GENTRIFICATION

One effect of the disadvantages minorities (specifically African Americans) faced due to the financial imbalance that systemic oppression brought upon were the Urban Renewal Projects that swept though not only Asheville, but also all major cities in the United States.


“Urban renewal displaced and relocated the majority of the residents and businesses in these areas [East Riverside, Stumptown, Hill Street, East End, and Burton Street] effectively dismantling almost every African American community in Asheville.”-  Stephen Michael Nickollof Page 4 https://libres.uncg.edu/ir/wcu/f/Nickollof2015.pdf


As this quote suggests, in this thesis, Nickollof dives deep into the historical timeline and effects of Urban Renewal as it specifically pertains to asheville- it is definitely worth the read. These renewal projects presented themselves as saving and revitalizing the community by raising its value through gentrification, but instead took advantage of lower socioeconomic neighborhoods to do this. Asheville is unique in its particularly deceptive motives, using the tourism industry as a means to justify the dismantling of all these communities. The tourism industry was one unique factor contributing to inequality in housing standards between African Americans and Whites, but many other factors contributed to this imbalance. New policies like the Housing Act of 1968 tried to implement new regulations to assist lower income families in purchasing housing, however, section 235 of this policy provided private subsidies to take care of building and allocating adequate public, low income houses. Shifting this task from the housing authorities to private lenders allowed these lenders to take advantage of the need for low income housing, adversely affecting all low income families looking to buy a home.


“The market-centered focus of federal housing policy has impaired the ability for African Americans to accumulate wealth through homeownership and reinforced racially segregative housing programs.”- Kevin Fox Gotham

https://www.jstor.org/stable/3070335?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents


Suddenly, the glimpse of hope that minorities had for buying houses to start to build momentum for their upward mobility is shrouded by the manipulative and malicious lenders that took advantage of them. What this policy actually did was allow money-hungry lenders take advantage of the destitute, and should be looked upon as one of the clearest example of racially fraught financial inequality in this country’s history.

Another policy that still causes tension today is eminent domain. Simply put, eminent domain is the ability for the government to acquire land they deem required for aspects of community development, often including revitalization and infrastructure. Working hand in had with urban renewal projects, the government could deem any area they wanted as “blighted” in order to acquire the land it was on (providing financial compensation for the land.) It was clear that many were opposed to this, as the definition for blighted land was arbitrary. In the case of Berman Vs. Parker in 1954, “the court ruled that the government can transfer property from one private party to another as part of a redevelopment plan that serves a public purpose...under the Fifth Amendment and the constitution only requires payment of just compensation to a property owner.” https://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/rpt/2013-r-0211.htm Effectively, this set precedent for the government to take whatever land they want as long as they could justify their use for it publicity.


Luckily there has been some progress on the housing front. Learning lessons from the past is one of the benefits of researching historical factors of oppression. “The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities” https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_housing_act_overview Specifically looking into the mortgage lending section of this act, inequality is perceivably removed from those looking to take out a mortgage loan. As predatory lending was one of the key factors leading to financial destitution for already low income families in the 60’s and 70’s, the fair housing act should make this securely a thing of the past.