April 13, 2007

Poverty is not Pretty

Local developers learned a few years ago that they could pick up marginal, inner-suburban properties for under $200,000 and build $600,000 McCastles on them. They sell so fast, they practically have people moving in while the doors are getting hung.

Of course, when nearby owners see this happening, they get optimistic about their own properties and start asking much higher prices. The boom slows, and you get a neighborhood of juxtaposition: two-storey stone façades looking down on postwar clapboard.

Many observers view this with dismay. The poor people are getting moved out by the rich, they say, in tones that suggest there's bullying.

I don't automatically see it that way, particular if the "poor" bought the house for $70,000 some years back and are looking at the biggest single chunk of income they'll ever have. (Some are tenants, of course, and won't see a dime.)

I have lived among poor people, and because of my experiences with them, I do not automatically sympathize with some perceived plight. While many of the poor live in dignity, a significant number do not.

  • They stay up late yelling at each other loud enough to wake the neighbors.
  • They paint their houses—when they do paint their houses—in garish colors with no regard for adjacent property values.
  • Their children and pets roam the neighborhood, including others' property.
  • Eventually their children steal anything not locked up, to parental indifference.
  • In the wee hours, they find it necessary to drive all the way to their door with music blasting.
  • They park broken-down vehicles on their property for months or years at a time, typically until fines are threatened.
  • They do not use garbage bags. Rather, they dump waste directly into the plastic bin and leave it open. Vermin ensue.

You think it's just the rich people who move the poor people out? It works both ways. Poor people who act like this drive out anyone with enough money to escape. Those without the means to move, suffer.

Also please note that none of the behaviors listed above are driven by poverty. They are choices. Even the affluent make bad choices. But in all the places I've resided, it's always been the poor people behaving so badly that they make living near them unbearable.

Posted by: Michael Rittenhouse at 05:41 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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