The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests that in order for a person to enjoy financial well-being, they should have control over their finances, a financial cushion, financial goals, and be able to make choices that allow them to enjoy their life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, endorsed by the United States in 1948, reads:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his [sic] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
As discussed in the June session of Who Owns Durham, the gap between financial well-being and housing stability is about income and who gets how much of it.
The Cost of a “Full, Fun, Convenient Life.”
Gallery walk materials in Who Owns Durham events have included real estate listings, illustrating both the high cost of home ownership in Durham, but also suggesting who the listings are for. The example below offers a “full, fun convenient life” for a buyer who has roughly $1,500 a month for a mortgage, a $75,000 down payment, and a solid credit score.
This messaging presents an economic barrier and is at odds with the needs and desires of many Durham residents. On a broader scale, it implies that imagination and leisure are only reserved for those who can afford it, for those who have earned it. It equates earnings and net worth with value and value with self-worth and who is deserving — and who is not.
Who Can’t Afford to Live in Durham?
The chart above, another piece from the DataWorks gallery, puts a finer point on who is impacted most when we rebrand well-being as luxury. The fact becomes clear that restaurant workers, grocery store clerks and others who don’t earn at least $55,440 – the approximate annual salary needed for an affordable rental in Durham – cannot participate and are actively losing housing choices.
The document is a statement of not only who CAN afford to live in Durham, but who CAN’T afford to live in Durham. If we are to be a progressive city we must be a city for not only the rich, but we must be a city for the rest of us.
Reverend Solomon Missouri
Pastor, Senior Minister
Kyles Temple A.M.E. Zion Church
The real threat of gentrification is that it doesn’t just change neighborhoods, it changes neighbors and how we feel about ourselves, the life we deserve to live, and our options. And it makes the claim that personal fulfillment, choice, the contentment of time, beauty and comfort – are not human rights, but luxury goods.
At DataWorks we try to stay focused on the dignity of people most impacted by public policy and private enterprise. This series on Who Owns Durham is prompted by an awareness that financialized rental housing is contributing a great deal to housing instability in Durham. As we ask folks how to interpret data and whether it tells their story, we join them in asking: how can we as a community foster the dignity of all people and expand what it means to truly own Durham?
This is part four of a four-part series that summarizes key take-aways from the June 25th strategy session of ‘Who Owns Durham.’