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Urban Renewal In OKC: An Attack On Our Communities

Urban Renewal In OKC: An Attack On Our Communities

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Published by Sandra Crosnoe
Note: This was sent to me by a friend on Facebook. Please read and comment and share as you deem appropriate.

Summary: From the city's perspective, the problem is one of getting vacant houses back onto the tax rolls. From a citizen's perspective, the problem is one of making certain neighborhoods more desirable places to live. Both goals can be accomplished with no cost to the city, and thus no cost to the taxpayer. The key is to change the perception that these neighborhoods are undesirable places to live and do business, and attract both commercial and residential investment into the neighborhoods that contain the highest concentration of vacant houses.

Read more for details and plans on alternative solutions.
Note: This was sent to me by a friend on Facebook. Please read and comment and share as you deem appropriate.

Summary: From the city's perspective, the problem is one of getting vacant houses back onto the tax rolls. From a citizen's perspective, the problem is one of making certain neighborhoods more desirable places to live. Both goals can be accomplished with no cost to the city, and thus no cost to the taxpayer. The key is to change the perception that these neighborhoods are undesirable places to live and do business, and attract both commercial and residential investment into the neighborhoods that contain the highest concentration of vacant houses.

Read more for details and plans on alternative solutions.

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Published by: Sandra Crosnoe on Apr 03, 2014
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Urban Renewal In OKC: An Attack On Our CommunitiesIntroduction
 As an American, you have a right to buy and own a car. No one has the right to tell you how often or how far you have to drive it, or even to tell you that you have to drive it at all. You can park your car in your driveway for as long as you like without driving it, as long as you continue to pay your registration fees and put that little sticker on your license plate each year. Your car can be any color, and it can even have a rust spot on the fender that is covered with grey primer. You can let an older car just sit there without driving it, and hope that it becomes worth more money faster than it slowly rusts away. That's part of living in a free country, isn't it? But what if the government suddenly told you that you HAD to drive your car? What if the government said that if you didn't drive your car a certain number of miles in a year, or drive it a certain number of times each year, that they would take it away from you? Do you feel that the government should have the right to steal your car like that? What if your neighbor across the street thought that your car was ugly? That they didn't like the rust spot on the fender that was covered with grey primer? Do you feel that your neighbor has the right to tell the government to take your car away from you unless you sell it immediately or spend thousands of dollars on bodywork and a new paint job? If this were the case, would you still feel as if you lived in a free country? Does this sound like the America we love? Of course not! Yet this is exactly what is about to happen here in OKC, except with your house rather than your car. There is an effort underway for the city government to start stealing  people's houses, and this effort must be stopped immediately. In the March 12th issue of the Oklahoma Gazette, on page 14, it is reported that representatives of our city government will be attending a seminar at Harvard Law School in Boston to learn the  best ways to legalize property theft. This seminar is being conducted by an organization called the Community Progress Leadership Institute. According to their website at www.communityprogress.net, this organization is funded by the likes of the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Fannie Mae, and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, among others. This is nothing more than banks and big money interests who are out to steal people's property under the guise of an urban renewal scheme. Within the last 5-10 years, there has been an ever-increasing effort by these big money interests in stealing America's wealth by foreclosing on and stealing as many properties as possible.  Now that many cities across the country have been wrung dry, they have set their sights on OKC, and we are their next target. In the summer of 2013, I heard an advertisement on the radio about a free seminar on how to make money in real estate. Curious as to what the pitch was, I attended. It was an attempt to get people to pay to attend another seminar, and to recruit people to find houses for out of state big money investors to buy cheaply. If you paid to attend the next seminar in the series, you would be put in touch with these out of state big money investors, who would pay a commission or “finder's fee” if you found someone who would sell their house at a fraction of it's worth in a quick cash sale. So why were these  big money investors suddenly so interested in trying to buy up real estate in OKC? It was
 
explained at the seminar that the OKC metro area has one of the highest percentages of  paid off real estate in the country, houses that do not have a mortgage on them and thus cannot be foreclosed on by the banks. This represents wealth in the hands of the people, rather than the banks and bigtime landlords, and the big money interests want to grab that wealth for pennies on the dollar. Several months later, scores of “we buy houses fast for cash” signs started springing up along roadways, and similar advertisements started smothering the real estate section of craigslist. Apparently their efforts have not been terribly successful, as the number of signs has decreased, and the craigslist ads have grown more desperate, as the scouts for these out of state investors are themselves now offering “finder's fees”. Since this effort has been unsuccessful in convincing people to willingly sell their houses for pennies on the dollar, they are now about to convince the city government to either steal them from their rightful owners so that they can be resold at a fraction of their true worth to the big money interests, or force the rightful owners to quickly sell to the  big money interests at a fraction of the property's true worth. This scheme can only succeed if the residents of OKC can be duped into thinking that this is in their best interest, and will somehow benefit them. The proponents of this scheme are about to launch a massive propaganda campaign (of which the Oklahoma Gazette article is the opening salvo), arguing that too many properties in the city are “blighted”, and that our neighborhoods and city would benefit by “redevelopment of underutilized vacant real estate”. Indeed, the Oklahoma Gazette article makes the first of these arguments by claiming that vacant houses reduce property values by a whopping 12 to 29 percent. Other arguments will follow shortly, and I will explain why each of them is false. I have  been the victim of these sort of urban renewal efforts in two other cities in which I have lived. In both cases, these urban renewal efforts have had the opposite effect of their stated intent. I have seen the results firsthand, and will explain why these efforts to “fight  blight” only end up hurting the people that they are said to help, and only benefit the big money interests when all is said and done.
The Problems, And The Arguments
 There is no way that a vacant house will depress the value of neighboring houses by 12 to 29 percent. Real estate industry models that estimate the value of a house are calculated by the square footage of the house, size of the lot, number of bedrooms and  bathrooms, type of construction (wood frame or brick, vinyl siding or clapboard, etc), the condition of the home, and selling prices of nearby comparable homes which have recently sold. Nowhere in this model is there any factor for the presence of vacant houses nearby. Like many of the other arguments which will follow, this is a case of the tail wagging the dog. In reality, what depresses property values is desirability of the neighborhood, either perceived or actual. This desirability is established by factors such as crime, maintenance of city infrastructure such as roads and streetlights, proximity to stores, and proximity to other neighborhood services, including public transportation and libraries. The number of vacant properties in a neighborhood are a reflection of it's desirability, and are simply part of the laws of supply and demand, and the free market at work. Vacant properties reflect a large amount of supply, and a small amount of demand.
 
Under this condition, prices (values) will naturally fall. It is not the vacant houses that cause this reduction of price or value, it is natural conditions of the free market which make vacant houses the
result 
 of these conditions.
Vacant houses are not the cause of lower values and prices, they are the effect.
 Anyone who falsely claims the opposite does not understand basic economic principles. In the neighborhood in which I live, there are many vacant houses. I can stand out of the street in front of my house, and see half a dozen of them. Yet in researching city tax records, in many cases the recent sale prices of houses in the neighborhood are virtually identical to those of other, more desirable neighborhoods elsewhere in the city. The only properties which suffer from reduced value are the vacant houses themselves (at least the ones which are in poor condition). The neighborhood is not considered undesirable because of the vacant houses. The neighborhood is considered undesirable because the nearest fullsize grocery store with a decent selection, laundromat, and department store is 5 miles away. The only nearby  businesses are a couple of fast food restaurants, a small grocery with a poor selection, a  pawnshop, and seemingly a dozen nail and hair salons. The neighborhood is not made undesirable because of the vacant houses, it is undesirable because the lack of essential  businesses make it extremely inconvenient to live here. Along with the false perception of higher crime in the neighborhood, this is the true cause of lack of demand for the housing that is available. The proponents of urban renewal schemes will argue that low property values are a bad thing. Again, the opposite is actually true. Areas where property values are low represent the bottom rung on the economic ladder. They are the areas where lower income people live. If areas of low property values did not exist, where would lower income people be able to afford to live? If the bottom rung of the economic ladder was somehow eliminated, lower income people would never be able to afford to buy a house. The standard of living would fall as lower income people are forced to spend a greater  percentage of their income on housing. Renters would be forced to share with others with low incomes, packing additional residents into ever more crowded dwellings. Proponents of urban renewal schemes will claim that their efforts will help the poor, when in fact they are doing the opposite.
OKC is one of the few major cities in America that still has neighborhoods with low property values, and this is one of the specific reasons why I moved here.
 At my income level, I can maintain a much higher standard of living than I would be able to elsewhere, precisely because of those low property values. Because it was stolen from me by a city government in a similar urban renewal effort, I was forced to go from living in a 2600 square foot house that I owned outright with no mortgage, to renting a single room and sharing a kitchen and bathroom with complete strangers. For what I paid to rent a single room in another part of the country, I can now rent a two bedroom house with a garage here in OKC. I defy the proponents of urban renewal to explain how lower property values have hurt rather than been beneficial to me! Those lower property values have given me at least a shred of my former standard of living back. Over the last 15 years, I have seen many of my friends go from being able to rent their own apartment, to being forced to rent houses together with each other as the lowest rungs on the economic ladder have been eliminated in other parts of the country. If property values rise, and incomes do not, this does not help the poor. If property values

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