It All Started with a Bike Lane
I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. This place has and always will be home. My love for this city brought me back after college when job offers and competitive salaries were scarce, but there was more than enough love and crawfish to go around. I live and breathe New Orleans, buttt I CAN BARELY AFFORD A HOUSE HERE! (yes this is me yelling). Even bare naked land is over priced and quickly snatched up by developers with cash offers that easily trump my full price offers. This may sound like my list of complaints when it comes to New Orleans, but this is the reality of a young professional dying to stay in the city she loves.
I’m from a generation of New Orleanians that we call Katrina Babies. We were too young to be on our own when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the city, but had no choice but to face the destruction. We walked the journey and experienced the devastation with our parents until we could come home. We know loss and we know the value of the areas we lived in (I lived in a trailer for over a year). Going through that allowed this special generation of New Orleanians to understand the meaning of home and what it’s like to have it ripped away at once. Now we’re learning what that feels like again.
When Redevelopment Backfires
Fast forward 13 years…New Orleans is colorful and thriving but something is different. My neighborhood doesn’t look like the diverse community I grew up in. As new people arrive that want to immerse themselves in New Orleans culture the prices rise as well. A house less than 1800 sqft is now worth more than my parents could have ever imagined. When adjusted for inflation the cost to live in my parents neighborhood has increased by 29%.
What’s happening in my neighborhood is not just a New Orleans issue. This is happening in cities all over the country — Gentrification.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, Gentrification is the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents…What this definition does not address is the displacement of not only poorer residents, but young homebuyers with middle class incomes looking to return to their neighborhoods.
Some of New Orleans’ most impoverished neighborhoods have now turned into to cultural hot spots for tourists and developers. Places where my grandparents and parents lived that were once considered the “hood” have seen property values triple and sometimes quadruple what they were worth pre-Katrina. I’m not at all saying that this is bad for the city, its actually great for some. My question is where do the city’s young and talented go when they can no longer afford to live here? Wages aren’t rising like property values. Professional jobs aren't as abundant as our neighbors like Atlanta or Houston. So we leave.
Why do I care about gentrification? Because it affects me. I did everything right to be able to afford a home. I studied accounting at LSU, graduated in four years, and made sure I came home to invest in my community by joining my family’s insurance agency. I make a decent living and decided it was time to do what normal college graduates and move out of my parents’ house. One small problem, I can’t afford a box down the street from my house. It sold for $375,000. So how am I supposed to afford a forever home to raise kids in? I can’t here.
I’m being pushed out of my neighborhood and city. The city where I only hope to contribute to and improve. Whose fault is this? Is it the capitalist instinct that saw opportunity in our community while we rebuilt our lives after Katrina? Is it ours for not recognizing what was coming when the bike lanes appeared? Or is it my fault for hoping that my city would be welcoming affordable housing to keep it’s young and talented?
I love you New Orleans, I just want you to love me back.