The Urbus Orbis piece ["The Last Drop," November 21] did a great job of bringing the changing neighborhood issue down to the individual, or at least individual business, level. Therein lies an important distinction. While businesses do employ people and represent their livelihoods, a quantum leap in sympathy occurs when I compare a business moving as victim of their own success versus a person being forced out of their home because they can no longer afford it.
It would be interesting and beneficial to see the Reader's resources address solutions to the residential aspects of diversifying neighborhoods where rents and property values are increasing. I could have replaced the whole second half of that last sentence with "gentrification," but I hoped to momentarily retain the attention of those righteous souls who tout diversification except, of course, for diversifying with higher income families and therefore regard "gentrification" as some sort of plague.
Now that I have lost those people anyway, I will draw yet another distinction between renters and home owners. Renters (I am being very careful here), while certainly an important, upstanding, pleasant, and altogether welcome segment of the community, are generally speaking a more transient group with less attachment to the community than home owners. There is no doubt that some of the most selfless and active people I know in the neighborhood are renters, but by definition they can pack and leave without a backward glance or financial consideration when their lease is up, while home owners must make a long-term commitment or suffer financially.
If there is a workable, free-market approach to protecting renters from unfair (definition please?) rent increases I'm all for it, but I think it's called moving. Rent control is the only other means I have ever heard of and it is grossly unfair to renters not covered by it, who pay enormously inflated rents to subsidize those who are, e.g., NYC. For home owners, I think there is little sympathy for the recently arrived, filthy rich, carpetbagging, interloping yuppie scum (thank God for easy, politically correct targets, eh?) and the property tax woes they face while reaping huge value increases.
Sarcasm aside, there is a concern for the longtime residents whose income is fixed or marginal enough that a property tax increase actually renders their home unaffordable, assuming they view the neighborhood changes as positive and want to stay as their reward for sticking it out through the lean years. Otherwise they can take the aforementioned huge profits and run. I'm not sure there are a whole lot of these people, but their importance is greater than their numbers. If property tax increases are the culprit here, is there not some means whereby payment of tax increases due to assessed-value increases over a defined percentage could be deferred until the home is sold? The excess tax liability could accrue with interest and be paid out of eventual sale proceeds. I have heard of this but never seen the issue given the basic Reader-style hard-bitten journalistic analysis.
Finally, as a six-year resident of Wicker Park, I can't wait to climb on my high horse and attack the next wave of immigrants. Please let them be another politically correct target. (Fur wearers maybe?) Was anyone else amused by the irony of the lady with the heavy foreign accent screaming to the TV camera at a Noble Square neighborhood street protest several months ago saying, "We don't want no fucking yuppies, we were here first"?