The Election Is Over, Time To Make Policy

Dani Ross, Columnist with The Carolinian

Social responsibility did not end on November 6th. The election was only the beginning.

It is time to get some stuff done that is going to benefit people other than the wealthy and well-connected. No more armchair activism. Let’s put those lessons that were learned in high school civics class to work. Let’s test this democracy.

For years now we have watched lower-income neighborhoods be erased and replaced with newer, bigger, more expensive housing. And there is the problem. We have watched this happen. 

Some of the people that opened the doors to the gentrification floodgates look just like you. Capitalism has no conscience and no color other than green. So, while thousands of families across the state are being priced out of their homes, somebody is getting rich. People are getting displaced and there are no affordable housing options available for them.

This mass murder of minority neighborhoods began in 2010 with the U.S. Census. Based on the surveys, the census determined what areas were deemed low-income. These areas got a rating based on multiple factors such as crime and household income. Once a rating was determined, maps were drawn and the data was released to the public.

So, how did we get from a census rating to gentrification? That’s were the banks come in.

In 1977, the federal government passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which ‘‘is intended to encourage depository institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate.’’ In theory this was a great idea. But, as with many federal guidelines, there were loopholes.

Instead of lending money to the people that lived in the low-income census tract to improve their homes and neighborhoods, financial institutions and developers began buying up these properties for pennies, building shiny new homes with hefty price tags, and pushing out the people that, in some cases, had lived their whole lives there.

In all fairness, there has been a good deal of reinvestment into these low-income neighborhoods. Unfortunately, along with all of this reinvestment comes a complete cultural change and additional costs for the long-term inhabitants. In short, people are getting priced out of their homes.

This is where you come in.

There is a solution that should be agreeable to everyone across the board. We call it Rainey’s Law, named after 40-year housing advocate and activist Octavia Rainey.

Rainey’s Law would state that any homeowner within a low-income census tract, that has owned their home for at least 10 years, will have the increased amount of their property taxes subsidized by CRA funds for the duration of their ownership. This law is for all people that are being bullied out of their homes.

What is happening is that the larger, more expensive homes are driving up the property taxes and forcing low-income residents, many on fixed incomes, to leave due to the increased cost. These taxes can be as high as five times what they were just one year previous.

Rainey’s Law would allow the low-income residents to stay in their homes and pay the typical amount in taxes that they would have paid had their neighborhood not been gentrified.

The money for the subsidy would come from the banks. Banks are federally mandated to contribute to the CRA fund, and it has hundreds of millions of dollars in it. This subsidy would not even wrinkle a sheet on the ledger. Also, this law would not stop redevelopment in any way. There are still plenty of folks that will want to sell their homes. Rainey’s Law is for that very small percentage that does not. 

If you support the idea of Rainey’s Law please contact your state representative. Tell them to be a champion of this kind of legislation, and introduce it on the floor. 

To find out who your representative is visit www.ncleg.net

Just one phone call or email can make a huge difference, but we need to start now. The 2020 census is right around the corner. We may not have another opportunity to get this right.

Though this policy may not effect you directly, it does, or will effect someone you know. When we stop caring about other people we no longer have a democracy.

Contact your legislator. Your vote is your voice, and they are your megaphone. Remember, our governement works for you and not the other way around.

The proposed verbiage for Rainey’s Law will be on The Carolinian’s website, www.CARO.news for you to share. Make your voice heard. Save our democracy!