NOT IN MY NEIGHBOURHOOD
As cities around the world catapult themselves into ‘world-class city status’, we have to ask ourselves, “at what cost”? Not in My Neigbourhood tells the intergenerational stories of spatial violence in three self-professed world-class cities: Cape Town, New York and São Paulo.
This film aims to build solidarity among active urban citizens by illuminating the tools and approaches used by urban activists to shape and navigate their cities that have been affected by colonization, architectural apartheid and gentrification.
Not in My Neigbourhood explores the effects of various forms of spatial violence on the spirit and social-psyche of city dwellers. We follow the daily struggles, trials and triumphant moments of active citizens, fighting for the right to their cities.
In a 2016 Community Survey (City of Cape Town 2016) Cape Town residents identified five top concerns facing their households. These were,
Violence and crime,
The cost of services such as electricity,
The lack of employment opportunities,
Inadequate housing and housing opportunities, and
Of the above-listed issues, only housing falls under the mandate of the Cape Town local government. With a housing backlog between 360 000 and 400 000, the city has struggled to address the spatial inequalities of Apartheid. Public and private investment in the provision of housing has in fact reinforced spatial Apartheid through the provision of affordable, low cost and/or subsidized housing opportunities in peripheral neighbourhoods such as Pelican Park.
In addition, the creation of temporary relocation areas (TRAs) under the country's Emergency Housing Programme (EHP) has been used as a tool to constitutionally safeguard eviction through the provision of temporary housing "camps".
A recent attempt to provide more integrated housing opportunities in the highly gentrified inner-city neighbourhoods of Woodstock and Satlriviver comes after public outcry and heightened media attention put unregulated housing and rental markets in the city, high on the political agenda. As a result, the city developed a multi-stakeholder strategy to provide 820 affordable housing units including,
216 social housing units - affordable rental units for families with a combined monthly income of between R1500 and R15000,
100 gap housing opportunities - for families with a combined income of R22 000 per month, and
507 residential units where the monthly rent is capped at R13000
The processes and procedures required to access these housing opportunities are often inaccessible to recent evictees. There are also challenges around eligibility, lack of information on accessing subsidized housing opportunities and inadequate supply.
On average, New York City pays about $45 million a year to settle or pay plaintiffs who have won in court on police-related claims. The link between gentrification and police brutality has become more apparent as property markets increasingly dictate the type of behaviours, aesthetics and in general, the cultural frameworks that are desirable or undesirable in neighbourhoods.
The city has seen a median rental increase of 12 % and a reduction of 250,000 affordable rental apartments. In Brooklyn, studio prices have decreased because of an increase in rental stock in this category. The same goes for one bedrooms. There has been an increase in rental price in two bedrooms. This illustrates that it has become cheaper for single professionals to live in Brooklyn and more expensive for families. This indicates a major demographical shift in the character of the neighbourhood.
Picking up on this trend, the One New York vision document places significant emphasis on addressing the housing crises in the city. 20% of New Yorkers participating in platforms linked to the development of this vision document, recognised housing as the most important issue needing address in the city.
Since its inception in 2014, the Housing New York Strategy has financed 121,919 affordable homes. To qualify for housing assistance families must earn less than 50% of the median income, which in the state of New York is $64,894 (2017). This translates into a qualifying household income of less than $32,447 a year. The programme also provides special assistance to households whose annual income is 30% of the median household income.
While the programme provides an essential support service to low-income families, the government of New York has made little attempts to regulate the rental market in the city, resulting in a critical lack of affordable housing options in the city. While the programme exists, albeit, with a complicated and cumbersome application process, low-income households are required to secure rental accommodation from private landlords as part of their application process. Finding these affordable rental options has become increasingly difficult, especially in historically Black and Hispanic neighbourhoods.
Graphic Source: One New York Strategy
São Paulo is Latin America’s largest city. Achieving World Class status is a central component of the city’s marketing strategy, reflecting its status as the 15th most economically powerful city in the world.
In its 2014 master plan, the city committed itself to people-centered development. It has been applauded as a leader in participatory planning when it pulled off the largest participatory planning process in the world, which included 114 public hearings and 25,692 participants. However, this high level of democratization has been coupled with increases in urban violence and segregation. According to da Gama Torres (2002), urban development in the city of São Paulo took on a radial-concentric development pattern that resulted in a harsh duality of the rich centre and the impoverished “periferias”. In recent years, during the mayoral term of Gilberto Kassab, a previous real estate businessman in São Paulo, many favelas were burnt down in mysterious ways, leading to suspicions of gentrification through arson. According to an article in Bloomberg Business, favela fires have been more frequent in areas with the highest land price appreciation.
As favela conditions become increasingly precarious for the people who inhabit them, the right to access central city accommodation has become an essential part of the livelihood strategy and survival amongst the people of São Paulo. Movements such as the Movimento Sem Teto do Centro (Downtown Roofless Movement) have become central in the fight for the right to the city. The movements have demonstrated that a power self-governance and a highly organized home-seeker collective can present a pro-poor and people-centered alternative to private business ownership and property management. Since the initial occupation in 2002, the 22 story building has provided accommodation, and public services such as; free libraries, health, and sustainable livelihood workshops as well as crime prevention and management strategies. In 2006 a court order called for the eviction of the buildings then 2000 inhabitants by February 2006. However, through protest action, this eviction was postponed and a negotiation was made between inhabitants and the city officials to develop relocation plans for the building's occupants and for the building to be returned to it's "legal" owner, businessman Jorge Nacle Hamuche. From July 2007 to October 2010 the building remained vacant due to a R$ 5.5 million municipal tax debt preventing the transfer of ownership from its previous owner, the National Textile Company to Hamuche.
The city has over 200 000 vacant buildings, often derelict attracting high levels of violence and crime. Movements such as MTSC have reclaimed these buildings and have had a positive impact on crime prevention, waste management and livelihood opportunities in these buildings. Their systematic and self-organized occupations present an opportunity to house the cities 1.2 million people who are either homeless or experiencing severe tenure insecurity.
 Florida, R (2011) The 25 Most Economically Powerful Cities in the World. CityLab. The Atlantic
 Cavalcanti, MF (2014) São Paulo’s new master plan prioritizes sustainable urban development. The CityFix
 Phillips, D (2012) Gentrification Through Arson in Sao Paulo? Bloomberg Business