November 29, 2017

Stay Strong Boston-Thurmond, Keep Fighting Against Gentrification!

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The former Westside Apartments, a vivid example of gentrification in Winston.

On Tuesday, the Winston-Salem Journal showered praise on local government leaders for their development of the Enclave apartments off Shattalon Drive. The Chronicle ran a similar article on the Enclave apartments days earlier.

The implication of these articles is obvious. (But admittedly, I didn’t realize it until a friend on facebook pointed it out to me.) The article isn’t just about the Enclave, it’s a message to the Boston-Thurmond community.

The Journal and Chronicle would like the residents of Boston-Thurmond to stop worrying and learn to love Wake Forest’s proposed redevelopment of their neighborhood and the gentrification that will surely follow.

The Journal’s “Government, developers transform languishing condos into affordable housing” article is an attempt by the Journal and the powerful interests that it represents to the quiet dissent that the Boston-Thurmond Innovation/Gentrification Network has received.

The print edition of Tuesday’s W-S Journal had the headline, ‘Win-win’ community in bold print above the article, making it even more obvious that the article was written on behalf of Winston’s real-estate interests.

My initial takeaway from the article was that it was another example of the City’s devotion to market-rate housing and their failure to provide adequate housing for people in need.

City leaders (the mayor, city council, housing authority, non-profits, etc) simply don’t have a vision for providing housing to residents unable to afford rising rents.

Say what you will about Venezuela, but in the last six years that much-maligned socialist government built 1.5 million truly affordable apartments for poor Venezuelans. That’s a major achievement for a country roughly one-tenth the size of the United States.

In this country, we don’t build public housing anymore. On the contrary, we’re eliminating them. We’re not eliminating systemic racism, poverty or inequality-but we are eliminating public housing.

In its place, we have a complex formula that provides subsidies and tax credits to landlords and no guarantees for the poor.

The public/private partnership that has largely replaced public housing can be messy. The City of Winston-Salem and the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem have made more than their fair share of bad housing deals over the years. They have had to write off millions in bad loans that were never repaid.

After the City’s many failures with subsidized housing, it’s okay if our city leaders want to pat themselves on the back for providing Winston with a few apartments that are reasonably priced. (Paying $600-$740 for a 2 bedroom apartment in the Enclave is still too damn much for many of our city’s poor residents.)

Boston-Thurmond residents no doubt remember the Westside Apartments. Back in 2012, the Westside Apartments, off First Street were home to many Section 8 residents. The apartments were located close to WFU Baptist Medical Center as well as retail and grocery stores.

Despite the fact that the Westside Apartments were a textbook case of gentrification, the W-S City Council gave developers a green light to bulldoze the working class apartments and build the luxury apartments known as ‘The Edge.’

Developers’ interests were put above the rights of the people. Working class minority residents were unceremoniously pushed out of their apartments.

But in an odd twist, Wake Forest moved its medical school into the Innovation Quarter and the Bowman Gray medical students that the Edge’s developers were targeting never materialized.

Boston-Thurmond residents also remember that the City’s role in Rolling Hills and New Hope Manor becoming modern slums. The City sold both properties to developers years ago but failed to ensure that the new owners maintained minimum standards of maintenance and sanitation.

When the squalid conditions at Rolling Hills and the New Hope Manor apartments became a major scandal in Winston last year, councilmembers were indignant. They were quick to place the blame on the owners of properties, without admitting their own culpability.

Boston-Thurmond residents also know that neither the City, County, or Wake Forest have made affordable housing a core part of their visions for the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

Ironically, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter wouldn’t exist without public investments. Millions of dollars from the City and County and massive historic tax breaks were instrumental to transforming decaying tobacco factories into the Innovation Quarter that we have today.

Wake Forest, with its massive financial coffers, is in a position to be charitable. But Wake Forest has put a low priority on affordable housing in the IQ and has completely ignored entrenched poverty bordering the Innovation Quarter.

The BB&T Ballpark, the other signature development that has occurred during Allen Joines’ reign as mayor, pushed poor people of color out of their West End neighborhood.

Keith Barber, then reporting for Yes Weekly revealed that Allen Joines, in his role at the Winston-Salem Alliance helped acquire land for BB&T Ballpark a year before the matter came before the city council. That was grounds for Joines’ resignation in my opinion.

There is certainly no question that Joines’ backroom ballpark politics demonstrates that the mayor is not an impartial actor. To the contrary, he’s bought and paid for by Winston’s capitalist class.

So, to the people of Boston-Thurmond I say, keep the fire of your indignation burning. Don’t give up. Keep fighting. Don’t let the Boston-Thurmond Innovation/Gentrification Network fool you. Don’t let the mayor rob you of your homes. Show up at meetings. Sign petitions. Write emails. Do whatever it takes to save your neighborhood!






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