“I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.”
~ Sun Bear of the Chippewa
As our human population relentlessly increases, more people are moving to cities, and cities continue to spread outward and upward. Rapid urbanization is often argued as necessary based on scales of supply and demand. This is sometimes true, but such growth engines are designed rarely for public accommodation and far more often for the purpose of generating vast sums of wealth for a select few individuals. As previously covered on Rebel Metropolis, the mechanisms of urban development are obedient to the ownership class, the wealthy, the economically privileged – not the working class, the poor, or the disenfranchised. City governments function as real estate enterprises to further enrich the developers that finance political aspirations.
Recently, Portland’s own mayor Charlie Hales has come under fire for remarks viewed as intolerant and uncaring of our city’s houseless population, as well as those who could be priced out of their homes by waves of new high-end apartment construction. When questioned about expanding the community operated ‘Dignity Village‘, Hales quipped “it’s hard to find land.” When asked if he would support a ‘Homeless Bill of Rights‘, he replied “Haven’t seen it.” The much criticized mayor also expressed his ambivalence to practices of housing displacement. Hales claimed gentrification isn’t all bad if it means the city becomes more prosperous, “I’d rather grapple with the problems of success than the problems of disinvestment.” Ostensibly, ‘success’ is being cynically defined here as only pertaining to those capitalizing on development, and not those suffering from gentrification.
Those cheerleading new development use cleverly crafted language, advocating market-based methods of achieving so-called ‘affordable’ housing. They’ll insist that tweaking systems of capital is the only realistic solution to furnish our housing needs. They’ll claim if we don’t increase density, we’re only encouraging more sprawl. This is a false dichotomy, as the issue in question isn’t increasing density, it’s how we’re increasing density.