THIRD ROOM – Residents who live in the historic Third Quarter said this is changing.
A quick drive around the neighborhood will reveal new developments in the form of luxury townhouses and vacant lots. According to Assata Richards, a third generation resident, this is the demolition of affordable housing for those who live in the neighborhood.
Richards said without affordable housing, longtime residents are displaced, which she says will result in the loss of the rich history and cultural heritage of predominantly African-American neighborhoods.
“My parents met in this block, in this street (rue des Emancipations). And when I see these institutions disappear, it breaks my heart, ”said Richards.
Richards said his family moved to the neighborhood in the 1950s and called him from home.
The changes in the neighborhood prompted her to become a founding member of the board of directors of the Economic Development Council of Emancipation.
She said the organization is focused on combating gentrification and preventing it.
“Specifically, the displacement of African American residents and the history and culture of the neighborhood,” Richards said.
Dr. DZ Cofield, senior pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Third Ward, leads a congregation of over 2,500 people.
He tells KPRC that he has seen the effects of gentrification with his own eyes.
“Some of our older members chose to sell, and in some ways I understand. If you paid $ 100,000 for a house 50 years ago and someone offers you 900,000, and you’re already struggling with taxes or whatever, it’s like – I’m maybe be older but i’m not stupid. I will sell, ”said Dr Cofield.
One of the most notable aspects of gentrification, according to locals, is development.
For this reason, community organizations have formed the Emancipation Community Development or ECDP partnership to reduce displacement.
A report from the ECDP Strategic Implementation Framework shows that investors owned 37% of the vacant land in the third quarter.
Bill Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, conducted a separate study identifying neighborhoods at risk of gentrification.
According to the study, gentrification often eliminates affordable housing options, deep-rooted social networks and long-standing conveniences.
Land prices will also increase, just as they are in Third Ward.
“So if you want to develop a new building in the third quarter, what happens is that it has to be basically high-end townhouses so that the developer can make their money. So what we see before actual gentrification is often land speculation and the price of land going up dramatically, ”Fulton said.
Fulton said the development is raising property taxes and longtime homeowners are struggling to pay their bills or maintain their homes, but he believes there may be a solution.
“Create a property tax system where long-term owners in places like this pay less in taxes,” he said. “There are property tax exemptions and reductions for all kinds of things, right? There is certainly a way to do this for long-time residents of gentrifying neighborhoods. “
Affordable housing for tenants is also needed.
According to an ECDP report, 27% of households in Third Ward paid more than half of their income in rent in 2017, which is comparable to 25% for the city of Houston, but is likely due to the high percentage of housing. community. households benefiting from a 25% housing allowance.
The report also pointed out that the median household income in Third Ward was $ 23,325, less than half that of the city of Houston, which is $ 47,493.
Libby Viera-Bland, neighborhood development project manager at Project Row Houses, said organizations that provide affordable housing or are essential in keeping residents in communities.
“We have built affordable housing over the past decade in half an hour,” said Viera-Bland.
She said that so far, the organization has built 80 affordable housing units and is building 12 more units this year.
Richards believes that providing affordable housing will help residents of the community stay in their beloved neighborhood, but also preserve the history of the neighborhood, which is why she said she continues to fight for Third Ward.
“This community enabled me to obtain a doctorate. as a single mother. It has enabled me to achieve all of my aspirations as a first generation student, so I know what this community is all about, ”said Richards.
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