Full RNA Gentrification Position Paper

(This is an evolving document with this version approved in principal at the Development Committee meeting on January 11, 2003.) The natural environment, plus the diversity of its people, businesses and buildings makes Riverwest unique in Milwaukee. Our neighborhood has been discovered in recent years by a new group of investors and people with a newfound appreciation for urban living. This has caused substantial increases in property values and rents. The renewed interest is based on Riverwest’s location and will have positive results if these new investments are leveraged to benefit all residents. The concern among numerous residents however, is that these increases are well above the comparable consumer price index and therefore present challenges for our fixed, lower and moderate income residents. Part of the mission of the Riverwest Neighborhood Association (RNA) is to maintain a neighborhood that is affordable and includes economic diversity. Our goal in the long term is to welcome new residents and investments into the neighborhood, while minimizing the negative effects of gentrification, e.g., the loss of neighborhood character and the displacement of long term, fixed-income residents. RNA’s strategy includes the following three elements: 1. Educate stakeholders and request their participation in efforts to minimize the negative effects of gentrification. 2. Build a stronger community by drawing on the strengths of the old and new residents and institutions. This community building should honor the neighborhood’s past as well as create new institutions for the future. 3. Leverage new investment in the neighborhood to maximize the benefit to all residents. I. STAKEHOLDER EDUCATION Excessive increases in property taxes and rents will in the long term displace the “creative community” as well as lower and fixed-incomes families. It is imperative that stakeholders learn to create opportunities for these residents to stay in Riverwest. A. Fixed income. Many home-owning seniors may be forced out by increasing property taxes and fees. Perhaps they can unite and lobby for reform in taxation, e.g., a progressive property tax charging more to higher-income new residents than fixed-income seniors who are long term residents. Also recommended for this group is a freeze on new fees that may be added to future water and sewer bills. Attending RNA meetings, reading articles on gentrification in the Riverwest Currents, articles on the “world wide web” and at the library may be useful in increasing awareness. Their support network includes: • RNA • Local churches • Local senior organizations • AARP • YMCA-CDC B. Students, artists, low and moderate income families. Need to unite and fight to ensure that long term affordable housing options are available via: • Creation of housing co-ops and community land trusts. • Encourage developers to make a significant percentage of their new units less glamorous and more affordable. • Encourage developers to take advantage of affordable housing tax credits. • Increase owner occupancy of housing stock. Increased awareness for these groups may be achieved in the same manner as for seniors as well as through unions, government and non-government organizations. Their support network includes: • RNA • Riverwest Housing Co-op • Food co-ops • Unions • UW-M • Local government • Riverwest Artist Association • YMCA-CDC If not currently occurring, it is recommended that this organization assist as follows: • Maintain a current list of Riverwest properties for sale in order to encourage resident ownership. • Create a brochure detailing the steps from renting to home ownership. • Maintain a list of properties that are available as live-work spaces and market their availability via the Riverwest Currents and RNA e-mail. This action may revitalize some of the old storefronts. C. Government. The city needs to enforce the current codes and laws and use “carrots” to ensure that any new developments are mixed income. RNA needs to alert officials of our goal to maintain diversity and affordability and assert our desire for the following: • Requiring new TIF district developers to create a significant percentage of affordable housing units. • Insist that government land sales to developers include a significant percentage of affordable housing units. • Develop a new policy for the property taxes and fees of fixed-income seniors. • Ensure strict but common sense enforcement of building codes to ensure that buildings in Riverwest are safe and maintain RNA’s mission of good urban aesthetics. D. Metro Milwaukeeans. Communicate our goals to the metro population via RNA minutes and press releases to the Riverwest Currents, Shepherd Express, The Press, Vital, Journal-Sentinel, Business Journal, etc… This exposure may help garner additional suggestions, adherents and benefactors for our goals. II. BUILD A STRONGER COMMUNITY Honor the past and build for the future!! This can be achieved by drawing on the strengths of the old and new residents and institutions. RNA will encourage increased participation by these groups to ensure a community of unique, locally-owned businesses and to assist in maintaining an economically diverse community. It is also imperative that those most likely to be affected by gentrification become active in curtailing its negative effects. Riverwest employers, businesses and institutions should receive a copy of the position paper to enlighten them of our desire to maintain a diverse community and thus a diverse work force. We will request their input and support. III. LEVERAGE NEW INVESTMENT It is very important that we leverage the new investment in the neighborhood to maximize the benefit to all residents. Ideas to accomplish this follow: • Press developers of multi-unit housing to create a significant percentage of their units as Riverwest affordable. • Request new public (sponsor a new park bench, basketball hoop, etc…) and social investment in Riverwest by industry giants with neighborhood locations including McDonald’s, Jewel-Osco, Wal-Mart, Aldi, Walgreen’s, WTMJ, etc… • Ask new residents of the Beer Line Community to participate in RNA. • RNA members “leaflet” the Beer Line Community with a “welcome” packet including: i. A copy of the Riverwest Currents ii. RNA mission statement and meeting times iii. Volunteer opportunities in Riverwest and Harambee