Gentrification Games Artists

Karl FitzgeraldCommentary3 Comments

What role is there for artists in a community? Long looked down upon as dole bludgers, why is life such a struggle for those who like to use image, texture and craft to express rather than words or numbers?

After yesterday’s excellent article Fitzroy Snubs Gentrification on our upcoming Anti-Gentrification festival, a poorly written piece by Marcus Westbury must be re-butted.

Artists need to exist on the edge of the system. Wages are required to pay for basic living expenses such as rent and food. Time is required to be creative.

Cheap rent gives artists more time for their passion. This sees many creative communities develop on the periphery, often in rundown ghetto-like communities that are close to the city.

Unfortunately, land speculators know this.

How many times do we have to see an artistic community moved on from the community they create?

Chapel St central to Chapel Windsor, Brunswick St moved on to Gertrude St, then to High St, Northcote – now out of the city to Castlemaine?!!!

A few years after change agents set up the sort of community we should all aspire to, the fabric of the community is undone through it’s own success. Willingly. By our government’s policies.

Higher rents acts as a large paint brush, smothering a creative community with beige.

What are the economic forces behind this?

Attend a “Tax Minimisation for Lawyers” seminar and you will hear how land speculators are given a racial cultural profile of what a hipster looks like. “It’s your job to find them on a Saturday morning and figure out what they look like and what atmosphere they look for. Then you have to try and find that look, that feel, in another suburb further out. Buy there and wait”.

Artists are pawns under the current system. Artists give the ghetto a makeover with some tactile graffiti, a few cool cafes and bars emerge and then the wanna bees start to move in.

Aha! But the speculators are already there, rubbing their hands with glee.

Why should they take all the benefits of community creation?
Is it fair to blame the land speculator for a systemic failure?

If taxes were moved off our wages, off goods and services and yes dare we even say off corporations (the average paid is closer to 3% than 30%) and placed on natural resources and licensed monopolies, then the speculative incentive is minimised.

By far the most valuable and most sustainable resource of all is land value, particularly in urban locations. Every year land goes up 4 – 6% (4 out 18 years are a downturn – see Fred Harrison’s Boom bust 2010). Land speculators know this.

They understand that with a dash of population here and a mash of social progress there (volunteers planting trees to public art, let alone a new train station) the community becomes more desirable.

A higher and flatter land tax slows the growth in land prices, removing the speculative intent. This slows the pace of gentrification as the desire to live in a community encourages us to grow upwards (more apartments or lofts), helping to meet the supply of an area.

With lower land prices there are massive spin-offs. Consider your life with a 70% lower interest bill on your mortgage (no interest on the land component now)! Wow you could now afford organics.

You could also imagine your artistically repressed sister starting to do art in her community down south. Why? Because she doesn’t have to work so many hours to pay her rent/ mortgage.

Thus the spawning of a multitude of artistic communities is possible in many suburbs. This isn’t naive whinging. Read Ken Henry’s Tax Review and you will see this thinking is bound in the most efficient form of economics possible.

Just remember – the earth will always get more valuable. Who do you want to profit from that?

Thanks to Groundswell for the link and Signal Fire for the photo

Watch a video describing how artists create the scene but speculators wipe it clean, then proposing the much needed solution:

3 Comments on “Gentrification Games Artists”

  1. The Griffith review on cultural creatives has much to say on this topic.Mutual Obligation with its neoliberal conventional mangers don’t understand arts or respect them, Mutual Obligation is short selling. it exstinishes artists out of society as odd,self indulgent, unproductive, futile or unnecessary, its a brutish form of cultural asset stripping, censorious and coercion and forcing artists out to anything else than to make Art or write books.
    The shrill urgency to get artists off the books,
    Is unjustified as windfalls go to non productive Capital gains of land speculation. $765 winfall gain in land value per day on idle land in Melb. Why prod and pock artists? – Arthur Schopenhauer said Artists have always lived impoverished lives, while honor and prestige go to the unworthy

  2. One more thing on Fitzroyality websitesite who counter whines-: ‘Step 2: rent property to unemployed whinging artists. Sounds like a great plan. But where is the money coming from?

    My Reply:- Its not Whinging. ‘Art is criticism of Life’ Quote Camus- ‘The Rebel’

  3. Well said Ned! hope to see you at the Birmingham Hotel this sundee, i’ll be presenting at 5.30pm

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