There Goes the Neighborhood
Whenever someone says “There goes the neighborhood”, you know black people are moving in. It creates an image of white people watching a Uhaul truck pull into a nearby driveway of a home recently purchased by black people. It displays the entitlement, superiority and fear they feel about black people. Most of these feelings are the result of stereotypes, conditioning and lack of personal experiences with black people. The new neighbors symbolize that the neighborhood is no longer out of reach for most people who don’t look like the current residents. That means, soon, more will come. They are all unwanted by the current residents, who decide to move away from the neighborhood and into more homogeneous neighborhoods. If you think White Flight was a thing of the past, you may be interested in this 2018 article, White Flight Remains a Reality.
Moving on up
As people move from low-income neighborhoods into neighborhoods with more opportunity, they contribute to the depletion of their old neighborhoods. Their presence in the neighborhood was a valuable resource for community improvement. The ability to leave those neighborhoods results from an increase in income or access to housing vouchers. Housing vouchers are provided to low income families who meet certain criteria. Families pay a percentage of rent based on their income. As more people leave low income communities, fewer people are paying taxes and utilizing services. Fewer taxes means a decrease in services. As a result, the people who still live there suffer more. As more houses become vacant and filled with unwanted people or activities, the value of property decreases. This can decrease the safety of the neighborhood. Naturally, this only increases the desire for more people to want to leave.
As more black people begin to move into suburban neighborhoods in search of greater opportunities, the people who live there move out. This is generally referred to as White Flight. The same things that began happening to the low income neighborhood begin to happen in the neighborhood of greater opportunity. Property values begin to decrease because owners struggle selling at market value due to change in neighborhood demographics. The costs may still be too much for people who were unable to move without a financial assistance. Once enough families are replaced, the average income of the neighborhood may be reduced. The resources within the neighborhood may be different than what they were used to because it previously catered to people with fewer needs.
The unacknowledged phenomenon is Black Flight. The more mobile, more educated and higher income black people move into the suburbs or more privileged neighborhoods. They are attracted by the amenities and potential opportunities. This leaves the poorer, less educated blacks behind. It increases the concentration of poverty within these communities. People who moved using housing vouchers may find difficulty in suburban neighborhoods due to insufficient resources for their needs. For these people, the neighborhood itself is better but not necessarily better for them. Also, unlike their predecessors, they will lack an appropriate network that would be a useful resource for navigating their new life. They may also lack the funds to take advantage of new opportunities. For these reasons, some people will move to better neighborhoods but not reap the benefits.
In this cycle, the lower income, inner city people move into more privileged neighborhoods with greater resources. The current residents don’t like it. White flight occurs. Both the inner city and the privileged neighborhoods become weakened by the removal of it’s original parties. The increasingly poor neighborhoods result in more minorities wanting to move out, resulting in Black Flight. The weakened inner city neighborhood will remain as such until a developer makes a large investment. The remainder of the people living in the poor neighborhoods are forced out. This usually results in gentrification. The people moving into the newly developed inner city are often the people who left their previously privileged neighborhoods. The poor people forced out of the developing neighborhood find affordable housing that is usually inconvenient to their work, places of worship, network, etc.
Everyone with the ability wants to move into neighborhoods with better resources/ amenities. As soon as their current neighborhood is compromised, they leave. This causes deterioration in their neighborhoods. I have to preface my next statement with, I am in no way saying people should not have the right to move to better place. I am saying we break the cycle by being the “developers” of our own communities. By this I mean building community. It’s difficult to share a common goal with people you don’t know. We have to work closely with our neighbors, legislative leaders, community agencies, philanthropists, investors, small business owners, etc., on accomplishing the goal of building the communities we want to move into. It takes time and effort but it’s possible because there are untapped resources in low-income neighborhoods.