To the editors:
The ECC position on scattered site public housing (Neighborhood News, 14 Sept.) contrasts with their position on gentrification.
When a new owner evicts long-time residents of the community, some of whom have contributed more to the quality of life in their neighborhood than the average ECC board member has in hers, the ECC sees no reason to object; the property owner has the absolute right to do whatever he wants with his property. When a subsidized developer destroyed neighborhood businesses to make way for one more strip mall, the ECC said “Yes” to what they called “progress.”
When, however, the property owner wishes to help the poor, that is subject to veto by owners of neighboring property. That applies to Habitat’s building new housing for the CHA. That applies to Epworth Church’s sheltering the homeless during winter nights.
It is reasonable to hold that community residents deserve input into what is done in their community. OR it is reasonable to hold that an autonomous individual can do what he wants with his own possessions. The peculiarity of the ECC position is: 1) the first rule and only the first rule is applied to every case of disruption or destruction of the community due to gentrification or real-estate speculation; 2) the second rule and only the second rule is applied to every case of attempting to service the needs of the poor in the community; 3) ECC usually interprets the right of community residents in the first rule as a right of property owners.
Moreover, the property owners’ rights as putative speculators take precedence over their rights as permanent residents. Street-side car repairs and sidewalk gossip sessions provide the sort of casual observation that deters muggers; religious processions to the local wat and double-dutch competitions are more entertaining than HBO. All these, however, discourage the suburbanites who are expected to gentrify, and thus lower property prices. The ECC will, generally, work against these factors which enhance the current quality of life in favor of higher property prices which reward those who are moving and tax those who intend to stay.