by Brandon Lott, HCA summer intern
Today, I met with Mr. Devin Schaffer at the Harrison Center for the Arts. Mr. Schaffer is a local attorney who grew up in my Indianapolis neighborhood, Riverside. We sat and talked about Riverside and the current issue of stagnancy within the neighborhood. He shared with me some of the changes throughout the years including a decreased tax base, diversity, and a swelling number of renters within the neighborhood. In a predominately African-American community, the number of homeowners is overshadowed by vacant, foreclosed, and leased homes.
With more people renting homes instead of owning, the value of keeping a clean, safe neighborhood is constantly decreasing. I asked Mr. Schaffer what we could do to persuade those who are renting to want to invest in making Riverside a better living experience for everyone. He responded by explaining to me that it isn’t the renters who we should be worrying about at the moment, but first the landlords and homeowners of the community, because they are rooted in this area and express a greater concern simply because they own property. Reflecting on that, while I agree for the most part, it’s hard to reconcile this thought when some landlords live hundreds of miles away, leaving homeowners as the only permanent local support. Referring back to home foreclosures, he mentioned that the reason for the high number of foreclosures was that many people received loans that they should not have been approved for. When they were unable to make their house payments, they had to default on their loans, which put their homes into foreclosure.
We talked about a handful of other things that eventually led to something he said that really caught my attention. On the topic of constant changes and neighborhood restoration, he brought up how years ago, living in urban communities was not common in the city of Indianapolis. Center Township, currently serving as one of the leading urban areas in Indianapolis, was not always thriving. Suburban living was once the most inexpensive and convenient way to live. With lower gas prices, less expensive homes, and good public schooling, people found it easier to live in the suburbs as opposed to centrally located homes, where homes were twice as expensive and private schooling was the only option. But today, urban living has been deemed most appealing. Housing has become more affordable, and public charter schools have been created as an alternative for those who do not wish to attend private schools.
To me, it seems like the city’s plan for restoration is never ending--starting with the central area, the core of the city, and then making its way towards the suburbs at the far ends of the city. And once finished, the cycle continues. So what I’m hoping for is maybe Riverside will find its way into that cycle soon.