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What affordable housing?

Marketplace Staff Oct 26, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: Housing prices are falling. But before you click over to zillow dot com to see how far your house has tumbled in value, take heart in the words of Chairman Alan Greenspan this morning. The former Fed chairman said in a speech he thinks the worst of the housing market’s behind us. Commentator Moira Manion figures that’s probably true… for people who can afford the housing market.

MOIRA MANION: Hi neighbor! So you’ve moved into the loft condos converted from the crumbling building next to my crumbling building. I see you’re paying $200,000 for the same view of the alley dumpster for which I pay $500 a month in rent.

And you get all the glamour and excitement of this Minneapolis neighborhood. There’s Mr. Pimp and his ladies! Wave to Mr. Meth Dealer running his business in the liquor store parking lot. Say hello to Mr. Screaming Psychotic! Guess he forgot his meds today. And Mr. Homeless Alcoholic is doing something unpleasant on your car. Eww.

I’ve wondered why someone would pay more than I’ve earned in my lifetime to live here, and I think I’ve figured it out.

The realtors convinced you that this neighborhood is changing. These old brick buildings full of the working poor and “Les Miserables” are becoming condos. Soon there’ll be Starbucks, CVS Pharmacy, the GAP, and the “Le Snotty Bistro.”

The poor will vanish, making this neighborhood the way you like life: safe and bland.

Realtors are merely reacting to your addiction to feeling rich and lofty. Down go the affordable apartments; up go castles in the air, with no safety nets beneath them.

Because the poor never vanish. You’re only one lay-off or late credit card payment away from your financial house of cards collapsing. Bankruptcy is harder to claim these days.

Unless mummy and daddy can pull you out of the debt quagmire, you’ll have to drastically downsize to keep your head above water.

And where will you find affordable housing? Not here. It’s being turned into condos.

RYSSDAL: Moira Manion lives and works in Minneapolis.

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