Coexistence is a Right

In the early 2000s, there was an Occupy Wallstreet movement where in New York City, people set up base camps and “illegally” occupied public space to raise awareness about unethical financial behavior. After the housing crisis, nonprofits in California “reclaimed” homes by entering abandoned homes and squatting until forcibly removed, their movement designed to reduce the number of abandoned properties. Now, in São Paolo, the poor are moving back in a squatting to demand accessibility to lives near work. All of these cases demonstrate how people are urging cities to appeal to all residents, not just the wealthy.

The most unfortunate consequence of the housing crisis is that homes were seen as investments, instead of places where people lived. That means that people were driven to neighborhoods in Southside and the Mission District not because of the long-standing network of people who worked to make their communities attractive, but because of the potential resale value. Business owners who were able to appeal to a consistent stream of customers were driven out of their neighborhoods because of exponentially rising rents, and they were unable to secure enough capital to make changes. Appraisal districts began basing values on how much the wealthy would pay rather than the salaries of the homeowners. When people see money instead of community, they usually end up driving out other people.

Cities are not tourist attractions, and local entities who are obsessed with attracting the short term usually fail to plan for sustainability. Many will do what they can to attract people for the one event or one opportunity that comes into the city, but forget that their constituents will continue living their lives which the event occurs. There was a lot of talk about the water in Rio de Janeiro for Olympic events, but once all the tourists were gone, no one continued talking about water quality. Around the world, there are extensive eyesores of the aftermath of the spectacles, but the inequities that existed before remain when the events finish. Short-term planning does nothing to alleviate the tension of living in a city designed only to attract the wealthy.

Finally, concentrating resources means that more people will need access, and sadly, that has meant that the people who already have resources maintain all the access. The marginalized are forced to live at the margins with no access, and then blamed for being forced to live there. However, people will stand for stand for being ostracized for only so long before they begin to respond with resistance. In São Paolo, people returned to the city not because they want a never-ending party, but because they deserve not to be forced to struggle for the benefit of those who ignore them.


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