Michelle Fine-click to watch her speak!
Michelle Fine cautions us to think about the profit motives of folks claiming to improve cities. For instance, real estate developers can get tax incentives, public monies to start charter schools. How does that turn a profit? Well, if it doesn’t work out, developers can flip the buildings that they used for schools, for market-rate apartments. The people who get connected with the school that was in the building are forced to move on after it closes, producing what Mindy Fullilove has called “root shock,” loss of some or all of one’s emotional ecosystem.With real estate changing that abruptly in neighborhoods, there is instability and displacement that can also destabilize neighborhoods.
Are there alternatives to the profit-making projects that do not end up benefitting local residents in cities? The Philadelphia Urban Creators are a group that has a cooperative community farm, classroom, and even apartments for folks who agree to work on the farm or another community project. Formed by former Temple University students, the Urban Creators created a socially just alternative to real estate interests. They work land that produces food for the surrounding communities, do leadership training for youth, and help young adults find homes and investment in their communities. In the process, they work toward civic and community values that undergird cities, not just the cost value. These Philly young people are promoting what is publicly shared and valued by everyone- sustainable food and housing for a community. They are getting young people invested and rooted in their communities. While real estate investors might be moving on to the next most-profitable thing, the Urban Creators are in it for the long haul, to make urban communities a place of connection not a place of profit.