requirements for a minimum standard of housing and expanding Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance programs, allowing more families to purchase homes. Government assisted low-income housing appeared in cities across the nation.

Historical Racism
During this time, the housing market was entrenched in systematic racism. Some of the most offensive and visible forms of this discrimination were housing covenants that appeared in the deeds to most houses at the time and specified in explicit offensive terms who could own or live in the house on the basis of race and ethnicity. These covenants were aspects of the horrible historical racism in America that contributed to the lack of opportunity for minorities in cities like Seattle.

To address this injustice, the federal government passed the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibits discrimination in “sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” In the following years these discriminatory practices would fade away and no longer be major factors in the city housing system.

Economic Disparity
Today, the housing crisis in Seattle is more driven by economics, although racial inequalities coexist, clouding the issue and making it difficult to disentangle the two factors. The Seattle Housing Authority, which provides low-income rental housing to approximately 34,000 people in Seattle, reports that 54 percent of people living in designated low-income housing are African- American, illustrating clearly the inextricable links between poverty, race and Seattle’s housing crisis.

Economic disparity is evident in the numbers of students receiving free/reduced lunch in the Seattle School District. At Ballard the free/reduced lunch percentage has dropped from 25 to 11 percent in the past ten years, meanwhile Rainier Beach’s numbers have increased from 50 to 74 percent since 1998. This points to a trend of decreased poverty in the Ballard area, and an increase in the Rainier Beach area.

Seattle’s Economic Boom
The city began to evolve economically at the start of the 21st century when Seattle experienced an influx of technology companies. Since then, localities like South Lake Union have been transformed from warehouses and industrial buildings to an active city hotspot filled with sleek food trucks and apartments. With this change came economic prosperity for the city along with skyrocketing housing prices as employees from companies like Amazon and Microsoft increased demand.

54 percent of people living in designated low-income housing are African-American, illustrating clearly the inextricable links between poverty, race and Seattle’s housing crisis. ”


This is textbook gentrification. It infuses economic prosperity into an otherwise struggling part of town. It creates new jobs, brings new diverse residents and can be profitable for homeowners looking to sell. But gentrification can also mean the loss of community culture. It leads to low-income residents and renters along with small businesses being forced out by high prices and pushed to the edges of the city. This furthers socioeconomic divides and begs the moral question: Is economic growth worth the significant costs that accompany it?

Even Ballard was originally an independent town that thrived off industrial lumber milling and fishing, primarily populated by Scandinavians in the 19th century. No longer an industrial independent town, Ballard has become a vibrant community well-connected to the greater Seattle city. Streets are lined with restaurants, boutiques and apartments composed predominantly of a younger urban demographic. Meanwhile, Ballard High School’s free and reduced lunch percentage is lower than it’s ever been.Seattle Housing Authority,

Takeaways for voters
As Seattleites consider the ramifications of this gentrification it is easy to get overwhelmed by the complexity of the issue and focus only on rising housing costs. This affects students at our school in a variety of ways. For a few it might mean homelessness or relocation, for others it can mean trendy restaurants and hip places to shop. But for all of us, entering the housing market in the future will be even more difficult if things continue as they have. We not only have to ensure our individual security, but the opportunity for prosperity and housing for all of us. Seattleites must be engaged and informed on this issue; skeptical and mindful of who is saying what and why and elect a candidate who, in the words of our founding fathers, “not only promotes the general welfare but secures the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

 

 

 

 

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11 Comments

11 Responses to “Gentrification and the housing crisis”

  1. Mr. Hutchins on October 23rd, 2017 12:54 PM

    Nice article – well done.
    I did want to clarify the underlying claim in this passage:
    “At Ballard the free/reduced lunch percentage has dropped from 25 to 11 percent in the past ten years, meanwhile Rainier Beach’s numbers have increased from 50 to 74 percent since 1998. This points to a trend of decreased poverty in the Ballard area, and an increase in the Rainier Beach area.”

    This argument is probably inaccurate regarding the cause of the alleged increase of poverty in the RB area. The primary reason these trends in free/reduced lunch percentages have changed is because mandatory busing ended in Seattle because of a Supreme Court decision: Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007).

    The effect of this decision was to stop the busing of wealthier white North End kids to South End schools like RB and the busing of lower income kids of color from South End to North End schools like Ballard. The switch in free and reduced lunch percentages reflects that, especially in South End schools. Gentrification is happening in all parts of Seattle.
    Best,
    Mr. Hutchins

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  2. Audrey on October 23rd, 2017 1:10 PM

    I really enjoyed reading this article. It was well written and developed, and the evidence in the form of charts was really helpful by adding to the main idea. Living in a nice neighborhood and attending Ballard High School makes it hard to realize the extent of homelessness and poverty in the Seattle area. This article opened up my eyes to what life is like for a huge portion of Seattleites. I also thought that the article was well organized. Headers for the main ideas made reading much easier, for example “Seattle’s Economic Boom” or “Economic Disparity” The article was also made even stronger when ethos was used by adding 2018 mayoral candidates’ positions, this established credibility because both candidates are well educated and knowledgeable in the gentrification crisis.

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  3. Melina Winters on October 23rd, 2017 5:22 PM

    Seattle has become a booming, popular city in the last few years. I continue to be amazed by all of the new construction I see throughout the city. Especially when I drive around Ballard, every block has some construction project underway. It seems as though we are becoming the Big Apple of the pacific northwest in many ways. I honestly never thought our city would grow into such a dominant place. I really enjoyed this article because it provided important factual information about our city’s growth and how it has impacted the housing crisis. Perhaps my favorite facts were that now the average price of a home in Seattle is $700,000 and that ten years ago the average price was only $291,000. These facts brutally show the evolution of Seattle within the last ten years. Many people can no longer afford to live within the city, which I find very sad. I know people who have had to move outside of the city because it has become too expensive to live here, even to rent. I would just like to thank the Talisman for including such an informative, relevant article in this month’s edition. I hope the Talisman continues to feature such vital topics in the newspaper.

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  4. lillian on October 23rd, 2017 8:20 PM

    It is apparent that the increasing percentages in the free/reduced lunch prices are going up in Rainier Beach and decreasing in Ballard. I think that is because the housing in Ballard is skyrocketing, making it very hard for people in poverty to live there. So they have to move to a place where it doesn’t cost as much. So they move to places like Rainier Beach where the housing is not as expensive. So the students that are in poverty are most likely on the free/reduced lunch plan, and they are moving from Ballard to Rainier Beach , Which is the direct reason Ballard’s percentages are very low for the free/reduced lunches. Something I wonder about is if as the housing prices are rising dramatically, are the job wages also rising at the same rate, rising but not as fast, or staying the same as they have always been? Because that is also an issue. This isn’t mainly based off of race, it is anyone who has a job. While the housing prices were lower back in 2010, it was easier for anyone to be a household owner. But now with the prices being very high now, being a house owner is now in some ways based off of profession. The medical field getting paid more than people in the arts or in education. People in both professions might be equally as smart, but the people who chose the higher paying profession has a huge advantage because their wages are so much higher, so they can afford nicer and bigger houses. So now that is influencing the youth, because they see that some jobs pay a lot more than others, so that really affects their decision about what profession they want to pursue.

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  5. lillian mullis on October 23rd, 2017 8:21 PM

    It is apparent that the increasing percentages in the free/reduced lunch prices are going up in Rainier Beach and decreasing in Ballard. I think that is because the housing in Ballard is skyrocketing, making it very hard for people in poverty to live there. So they have to move to a place where it doesn’t cost as much. So they move to places like Rainier Beach where the housing is not as expensive. So the students that are in poverty are most likely on the free/reduced lunch plan, and they are moving from Ballard to Rainier Beach , Which is the direct reason Ballard’s percentages are very low for the free/reduced lunches. Something I wonder about is if as the housing prices are rising dramatically, are the job wages also rising at the same rate, rising but not as fast, or staying the same as they have always been? Because that is also an issue. This isn’t mainly based off of race, it is anyone who has a job. While the housing prices were lower back in 2010, it was easier for anyone to be a household owner. But now with the prices being very high now, being a house owner is now in some ways based off of profession. The medical field getting paid more than people in the arts or in education. People in both professions might be equally as smart, but the people who chose the higher paying profession has a huge advantage because their wages are so much higher, so they can afford nicer and bigger houses. So now that is influencing the youth, because they see that some jobs pay a lot more than others, so that really affects their decision about what profession they want to pursue.

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  6. Avery Miller on October 23rd, 2017 8:23 PM

    I really enjoyed this article because I think it is important for high schoolers to read. This article does a great job of highlighting a major problem we have in Seattle that is commonly overlooked. It contains a lot of information that typical high school students might not know, and informing is the first step to make change happen. The housing crisis is an important issue in itself, but going into detail about the connection between race and the housing crisis- 54% of people in designated low income housing are African American- really brings the issue to life for readers. As a school with almost 2,000 students, the statistics shown in this article make it clear that this is an issue affecting our peers, and it’s not going away. Just because the amount of students who rely on free/reduced lunches at Ballard has gone down in the past 10 years doesn’t mean it is doing the same thing in other places, like at Rainier Beach, where the free/reduced lunch rate has gone up since 1998. This proves that this is an issue that needs to be solved, and as high school students there is a lot we can do to make change, and directly informing high schoolers is a step in the right direction.

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  7. Jack Fields on October 23rd, 2017 8:24 PM

    Dear Talisman,

    I recently read your article on Gentrification and the housing crisis in Seattle and I was very impressed. I liked how you incorporated a graph into the article to support your thesis. It was very effective and conveyed the message to it’s full extent. I didn’t realize the amount of people without a house was that big of a number and especially the fact that 54% of people living in low-income housing are African-American. Although I did realize that the majority of Seattleites are white, I didn’t realize this high of a percent of African-Americans live in low-income houses. I know Seattle has taken some steps to try and “fix” the homeless problem in the city like building houses for them, but I think that more people need to get involved.

    Another problem with this issue is that Seattle is becoming to expensive to live in. As shown in graphic, the costs of houses, rent prices, and homelessness rates are all going up in the city. This is extremely bad news for future generations that are looking to by or even rent places in Seattle because is becoming way to expensive. Big deal buyers are buying out businesses and even houses to build apartments that hold even more people in them. One by one, businesses are going and I wonder what Seattle is going to look like in 20 to 30 years. I know for a fact that straight out of college, I’m not going to afford living in such a beautiful city like ours because of the price. I fear that my parents houses are going to be bought, forcing them to move out of the city. Pretty soon, the only people in Seattle, will be the rich.

    These issues are very important and I’m glad you covered them in your article. Keep up the great work!!

    Jack Fields

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  8. Maia Whitehorn on October 23rd, 2017 8:25 PM

    Though it isn’t mentioned in this online version of the article, I found it particularly valuable that you included the running mayoral candidates’ opinions on the housing crisis. It allowed me to have a discussion with my parents on who they were voting for, and how they felt about the housing crisis. Your article offered valuable and credible stances on the issue, and your use and curation of evidence was thought provoking; I only wish you had used a brighter color scheme (the one that you used was hard to interpret at a glance). Thank you!

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  9. Claude Brun on October 23rd, 2017 8:37 PM

    For Mr Hutchins APLA class:

    While gentrification has provided countless benefits for economies on a neighborhood wide and even city wide level, it has also damaged diversity in an age where it’s more important than ever. The urban development act of 1965 helped accelerate gentrification into the phenomenon it is today, and in theory, it would be very effective. “allowing more families to purchase homes. Government assisted low-income housing appeared in cities across the nation.” While this act seems to cater to all classes of society, the reality was that it relocated diverse members of the community into segregated communities that grew to resemble ghettos. In a time when racism was so prevalent, could we have hoped for a better result? While this wasn’t the goal of the government (hopefully…) the act segregated cities even more than before. The effects of this act and other historical housing policies and covenants still linger today: ” reports that 54 percent of people living in designated low-income housing are African- American, illustrating clearly the inextricable links between poverty, race and Seattle’s housing crisis.”

    -Claude Brun, Hutchins P4

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  10. Ella Knoernschild on October 23rd, 2017 9:28 PM

    The drastic incline in housing costs in the Seattle area these past 7 years has definitely developed due to more and more people moving here because of our jobs, such as Amazon and Starbucks. From that, costs to live here has gone up, as so many people are trying to move out. Racism has definitely stayed in the low cost areas, as that’s what it was like before hand and nothing has changed. As you said “The Seattle Housing Authority, which provides low-income rental housing to approximately 34,000 people in Seattle, reports that 54 percent of people living in designated low-income housing are African- American” showing that if its intentional or not, African Americans and other minorities, stay living in the low-income neighborhoods because that’s where they grew up living and that is the kind of neighborhood their income suites. Like I stated before “The city began to evolve economically at the start of the 21st century when Seattle experienced an influx of technology companies.” The bigger name, higher budget companies live in large cities like Seattle, hiring people with expensive education, and paying them enough to live in an expensive city like ours. Pushing out the ones left who can no longer afford what they once could, before these companies were developed.

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  11. Margaux Daniel on October 24th, 2017 4:41 PM

    This was a really interesting, well-written article! It echoed a lot of opinions I had and gave me information I didn’t already know, which I always appreciate. The passages linking the economic disparity to Seattle’s history of racial segregation was especially important to the overall article. When you mentioned the statistics about free/reduced lunch in Ballard versus Rainier Beach it helped me visualized what exactly that racial and economic divide looked like. The pie charts were also really helpful in demonstrating the data you chose for someone who maybe hasn’t witnessed what you were discussing firsthand (eg. someone who has never spent much time in South Seattle). Another thing I really liked about this article is how it talked about gentrification — the line “It creates new jobs, brings new diverse residents and can be profitable for homeowners looking to sell. But gentrification can also mean the loss of community culture” shows how it’s very much a two-way street with both pros and devastating cons.

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Gentrification and the housing crisis