America’s most livable city must be livable for everyone

Written By Emily Bennett

Pittsburgh has long basked in national accolades for being America’s “Most Livable City.” This title is likely to have been earned thanks to the city’s rich history, vibrant dynamics and inhabitants and relatively affordable housing. For some residents, however, thanks to gentrification, or what many refer to as “hipster economics,” this is not a reality at all.

The moniker “Most Livable City” is a slap in the face to those who are being pushed out of their homes to make room for bigger and better luxury housing complexes through gentrification.

Take East Liberty occupants for example. Residents of the East Liberty apartment complex Penn Plaza were given 90-day eviction notices, some of which were effective at the end of July. LG Realty, the owner of the complex, has opted to not renew the leases of some of the tenants, due to East Liberty’s rapid redevelopment process, claiming that the location of seven brand new acres near the Penn and Negley avenues intersection presents a prospect – that prospect being the formation of a new anchor store, designed to bookend the neighborhood’s flourishing Target outlet.

After community tumult, Mayor Bill Peduto’s office arranged a negotiation with the owners, which resulted in the creation of a 60-day stay on evictions. Despite residents now having a little bit more time, the issues of reasonable housing prices and low-income resident displacement is far from being resolved.

The concept behind gentrification, which according to Merriam-Webster is the “process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents,” is to clean up struggling areas through the removal of its poor occupants. The middle-to-upper class “gentrifiers,” or those whose thirst for selective culture without the reality of poverty have forced families out of their longtime homes, move into their brand new, hip, high rise apartments with their impeccably furnished verandas and foyers once the struggling families, who lived there before them are forced to find housing elsewhere.

The last time something of this caliber occurred in East Liberty was in the mid- 2000’s when the demolition of the East Mall high-rises located at Penn Circle and Liberty Park took place. There were 519 units affected in total, and while some residents were relocated and moved to newly constructed and reasonable housing, many remained displaced and were in turn forced to move out of the neighborhood. According to a Federal American Properties occupancy index, ninety-five percent of the high-rises’ occupants were African Americans.

Advocates of gentrification will assure its positivity by proclaiming that it cleans up neighborhoods. This is a grand euphemism for white-washing a community. The problems that were apparent in the original neighborhood (lack of jobs, general poverty, etc.) never went away, and instead were simply moved somewhere else.

We must not look the other way as poor individuals and minorities are displaced by these luxury townhouses and condos. We cannot allow people to be priced out of their own communities.

If the price of progress means destroying the lives of the poor and minorities, that price is too high. The most vulnerable in our city must be protected. As a city, are we not above this hierarchal idiocy? And if we aren’t, for whom are we the “Most Livable City”? True success is found in giving struggling residents the facilities and prospects that they have long been denied. People do not need to be imported to be important.

Pittsburghers, we cannot let ourselves believe that success means removing our poorest and most oppressed residents.

That being said, if anyone is interested in teaming up and combining the ethics of Robin Hood with the concept of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, apply within.