In efforts to impede gentrification in Chicago, two members of Chicago’s City Council have joined forces to pull off an ordinance that would increase the demolition fee for residential properties and charge a deconversion fee when multiple-unit buildings are turned into single-family homes within a still-unspecified area. The aldermen aim at preserving the existing housing stock and affordable housing in areas near The 606, a popular bike and pedestrian trail built on an old elevated railroad line.
“If the developers are really willing to buy existing properties and want to demolish them to build higher-end new properties, making it almost impossible for neighborhood people to afford them, they will have to pay a premium demolition fee,” said Roberto Maldonado, one of the aldermen drafting the ordinance. Moldando finds this solution to be multi-beneficial; to slow down the pace of gentrification and to create a fund for improving existing homes and buildings.
This came in response to the ever-rising prices of properties near The 606. According to The Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, ever since construction of the trail started in 2013 and until 2016, housing prices in Western Avenue hiked by 48.2%, whereas, just between when the trail opened in 2015 and 2016, prices rose 9.4%. Elsewhere, neighborhoods east of The 606 watched housing prices increase 13.8% between 2013 and 2016, and by 4.3% since it was inaugurated.
Chicago is not the only victim of gentrification. San Franciscan communities have been pressured to relocate as well in the past few years. According to the Urban Displacement Project map, in 2013, more than 53% of low-income households lived in neighborhoods at risk of or already experiencing displacement and gentrification pressures, comprising 48% of the Bay Area’s census tracts.
But gentrification goes beyond US borders. Paris has been experiencing gradual gentrification due to its modernization after decades of being headstrong about preserving Parisian identity and traditions. There, modernization came at the cost of pressuring the working-class to relocate due to rising housing prices to accommodate the new lifestyle the French capital is adopting.
The German capital has fallen victim to the same risks. In the summer of 2016, residents of Wrangelstrasse 66, an apartment block in the trendy Berlin district of Kreuzberg, received the news that the house was being sold to a Luxembourg-registered company. The tenants were stranded between two pricey solutions: either buy their flats or face an expensive renovation and higher rents – so they appealed to their city council. The council intervened, sold the property to a state-owned company and saved the day. “We want Berlin to remain a place where average earners can afford to live,” said Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen, the City’s Finance Chief.
Gentrification also hit Cape Town, but there, residents were not as lucky as Berliners. In late September 2016, Bromwell Street residents in Woodstock were given a deadline to leave their homes. Western Cape MEC of Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela offered the families housing in Delft, but they passed the offer. The residents said they didn’t want to be expelled out of the city into a community that they are not familiar with.
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