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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Rebuilding of America?

(Excerpt from JRD's DYNASTY! The First 100 Days of the Trump Presidency)

The nation and the world continue to watch and wait as the ranks of Trump’s new Cabinet slowly begin to fill. An intriguing new pattern starts to emerge as we see more and more antithetical figures taking positions in organizations they had once campaigned against. Although Dr. Ben Carson was not an opponent of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he has been vociferous in denouncing the welfare policies it has long espoused.

Carson typifies the self-made black American that white activists consider ‘a credit to his race’. In fact, most of his achievements would leave white supremacists speechless. There is no way he could have accomplished such things regardless of reverse discrimination or social engineering theories. Born in Detroit, he was a graduate of Yale University and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland for three decades. Carson credits his belief in Christ for having been able to overcome a violent spirit in his youth. He presents himself as an example of how hard work and dedication can overcome any obstacles in one’s journey through life.

His major arguments against HUD have been over its socialist policies in redeveloping public housing and providing havens for the impoverished in cities throughout America. Over a half century, ‘the projects’ have been a term for subsidized apartment buildings that have become a blight on the urban landscape. They are dumping grounds for welfare families, the unemployed and criminal elements who often use them as a base of operations. Carson’s voice resonates, oddly enough, with white activists and black separatists who see these as blights on society that should be obliterated and replaced as living alternatives for the poor.

Exploitation of the housing market has been a plague on society since the turn of the 20th century. Landowners often provided space for refugee families dating back to the Great Depression. They allowed people to set up tents and build shacks, providing water and outhouse amenities in exchange for rates they could barely afford. As people migrated to large cities in search of livable domiciles, tenements became a viable choice for new residents. They were often located in neighborhoods that soon became overcrowded and fell into neglect. The slum became a term to describe these downtrodden areas, and the rise of the slumlord paralleled that of exploitation and housing scams that would permanently disfigure communities across America.

Controlled housing was a gentleman’s agreement by which slumlords would fix rates so that welfare families could afford to pay the rent through a voucher system. The slumlord would then abandon the building to its own devices. He would often provide a manager with free rent in exchange for maintenance services. The manager took care of basic electrical and plumbing repairs but had no remedy for major hazards within the building. Many became overwhelmed by vermin, structural damage and inadequate resources. Once the manager vacated the property, families could only watch their homes collapse before their eyes.

Another phenomenon that gained in popularity in the late 20th century was blockbusting. Real estate brokers would buy a property in a targeted area for a bargain price. They would immediately sell it to an ethnic minority, mostly blacks. The white neighborhood would begin to panic before the broker began soliciting homeowners. They would take advantage of the situation, warning potential customers that they should sell before their property values began to fall. The exodus began as the broker replaced white families with black ones. The Flatbush area of Brooklyn NY is a classic example of middle-class white residents superseded by black minorities, mostly blacks from the Caribbean Islands.

The blight that devastated neighborhoods throughout the Midwest from Detroit to Chicago, St. Louis to Milwaukee soon spread across the USA. Yet the projects were where the situations metastasized, the nesting spots from where the subculture spread. Welfare families took advantage of HUD programs that gave them the false hope of owning a home of their own. What they actually received was a worn-down building in a high-crime neighborhood, exchanging their apartments for family-size dwellings with no significant change in environment or living conditions.

What HUD administrators did not understand or could not control were those very conditions that afflicted the communities. Police and security forces were vastly undermanned and could not control the criminal activity plaguing the projects, much less entire neighborhoods. The gang culture dominated such areas in providing a sense of belonging for children of dysfunctional families. They offered means of earning money from criminal activities in the drug trade, gambling, prostitution, theft and robbery. No matter how lofty the goal of building modernized and attractive housing projects, eventually they would fall victim to the very people they sought to shelter from the urban blight.

At the turn of the next century, Generation X made an impact on urban society in a way that proved entirely unpredictable. The Punk Revolution gave way to alternative music, much of which could be characterized as industrial music. It was a computerized sound that was a soundtrack for a generation of youth inundated by state of the art gadgetry and electronic equipment. If the Blank Generation was about individuality and rejecting authority, Generation X was defined by communities of unique characters drawn together by a common need to build their own subculture amidst a cult of conformity. And they had to find a way to establish their new parameters.

What happened next was the urban trend towards buying warehouses and turning them into loft apartments. Artists, musicians and yuppies eagerly began renting these spaces, turning brick-wall and high-ceiling industrial spaces into stylistic dream homes. Lower-class kids were astonied by the results and dreamed of ways to become part of the new urban phenomenon. They opted to rent out storage areas, aluminum sheds on fenced properties allowing customers to safely secure their property away from home. Musicians began using the spaces as rehearsal studios, and soon others began living in the sheds.

This hit a peak in the early 21st century as small groups began pooling their resources in renting warehouse buildings in the same manner as the original loft pioneers. Only they became more imaginative, with mechanics, welders and other trade laborers moving in alongside artists, musicians and commuting students. The lack of building supervision turned into a major problem. It eventually garnered national attention after a warehouse fire during a rave concert in Oakland claimed over thirty lives.

Therein lie the challenges facing Ben Carson. There must be some way to establish and reinforce housing guidelines that allows for property owners to acquire funding for urban development. Beyond that, there has to be a way to supervise and maintain properties to assure to safety and integrity of the housing projects and their residents. The ‘build it and leave it’ mentality must be replaced by that of investors resolved and dedicated to develop their properties as long-term investments. There are many programs available to homeowners who can acquire funds to remodel properties provided they live in the home for a specified time. This principle should be the exception rather than the norm, and penalties should exist to make the agreement enduring and disadvantageous to speculators and opportunists.

It is what makes Carson the best choice for the job. Knowing the business is not what will revolutionize the housing industry. Someone who is devoted to change the moral and social integrity of HUD agreements is required. More than likely, no one is better suited for the undertaking.