Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bike share in name only

The mayor's bike share idea is not about providing a new public transit service. Rather it is about sanctioning a new fully privatized bike rental business and granting that business local monopoly status. And when you take a service that should be designed with the public good in mind and replace that approach with a profit driven business model, other public good problems are compounded.
Those bike-docking stations, however, also give Fleming pause. He resists using the term "bike share" to describe them. Instead, they are "bike rental kiosks," he said.

His reasoning is economic. He worries that a kiosk in a low-income neighborhood would give landlords with properties nearby license to label that block "up-and-coming" and raise rents.

In other words, he sees a bike-sharing program as a harbinger of gentrification and its unsavory cousin: the displacement of the poor.

"If one of these pops up in quote-unquote transitional neighborhoods, it's an open excuse to raise the rent," Fleming said. "New Orleans right now is having a huge housing crisis, and if this becomes an aid to gentrification, a lot of poor people are going to be pushed out by something I love: bicycles."
But this is the Landrieu neoliberal philosophy in a nutshell. Let's implement half of what might be a good idea under different circumstances. We'll look like we mean well even as the real life effect only exacerbates the wealth divide in the community.

Probably something similar is happening here
Rodents and snakes, rampant mold and water leaks that have collapsed ceilings and floors are among the vast list of complaints from tenants of New Orleans slumlords. But when it comes to seeking action against them, tenants seldom raise a fuss because they risk being evicted.

It's these residents who stand to benefit the most from the city implementing a rental registry, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said. She plans to write legislation to put one in place, anticipating the matter to come before the full council this summer.
Sounds like a good idea. There are a lot of slumlords and substandard conditions out there.  But unless a measure like this is part of a more comprehensive affordable housing policy (new public housing, rent controls, STR bans, etc.) then most likely what we'll get is a tool that takes property out of the hands of small time landlords and puts it into the hands of large real estate management companies. Or at the very least makes Airbnb an even more attractive alternative for landlords.

On the surface it all seems very reasonable. But the real world effect is likely to be bad without further action. The further action never comes, of course, but this is the con the phonies are running. We do little things that may someday be of help, but in the meantime just create opportunities for the lords to steal more from the peasants. What they don't tell you is we always live in the meantime. So things get shittier and shittier for you little by little all the while the Mitches and Latoyas of the world get credit for their good intentions.  And that's "incrementalism." 

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