Nearly a week was required just to get a basic description together of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005. Assessing Hurricane Harvey won’t be any easier. If Katrina is the template we know that lower income and racialized groups will be bearing the brunt of this, big time.
An item from Thursday’s Washington Post is a good starting point regarding this multi-layered event and its consequences.
Media largely blind to Harvey’s devastating impact on poor Communities.” Hurricanes don’t care if you’re rich, poor, white, or black—but that doesn’t mean that every person is equally vulnerable to a storm.”
Houston’s human catastrophe started long before the Storm. Decades of neglect, inequality, and disenfranchisement mean that all Houstonians, but especially the poorest and most vulnerable, have been left utterly undefended
Consider how inappropriate regional development makes Houston so vulnerable.
See also: (1207) Hurricane Harvey
image: screenshot of newsreel from Texas Archives holdings
A video-based piece from Strong Towns that really nails it at the highest level. Everything we’re doing out here is new, expensive and more fragile than we know.
Here in the Greater Toronto Area it feels like the real estate bubble will never burst. Prices swell and then swell some more. Equity flows – as if up through the very drains in the monster home basements – to enrich the fortunate homeowner.
An unavoidable parallel to this frenzy is found in automotive finance. Where you have sprawl, you have cars, natch.
Is there an auto bubble on the horizon?
Canadians getting lured onto auto debt treadmill by signing on to long term car loans
What comes after the auto bubble?
What’s happening with subprime auto loans?
‘Deep subprime’ auto loans are surging
image: Heather Philips via Flickr/CC
If this blog had a board of directors we would appoint Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver to upon it sit. He looked right into the dark heart of suburban poverty and social difficulty in a recent episode of his popular show to razor sharp effect. How so? He took the American sub prime auto loan industry out for a run, that’s how.
Oliver starts with the difficulty faced by many of his adopted country’s working poor: that trap between horrendously long commutes through the sprawl via public transit or buying some nasty set of wheels from a self-financing used car dealer. There’s some impressive research and real world tales of woe brought out and then capped off with a hilarious skit spoofing the whole sad machinery of extortionate high interest loans, overpriced shitboxes and repossessions. It has gotten so out of hand of late that some observers are seeing a repeat of the mortgage crisis of 2008 taking shape in US auto financing. We’ll see soon enough.
image: staci myers via Flickr/CC
A semi-disposable Internet moment caught suburban-poverty.com’s attention yesterday. It illustrates succinctly one of the themes we’ve come back to often.
Seems a young woman in Western New York ran afoul of the sheriff for having to resort to making her own license plate. Her cardboard plate looks like something a kid would do in art class. Even has the little New York state map in the middle of a crooked row of letters and numbers. It’s kinda cute.
Mainstream media networks picked up the story. This “going viral” prompted Erie County resident, Amanda Schwieckert, to come forward and tell The Buffalo News her side of the story. Looks like she struggles a bit to get by. Insurance, registration fees and a parking ticket had whacked Amanda financially. Yet, she could not keep her hotel industry job without her car. The state took her plates. Amanda made her own.
This kind of moment is straight from the pen of Barbara Ehrenreich or Linda Tirado, two popular writers chronicling how tough it is for working people to get by in America these days. Amanda exemplifies the dual nature of working class motoring. The expenses for a set of wheels often take things from bad to worse, can be unpredictable and enormously consequential. Amanda is facing some steep charges including felony counterfeiting. Ouch.
We can’t help but think that a little Jane Jacobs would go a long way in the life of Amanda and the millions of workers like her. Community design, or the general lack thereof, reinforces poverty. So much of North America is so totally car dependent its inhabitants cannot function in their native landscape without cars. Many cannot even intellectually conceive of life organized at any other level than that of total mediation by automobile.
Hopefully Amanda’s resourcefulness is a sign she’ll be okay.
Canada’s largest circulation newspaper ( or is it second largest, we don’t remember exactly and in a dying industry does it matter who is first ) shows us how to make a really fantastic contribution to the discussion of one of the most pressing public issues.
If you go down this road here are some pointers:
(103) A man’s home is his castle …and frequently also his shitbox!
Hey Globe and Mail, look who was on this, like, six hundred postings ago…
(262) Living in a van in Van
image: Alvin Trusty via Flickr/CC
Car-as-home is not just a North American thing.
Geelong’s homeless forced to live in car amid housing crisis
image: jeremyg3030 via Wikimedia Commons/CC