Here is another article I wrote for SwiftEconomics on some very stupid housing decisions by the city government of Kansas City. It's old news, the Hyde Park area as improved dramatically, but it is an interesting insight into some bad urban policies that still do happen today.
Lying in between Kansas City’s downtown and its famous plaza is Hyde Park. Hyde Park is an upper end neighborhood with beautiful old homes. But now lies a couple of eye sores you can see from the Google Earth view:
Lots of houses with a few really big buildings… hmmm, what are those? Well, those are what I like to refer to as Skyrise Deathtraps.
Way back when the government put up a bunch of beautiful buildings to serve as public housing complexes along Armour Blvd in what was a very good neighborhood. These projects subsequently went south as these things typically do. As Howard Husock puts it regarding large public housing complexes:
Public housing spawns neighborhood social problems because it concentrates together welfare-dependent, single-parent families, whose fatherless children disproportionately turn out to be school dropouts, drug users, nonworkers and criminals.” (America’s Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake, pg. 30-31)
They didn’t quite go the way of Cabrini-Green (the infamous 15,000 unit, Chicago public housing complex that was so crime-ridden that the police had to block it off several blocks away during 4th of July because of all the reckless gun shots). Instead, these buildings were worn down and about half vacant in 2006. Then a couple, large out-of-state firms bought them and filled them quickly with a bunch of at-risk people and section-8 tenants. And they apparently did this without even doing background checks.
Immediately these places exploded in crime and it spread out through Hyde Park. According to The Pitch:
At the Kenwood, 619 East Armour, police reports for 2008 and 2009 show one rape, two aggravated assaults, one armed robbery, five burglaries, six nonaggravated assaults, six cases of possessing drugs with intent to sell or distribute, five reports of property damage, one case of resisting an officer, three incidents of stolen auto parts, four cases of trespassing and one car theft.
Here’s the crime map for the last year, according to KansasCity.com. The red dots are shootings, see if you notice a trend along Armour Blvd (35th st.):
Well done government planners.
Yes, throwing a bunch of at-risk people, many of whom don’t work, in a small place is a recipe for disaster. Especially when there’s no mixed income housing and no mixed use in those buildings (as Jane Jacobs showed, it’s important for businesses to be around so that there’s foot traffic, especially at night). These buildings all lack that.
And no, it’s not just bad for the affluent neighbors, it’s bad for the tenants who are even more affected by the crime. As the one review of The Bainbridge on Yellowpages.com puts it:
There is only one thing not quite cricket. Inside are over 150 children, who can see and hear the parties going on and who are forming role models among the partyers, because the partyers are around all day and much of the night. Indeed, some of them prawl the streets around the apartments, playing with firecrackers (?) and other noisy (some are scary) toys. Actually 2 of the boys are dead, though no one knows exactly why. And best of all: some of the neighboring residents are scared stiff!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Aint that a hoot? So come on down, sign up for an apartment, join the fun, party around the clock, and stop worrying about your health!
Now the government is planning a $62 million dollar renewal along Armour again. Hopefully it works this time.
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
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