But why us?

From today’s Eat That Read This:


A Squirrel Hill resident wrote in to the PG to bemoan the fact that residents of the Penn Plaza Apartments in East Liberty are being evicted, concluding with “I feel sad and ashamed for every displaced person. Shame on us!” But why us? How about shame on LG Realty Advisors and the Gumberg family, who are directly responsible for forcing out these residents? This isn’t some mysterious, invisible-hand-of-gentrification force at work–it’s a decision made by several wealthy strip mall men who make up LG Realty Advisors' executive team: Lawrence N. Gumberg, President. Brian D. Gumberg, Principal. Zachary L. Gumberg, Principal. John W. King, Vice President of Operations. James F. Ayers, Vice President of Property Management. Dermot J. Morrin, Controller.


In fact, every eviction is the result of a decision made by (someone). That someone is not usually as cartoonishly awful as LG Realty Advisors, who judging by their own website make terrible garbage buildings. (Note that these are the Autozone folks.) Reframing it as the fault of “those whole-foods-and-lattes yuppies” is a really clever ploy by landowners.

You may argue: yeah, but look at the Gumbergs' side of the thing. (which is difficult, because they’re not telling it, but anyway.) They’ve got this property that’s now bringing in $x/year and could be bringing in $2x. Meanwhile, taxes are rising. Are they supposed to leave money on the table?

Yes. Deal with it. If we treated real estate a little bit less like a commodity, you’d know going into it that you’re going to have tenants for a long time, and as long as they keep paying you rent, they’re more or less entitled to stay in their homes. If we speculate on pork bellies, the worst case is we eat a little less bacon; if we speculate on houses, innocent people get forced out of their homes.

(and yes, people staying in their homes is a public good; building a community is hard enough already, and especially hard if you can’t afford a car or live in a neighborhood without good transit. add in forced moves, and it’s surprising that anyone knows anyone anymore.)

So I guess I mean, I’m talking a longer term change in the way we think about property: I want less speculation. If it happens overnight, then in this case, LG Realty would get screwed. They bought in thinking that property was a commodity, and now they’re stuck holding a bag with all these restrictions. (I’m fine with that, but I could see how others might not be.) It could also be a more gradual change too, I guess.

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