When Gentrification Arrives At Your Door

John Miller and Advocate Audrey Boyles celebrate a successful moving day in 2012.

The following is a guest post by Durham resident and CEF Member, John Miller, who is an avid writer and advocate at www.blindtravel.net/ , where this post was originally published.

When Gentrification Arrives At Your Door

Or renovation. Rapid re-creation of a whole neighborhood. Call it what you want, the effects are the same.

We’ve all read the stories. Person, hard working, toward the lower end of the economic ladder, suddenly finds him or herself homeless. As we read this, we sit back and wonder to ourselves how this could have happened so quickly. Well I would venture to say that our current rental structure can contribute.

I have resided in my current large community here just northwest of downtown Durham for over four years. Each year, the costs have increased by about 20 to 30 dollars. Not too bad, right?

Except this year, they’re gonna hit me with the haymaker! They have been engaged in a steady process to re-design all of these older units to make them trendier, and probably more amenable to modern appliances. And let’s call it what it is, more expensive.

I get it. Located close to two medical facilities, Duke Hospital and the VA Medical Center, as well as that major university within easy walking distance, there is lots of money to be made in this area. And as guardians of the community (however all that internal stuff works), they have a responsibility to get that money flowing into their coffers if at all possible.

But what are those of us who are barely hanging on supposed to do? It’s a question I probably ask at least once a year, and every year it becomes demonstrably worse. Affordable housing is simply disappearing, and especially from places that need it the most for instance near said medical facilities and along transit lines. An example of this need? I have (had? well I think she’s still here somehow) a neighbor who moved into her apartment and lived there for 25 years so that she could have easy access to Duke Hospital in the event of somewhat regular heart emergencies. My guess is she has some kind of special dispensation that will allow her to remain there for as long as she pleases.

Certainly other than that though, I have noticed that this place has become a lot quieter. Most folks started packing up and moving out a good while ago, and my guess is it will be a while before the upper incomers start trickling in, once all of the reconstruction work has been completed.

As for me, this is not a tremendous deal. This is because I would have been moving on by January anyway, so that I can begin life as a married man. To transfer for the six or seven-month gap between now and then (I must depart by June 24th,) I have to pay these fine folks an additional $330 a month. That is a sixty (60!) percent increase, and would mean I would be living a lot closer to significant disaster due to any unexpected occurrence than I wish to experience. It seems silly though to relocate to some entirely unfamiliar venue for such a short period, and even if I decide to do that I am not sure where that would be as most of Durham, the Bull City’s prices have crept in that general direction. In any event, I have a couple of weeks to figure this out, on top of possible needs for other employment, grad school, and other general living interests. Chaotic, to say the least. But, it’ll all work out somehow because it has to. Wish me well.

Read the update to John’s apartment situation on his blog in his latest post: http://www.blindtravel.net/on-rites-of-passage-20-years-since-high-school-and-apartment-follow-up/

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