Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is advertising-free, and is supported by my subscribers on Patreon. History adventuring posts are shared there daily. The basic tier is a dollar a month, and the PhD tier, which includes "then and now" photos, billboards, aerials, videos, and super high-definition photos, is five dollars a month, and is discounted for seniors, veterans, and students. If you're a subscriber, thank you! You make this happen!

How cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles squeeze people out of affordable housing


I just cycled down to my local Walgreens, which is about a mile away, and was pondering the loss of affordable housing in my neighborhood. I've lived here for over twenty years, and I have rarely taken a good look at what people like me have done to squeeze people out of affordable housing.

Before my house was built, in 1985, this area, which is Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, was a very affordable place to live. Well, not exactly where my house is, but less than a mile away there was a trailer park, which is still there. I have no way of knowing how far back the trailer park goes, but I know that the houses built next to it started going up in the late 1970s. You can find that out easily enough on Zillow.

The houses, of course, have driven up property values, and rent. When this area was "way out in the middle of nowhere", it was cheap. Real cheap. There may not have been a Starbucks nearby, but buses ran out there, and people could live on low incomes. I rode past some of the old trailers this morning, and it looks as if they were VERY affordable. And yes, I'm trying to be nice here, they're simply tiny flimsy pieces of aluminum, not luxurious. If they had any insulation I'd be surprised, and they must be miserable when the temperatures go above 100, which happens every summer.

When I moved here, in 1993, many of the people that I worked with downtown were suspicious of my living on the west side. Most of them lived on the east side of Phoenix, and most of them could afford a lot more than I could. I remember thinking that the Arrowhead neighborhood, which was being developed just north of me would make my neighborhood, uh, "less suspicious", and it has.

I'm not saying that my neighborhood is anywhere near as ritzy as the Arrowhead area, but it's certainly more expensive than it would have been in the 1970s, when there was nothing around but the trailer park. And it's all about point of view.

The reality is that when neighborhoods get more expensive, it squeezes people out who can't afford to live there anymore. I've lived in very affordable neighborhoods, in Los Angeles, and yes they're scary places with a lot of crime, but they're affordable, you can't deny that. I'm not saying that crime and affordable housing necessarily have to go together, but in my experience, they have. People who can barely afford to pay the rent, and feed their children, are often "opportunistic" about ways to get by, if you understand what I'm saying here. Don't even think about leaving your bicycle unlocked.

The crash of 2008 was good to my little neighborhood here. A lot of people who could no longer afford their big houses in the more ritzy parts of town moved in. In the last few years I'm seeing the houses look better than ever, with new landscaping, etc. A couple of my neighbors have even put solar panels on their roofs. The homeowners association recently sent out a letter demanding that all yards have trees, and shrubs. So the neighborhood looks great, to me, because I can afford it.

To people who can't afford a neighborhood like mine, they will need to go elsewhere. And finding affordable housing along with a job that will pay for even that can be very difficult. Sometimes I hear the question, "Where will they go?", but more often than not I know that these people aren't given a second thought.

Image at the top of this post: My neighborhood in 1993, when it was beginning the process of squeezing out affordable housing.