Thursday, May 19, 2016

Atlantic--The Artist Loft: affordable housing (for white people) looks at the possibility of racial inequality in subsidized housing for arts that may skew really white

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/05/affordable-housing-for-white-people/483444/
 ...
The report calls these buildings POSH developments, Politically Opportune Subsidized Housing. They’re priced in such a way that families with children or those who are extremely poor could not afford them. To be considered affordable for those whose income is 60 percent of the area median income, rents can be 30 percent of the set income level. But often, the rents for these buildings are at the very upper end of the spectrum. For a one-person household in Minneapolis, the maximum allowable rent is $910. A-Mill studios rent for $898. Most tax-credit developers don’t set the rents that high because their projects are in lower-income neighborhoods and because they are targeting lower-income tenants. But developers of POSH properties do. The buildings also require application fees and reservation fees (to keep a unit off the market while the application is processed), additional costs that would make units out of reach for low-income families, the authors say.  
 
In 2007, the IRS tried to crack down on subsidized housing that gave preference to artists. They said that doling out credits for such properties potentially violated the tax code because such housing was not “for use by the general public.” Soon after, lobbyists succeeded in inserting an item into 2008’s Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) that exempted artists’ housing from the tax rules requiring projects using tax credits be used by the general public. Since then, according to Orfield and Stancil, subsidized artists’ housing has grown rapidly in Minneapolis and other areas.
 
The artist properties share a few characteristics. They’re usually conversions of historic buildings (which can more easily win developers tax credits). They have restrictions on the professions of the tenants (usually artists). They’re located in hip neighborhoods where the market rent is among the highest in the city. And they are often built with loans from the city to promote the public good, by making a place for artists to live.
 
There’s nothing inherently wrong with promoting the public good and building more affordable apartments in trendy and expensive neighborhoods. POSH properties can help high-income neighborhoods become more economically diverse. And the not-in-my-backyard objections that often come with affordable housing are less likely to be present for POSH properties, because neighbors rarely object to artists’ buildings that look like luxury condos and hold mostly white tenants. POSH properties help lower-income white people and artists who want to live in cities but otherwise would be pushed further out into suburbs.

I didn't know there was even such a thing as low-income subsidized housing for artists.  I can't help but think back to reading Paul Hindemith's rants about American arts education and how one of its great delusions was telling kids that any one of them could be the next Heifetz or Horowitz or Rubinstein; the delusional notion that the only way to have a life of music would be to get paid for doing it professionally as if since the dawn of humanity no musicians ever did what they did as amateurs for the sheer joy of it and making music with other people.  What Hindemith was damning, in a way, was American exceptionalism as it took shape in the notion that says "because I like the arts and love making art that alone should be sufficient for me to get paid a living wage or better for doing it." Forget about art for the sake of art here, why would a state have housing subsidies for artists specifically? 

When I look back on my musical education I don't recall any mention of how people got paid.  There wasn't much discussion of the history of patronage systems so you wouldn't know that the famous guitarist composer Fernando Sor had a military job early in his life.  You wouldn't know that Wenzel Matiegka was a clerk/reader at a law office.  You wouldn't hear about Haydn being contracted as part of the military class, and for that matter you wouldn't hear artsy types progressive or conservative talking about the linkage between military culture and arts culture, which is maybe just another reason to consider Miyazaki's The Wind Rises such a remarkable film for binding them together and suggesting that all art, no matter how idealistic, has always in some sense been the servant of an empire.  Now it could be easy for progressives with a Marxist bent to get furious over the belated news that a lot of avant garde arts were secretly funded by the CIA during the Cold War period.  Duh, just as those who curried favor with the Stalinist powers in the USSR got to not die.  But we live in the sort of era in which what "we" do is art and what "they" do isn't, it might just be propaganda ... as if we don't make that ourselves.  It may be what we need is a folk music revival and by folk music I don't mean strumming acoustic guitars but a socio-economic definition of folk music, the kind of music you make at a loss because you want to make something that sounds cool.  So in that sense the idea that artists should get subsidies for housing seems ... kind of obscene to me for some reason. 

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