Gentrification is a funny thing.
In Kansas City Proper the so-called “Downtown Renaissance” has turned out to be nothing but an urban legend. But that hasn’t stopped a few committed “hipsters” from continually touting the benefits of urban life, minus, of course, all of the original lower income minority inhabitants pushed out by the new gentry. In the aftermath of the American Mortgage collapse that sunk the world’s economy I’m not completely convinced that most real estate transactions aren’t based completely on lies.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to blame people for wanting to increase the value of their homes. Today, there’s a great post in the local blogosphere that demonstrates the wishful thinking that empowered so many hipster dweebs to buy land, office space, lofts and condos in the Crossroads and similar areas . . . It’s a simple analysis of a graph which explains that living in the suburbs is more costly than living in urban areas. That’s not really a ground breaking idea but let’s examine this sentiment just a bit further. Shall we?
Admittedly, when it comes to straight up addition and subtraction: YES. Living in an urban area is cheaper. I’ve lived in an urban area all of my life and I can vouch for the fact that a human can get by on nothing more Ramen noodles and a bus pass for months on end. Total cost: Less than $50.
But most people don’t like living like hobos.
Factor these costs into the equation when considering life in KC’s urban core vs. the burbs:
Education: Just about everyone has given up on the Kansas City, Missouri School District and most of the yuppies, hipsters and even some of the working poor will spring for private education rather than subject their young loved ones to the failed experiment that is the KCMSD.
Grocery stores: In the suburbs, grocery stores are temples to consumerism and all the best stuff is available at low prices. For the last few years on Kansas City’s Eastside there has been a complaint that there aren’t enough grocery stores and the quality is certainly lacking. The downtown grocery store next to the P&L District was celebrated but the prices are still relatively high and it’s not a place where working families would go to buy food in bulk. For better or worse, the store is aimed at the same kind of loft & condo dwelling dorks who tout urban living.
Banking: Urban areas don’t have enough banks. Banks don’t want to waste resources on po’folk. That’s part of the reason why check cashing places and payday loan stores prosper despite their exorbitant rates. Living in urban areas might be cheaper but that’s mostly because most people living there don’t have any money.
Violence: Today there was a guy probably beaten to death with a baseball bat in KC Proper. It’s wasn’t an unusual story and most residents of KC treat this news casually. The warmer weather is coming, that means more violence, shooting and the typically high murder rate in the urban core. Ancient Chinese military general and strategist Sun Tzu once wrote, “Kill one, frighten ten-thousand.” And that principal is always at play and part of the reason so many suburbanites fled Kansas City. Sadly, there will be stay bullets and innocent people killed in KC’s urban core this Summer . . . While I don’t believe that the suburbs or any other place on this planet is completely “safe” I realize that violence isn’t nearly as prevalent in the burbs.
In the final analysis, there are a lot of hidden costs for urban living that most advocates of gentrification ignore or fail to mention. I think Kansas City proper is a wonderful place to live but it’s not for the timid and there’s no reason to misrepresent any savings.
The fact of the matter is that it’s better for suburbanites who aren’t committed to this town to stay in their tiny hamlets.
Kansas City needs people committed to the future of our town in the face of The Great Recession and so many other challenges. Suburbanites simply looking to save a few bucks should stay home and maybe cutback at the box stores.