Sustainable, not slummable
Improving Minneapolis Slums Through Sustainability
This project really grabbed my attention, especially because of it's local flavor. It is important to think about things around the world, but we can't forget about what's happening on our own doorstep.
The group began by giving some of the reasons for the lack of affordable housing developments, one of which was the "not in my backyard" protests from other residents. That reason really hit home for me because I have first hand experience with it. I can understand the problem because I did live in low-income housing downtown. My problem, however, wasn't so much with the building I was in, but with the building in my "backyard," which was the House of Charity free housing project. Well, I guess I'm not sure which building contributed, but I know that living there I had to listen to some very loud fights, both inside and out and sometimes between one person inside and one outside, yelling to/from the second or third floor window. I also had a man follow me into my apartment trying to sell me crack, who then lit his crack pipe on my couch and tried to persuade me to smoke it with him. Luckily, he didn't try to hurt me and left after I repeatedly and firmly rejected his offers. However, I only lived there for a couple of months and that happened. Simply going by the odds, I can only assume it wasn't a freak occurrence.
The group didn't dive any deeper into the "not in my backyard" issue, and went into the redevelopment track instead, discussing the ways current low-income housing can be revamped to make it sustainable and pretty, giving back to the environment and instilling pride in the neighborhood it occupies and the tenants who live there. On first hearing, remodeling the building wouldn't seem like a feasible solution, especially because the government wouldn't want to spend money on crime and disturbance-ridden homes when it could be spending that money trying to attract new, hip yuppies to fill its streets. However, I am always of the opinion that all social problems are connected, and I think that having pride in one's home is a very important key in people's development and lifestyle.
The crime and public nuisance that existed in the low-income housing I lived in was very noticeable. You would think that the police would be called in frequently to resolve these things; even if they had nothing to go on, there should still have been noise complaints to break up, right? Well in order for the police to investigate a noise complaint, someone has to call and complain. But I think that people living in this state feel that the government doesn't care about them, doesn't want to be bothered with their concerns. If they don't care about them living in cockroaches and grime (we had the worst cockroach problem there,) why would they care about them living in annoyance and fear? If people hate the sight of their building, they will rush quickly to their apartment and stay in there, not lingering in the hallways or common areas long enough to even recognize their neighbors. If they don't know their neighbors, why waste their time getting involved in their noisy arguments or violence?
If these buildings were designed to be places to be proud of, people would be happier with their life situation. They wouldn't constantly be thinking, "Oh this is temporary, I don't really belong here, I'm ashamed to be here, this isn't my home." People could take stock in their homes and feel a sense of identity. They might just feel a sense of permanence and start community building activities. They might get to know their neighbors, and then when there's a marital dispute going on, they might want to have the police intervene. They might actually want to have people come over and see their beautiful building, so they wouldn't want those people to see crime and grime, so they would do their part in making sure those things stay out of their "backyard."
Giving people without a lot of money a sense of stability in their life, a sense of pride in their city, might not be as economically booming as importing a bunch of rich condo hipsters. But I think that loyalty goes furthur than trendiness, and the people who feel like their city cares about them will do more to give back than those who are just living here because it's "in" and convenient for the glamorous part of their lives before they have kids and move to the suburbs. Those loyal, loving people could be the ones volunteering, helping in other arenas to make the city a better place, to give back. And since the greener buildings save the city money in the long run, it seems to me to be a fabulous solution to many problems.