I live in the inner city. In the West End of Atlanta we don’t have a housing problem. For those who choose to live within the 30310 zip code, their demand for housing appears to be met. With the exception of a handful of homeless individuals literally living on the street, people in this community are housed.
Economic conditions here are not the best, however. Over 38 percent of households in the West End live below poverty. With 87% of the population made up of black Americans, average gross income is approximately $24,101. Georgia’s average is $56,131. Average salary in the West End is $23,757 while Georgia’s average salary is $47,942. The amount of earned income tax credit taken by residents in the West End is higher than the state’s average with West End residents taking approximately $2,734 while the state average was $2,589.
The numbers are reflected in what you actually witness on the street while walking or driving. You have too many choices in barber shops and churches. Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and Deal stores abound. And of course there are your fast food mainstays book ended by two Chinese restaurants.
These are the type of conditions the Trump administration, with Ben Carson spearheading efforts as secretary of housing and urban development, would like to alleviate. Steve Harvey, the game show host and comedian, will, I guess, take on some type of messaging role for the administration given his large radio and television following.
What policy the new administration will embark on is unclear. Dr. Carson wants faith-based groups and the private sector to play a bigger role in backing mortgages, but if your low income prohibits you from qualifying for one, what’s the point of encouraging the private sector (which has already been burnt by consumers who couldn’t keep up with their mortgage payments ten years ago) and faith-based groups (who don’t want to burn in mortgage hell for holding bad paper) to participate in financing mortgages.
Given low incomes in the West End and only 40% of homes owner-occupied, it won’t be the black American population that participates in the any Trump-stimulated housing market turnaround. It will be the young white couples I see moving into the neighborhood, bringing with them their little children, baby strollers, bicycles, and investment capital.
By using the term “inner city” and expressing a desire to energize these neighborhoods, policy makers on the left and right give the impression they want to help the current majority of citizens living there. And blacks don’t want to give up their neighborhoods. Communities like the West End encompass a cultural identity due the community’s history and its institutions.
Will a government intervention work? I don’t think it will, not if blacks want to maintain the current character of their neighborhoods minus the poverty that racks them. What government intervention will do is signal non-residents to move into these neighborhoods; that their investments will be guaranteed by HUD. Saving inner city neighborhoods as home for black Americans will take a concerted effort by that community, whether its members live in inner cities or not, to attract the type of capital that would these communities sustainable.
This capital shouldn’t go toward buying homes. It should go toward attracting businesses into these neighborhoods and training local potential employees for work.