New York Gentrification Watch
Last year, I wrote a long piece entitled, Top 10 Talking Points–and Lies– of Pro-Gentrification Propaganda, in which I tried exposing and debunking common talking points often used by pro-gentrification apologists. No sooner did I post it when The New York Daily News trotted out #2 on the list in the op-ed, “Who the ‘gentrification tax’ hurts: Beware unintended consequences”.
When you read it, you’ll notice that it’s chock full of economics jargon and academic blah blah blah. Do not be fooled. It talks a good game, but cut through all the verbiage, and the meat of the piece will be found right here:
But here’s a memo to Republican Joe Borelli and Democrat Brad Lander: Taxing new homebuyers who pay high prices in resurgent neighborhoods will not actually hit the newcomers; it will actually hurt long-time, lower-income homeowners who have the chance to sell, realize a profit and retire gracefully [italics mine].To summarize, author Howard Husock is arguing that the Gentrification Tax–now being mulled over in Albany to close a tax loophole–is a bad thing because it’ll prevent minorities from making the most profit out of their houses. On the surface, this sounds like sound economic theory. In reality, it’s nothing more than a variation of the pro-gentrification talking point I mentioned in Top 10 Talking Points–and Lies– of Pro-Gentrification Propaganda–“gentrification is paying off for minorities”, which is the idea that contrary to complaints that gentrification is hurting minorities, it’s benefiting them in ways they can’t even imagine.
Don’t cry for Scarsdale, where the end of SALT deduction is hitting hard. But save some sympathy for the long-time, often minority homeowners of Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, who, if the gentrification tax becomes law, will see sale prices on their homes drop, and their retirement plans upended [italics mine].
For example, proponents will often paint a bright, rosy picture portraying disenfranchised blacks–through benefit of gentrification–walking away into the sunset flush with cash. This image in turn will be used to argue that putting policies in check to help minimize the negative effects of gentrification on minorities is preventing them from reaping massive financial rewards. In the case of this New York Daily News article, Howard Husock uses this argument to make the case that the proposed Gentrification Tax will destroy the retirement plans of low income minority home owners by devaluing their property values.
What’s wrong with the gentrification is paying off for minorities talking point, you ask? Well, first and foremost, it’s the cheapest and most intellectually insulting type of pandering, one that the kids these days call “concern trolling.” Concern trolling is the act of arguing in favor of or against something under the false pretense that you’re doing it out of concern. In terms of this “gentrification benefits minorities” canard, the person who says this is pretending that he’s oh, so worried about minorities missing out on all the potential money they could make from selling their houses, when the reality is that he’s just pandering to this demographic out of his own self interest.
You can plainly see that this is what’s happening in the Daily News article. In expressing concern for minority home owners, look at the specific neighborhoods that author Husock singled out. He is oh, so worried about the home owners of Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill but curiously enough, not the home owners of East New York, Flatbush or East Flatbush. Why? Because Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are highly coveted neighborhoods that gentrifiers, developers, oligarchs and speculators are practically pre-cumming in their jockey shorts over while other neighborhoods have yet to targeted for gentrification. So naturally, his concern is selective. After all, why care about minority homeowners in, say, Flatlands and Canarsie cashing out? They’re not sitting on valuable property highly sought after by real estate predators.
Aside from cheap pandering, there is another problem with this gentrification is paying off for minorities talking point. It’s one of those trite statements that conveniently ignores inconvenient truths. One of them that it loves to ignore is how the goals of the demographic currently owning homes in areas most in danger of gentrifying are completely different from the goals of the Yuppie douche bag who sees every stupid little thing in life–including the air we breathe–as a source of monetization.