I’ve heard the gentrification debate more times than I can count. The argument that blighted and run down areas are redeveloped with the intent to displace the poor and often times African-American residents that live there. I usually don’t partake in these conversations because gentrification has never bothered me.
I, on the other hand have always wondered
- Why do our neighborhoods become run down in the first place?
- If they become run down why do we not choose to revitalize them ourselves?
After all, they are priced for investment. Since the passing of my grandmother and our family subsequently taking responsibility for her property; I have learned about the challenges first hand – and overcome them all. As a result, I have been able to become a participant in neighborhood redevelopment and not a bystander/complainer.
First, I want to appeal to all families that plan to leave property to your children. Talk to them about it. Inheriting a house is a responsibility. Try to pay the house off, so that you can leave a deed to your children and not a mortgage. Speaking of children, don’t leave the house to everyone. You have to choose one or two children to will it to. Expecting multiple siblings to agree on what to do with the house will only cause unnecessary chaos and tension. Contact an attorney to draw up a will and don’t blindside your heirs. They should be fully aware of your intentions.
For us: Although my grandmother had five living children at her time of death, she willed the home solely to my mother and my mother’s siblings were fine with that. She did however; leave a small mortgage on the house. At the time of her passing, the balance on the mortgage was approximately 22k. The monthly payments were about $350.
For context, the house was worth approximately 40k. The median home value for the zip code is currently 40k. It’s in an urban neighborhood (South Memphis). It is 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms – approximately 1500 sq. ft.
My mother became responsible for paying the mortgage, taxes and insurance – which were all separate bills. I was and remain very proud of how she managed to keep the affairs in order—after all she had her own mortgage. My uncle paid the mortgage initially. Then he passed in 2015. From his passing until 2017 – my mother rented the house. She did not enjoy being a landlord. Someone made an offer to buy the property.
A friend of ours said he would buy the house, fix it up and put it on Section 8. I got depressed just thinking of my childhood home, falling prey to Section 8. So many memories of my life took place in that house. My grandparents – former sharecroppers- worked hard to provide a home for their family. I couldn’t let my childhood home “go out like that”. This is where my story begins.
I told my mom, “I’ll take it from here.”
Stay tuned for Part Two : In this series I will begin to talk about the timeline of renovation and costs.
In a nutshell, I don’t complain about gentrification because we vote with our dollars. So you can complain or you can use your money to build. As for me , I have decided to be involved in the revitalization –not a bystander.