Pleasant are among them.
Many metaphors mask these processes, beginning with the notion of gentrifiers as urban pioneers. Washington's subway map affirms other portraits of this eastern city as more a stagnant quagmire than part of the Nintendo-like scene where land capitalists maneuver. The myth of the organic black community, past and present, masks both Washington's Black Belt past and Mount Pleasant's brief moment in history as a fairly prosperous, richly civil, black-owned and operated neighborhood. The sense among some Anglos and blacks that the problem in Mount Pleasant is that "the Spanish took over" fuels antagonism among those who will inhabit shared, multiethnic space and leaves the true villain, gentrification, unscathed. The poorly housed and the unhoused are not behavioral groups; social class is not personal behavior; and neighborhoods do not stand still.
The displaced people of Mount Pleasant are like Muley, who, when complaining of homelessness in The Grapes of Wrath, says, "I'm just an old graveyard ghost." Like graveyards haunted by those who do not want to die, our cities are haunted by those who must but cannot leave. If we can understand that the displaced, and the homeless in particular, are like ghosts, I believe we will have found an appropriate metaphor.
Many good ideas for preventing displacement have emerged in recent years, and the experiences of the people of Mount Pleasant help to illuminate the wisdom of most of them. Currently, both federal and local government policies are so biased in favor of both gentrification and home ownership that they probably encourage the affluent to "overconsume housing" ( Schill and Nathan 1983). In many cases, policies encourage gentrification as well. Recommendations for changes that would discourage displacement cluster in five issue areas: landlords, zoning, taxes, banking, and affordable housing and social property.
Recommendation #1: Landlord Issues and Recommendations. Washington, D.C., has taken several measures to protect tenants, including rent control and tenants' right of first refusal to a landlord who wants to sell. However, there are too many loopholes in these provisions, and as we have seen in the local HUD scandal, they are not rigorously enforced. Tenants need greater security, and there are several ways to provide it.
The local government could work harder to prevent harassment, disinvestment, and the denial of proper living conditions. Evictions could be regulated, and families in trouble provided with rent assistance. Commercial rent control might help to preserve public space and the kinds of stores that poorer people need. SRO housing could be specially protected by recognizing its importance and that it is endangered. If SRO housing were registered, the city could restrict conversions until there is a normal vacancy rate, and could insist that SRO housing be replaced on a one-to-one basis. All elderly tenants should be granted lifetime tenancy regardless
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Publication information: Book title: There's No Place like Home:Anthropological Perspectives on Housing and Homelessness in the United States. Contributors: Anna Lou Dehavenon - Editor. Publisher: Bergin & Garvey Publishers. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 160.
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