From time to time, I check in at Gawker, where the editors have recently taken to publishing anti-gentrification screeds.
Yesterday’s piece about Detroit is a classic, a model of the art.
Peter Moskowitz, the author, spends a bunch of time criticizing Detroit for allocating its scarce resources to the downtown area at the expense of the poorer, outlying regions.
This argument betrays a total lack of understanding about how city finances work.
In real life, everything comes down to property tax revenue. If you’re trying to increase city revenue and you have a bombed-out downtown full of huge vacant buildings, it’s pretty obvious what you do first: You get those buildings into the hands of someone who will fill them up with tenants.
Once those buildings are full, you re-assess them to reflect their new, higher value. Voila, you’ve got an expanding property tax base, which you can then use to fund improvements elsewhere.
That’s exactly what Detroit is going, and the city should be praised for it, not blamed.