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Tito Jackson has some musical competition

Somerville Song (A ballad of rising rents)

Elizabeth Weinbloom, running for alderman in Somerville's Ward 6, has her own campaign song, a protest against rising rents performed by Amy Kucharik that harkens back to the original Charlie on the MTA - a campaign song for Walter O'Brien, the Progressive Party's candidate for Boston mayor in 1948.

Jackson, who dropped his first campaign song in 2009, updated his catalog this month with "The Tito Dance:"

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I know "old" Somerville -- so I like these images of old Somerville. I hope that the candidate (and the singer) can be successful and I hope she understands the dynamics of the many waves of gentrification. From an early wave of people who appreciate the low rents and really like the city to later waves of gentrification who are less likely to care at all about the original community. (Does it have to be that way? Is it inevitable? What next?)

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All the old timers were new once too. And when they were new the established people of the time were bitter and spoke negatively about the changing community and how the new people have no respect, are pushing up prices, etc.

The only people who have a right to complain are those who can trace 100% of their heritage back to whatever tribe occupied Somerville before the pilgrims. And even these tribes likely displaced other tribes at some point, etc.

As for the song, it's pretty cute. But if she's really upset at outsiders polishing the gem she found then perhaps she should be the first to move to another town. If she can convince thousands of more to do the same the rents will drop the the small businesses will return.

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Oh yes, and it's not like the 1960s/1970s were totally a golden age in Somerville. Lots of long-time residents moved out, getting away from the city to make a fresh start someplace else.

(leaving vacancies and lower rents --> attracting newcomers --> and the waves began.)

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Part of the issue is the animosity toward people who have been living in and caring for a neighborhoods for more than a generation. These residents are viewed with animosity and are mocked as being nimby's and townies because they oppose dense luxury high-rises and are trying to keep their neighborhood rents down so that working class folks aren't completely priced out of every community in Boston. There's a lot of negative ethnic stereotyping. It's unfortunate.

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First, no person has been "living in and caring for" any neighborhood for more than a generation. If your parents or grandparents also lived in the same town, good for them. In our current political system, you don't receive extra votes based on your ancestors' residency.

Second, no one is being mocked for putting forward policy ideas. Low density zoning and rent control measures certainly have arguments for them. As an aside, I would point out that density increases supply, which generally lowers prices. But there are also valid arguments for market rents and high-density cities. Don't start crying just because someone dares to challenge your preferences. Its not a personal attack and doesn't have anything to do with ethnicity.

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This same person could have been singing this song in South Boston in 2004, Cambridge in 1998, Charlestown in 1997, JP in 1995, The South End in 1989, and someone will be singing it in Roxbury in 2030, and Lynn in 2045.

Hate to say it but the people who are causing the rising rents for the most part are those people who "discover" a neighborhood and glorify all its "grit" and "working class mores" then change the neighborhood for their own means, killing off the reason why they moved there in the first place.

If you loved the crazy old Albanian lady in the corner store and the Sligo so much when you moved there you should stop patronizing pseudo 10,000 Villages like stores and opening up Yoga studios and the neighborhood might just stay the way it was when you enjoyed your cheap rent. People like Elizabeth Weinbloom and the Barnies are the host of the virus that kills what was there. We all like cheap rent, but market forces (you, me, us, them) rule.

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I've lived in a number of older cities and neighborhoods over the years as a non-local and NOBODY followed me and those cities/neighborhoods have never been gentrified.

I don't know Elizabeth Weinbloom - but I thought the song was kind of sweet, as the voice of the "cheap-rent" wave of non-local residents. And I wonder if that wave of people can possibly be allies of locals? Is gentrification really their fault, or is it another force .... probably a class of real estate and business investors who come later and really kill off the city?

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There has been a strong influx of new buyers of light industrial real estate in Medford lately. Why? Because developers are walking around Union Square with gobs of cash buying up properties and then the sellers move their glass shop, or small plastics company or in one case their motorcycle dealership to a somewhat cheaper area. Many of these same companies who moved used to be in Cambridge 25+ years ago.

The developers are following the potential government investment in the T for Somerville. The developers are going there knowing that what happened in Davis will happen in Union and Magoun. It is about location and with Union and Magoun being close to the city. People who work in Kendall want to be near work before they move on to Mountain View or Wayland.

I was in Fitchburg the other day. Cheap rent, but don't expect an artisanal shoe polish shop anytime soon. Money isn't going there.

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And a UNIVERSITY!

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Not in Fitchburg yet, but this place in Lowell may be what you're looking for.

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Into which there was not a huge net influx of money?

What causes gentrification in Somerville isn't Somerville, it's a larger boom in Boston/Cambridge. I can understand the desire to be able to benefit from that boom while still paying 1980s Somerville rent, but I can't respect it, just like I can't respect anyone else who wants to have their cake and eat it too.

If it weren't for the proximity of Boston and Cambridge, and their economic boom, Somerville would be Lawrence. Hipsters are drawn, ultimately, by the loose money of the well-employed. Somerville is effectively a close suburb of a rapidly prospering city.

The wave of gentrification will wash on every urban shore as long as the economy holds. When it fails, the farthest shores will be littered with upside-down mortgages.

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With the GLX and smaller projects like turning Broadway into narrow-way east of McGrath Highway, where it was 4 lanes and now has bike lanes and sidewalks are wide enough to drive buses up and down. I went to a public hearing on that project in the neighborhood, conducted in English with no Brazilians present and Mayor Curtatone showed up looking dapper with his personal aide.

That area is ideal for gentrification and pricing immigrants out because its so close to Boston and Kendall Square, I-93, and Sullivan Square T. The hillside blocks sound from I-93 for most of the properties even.

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Actually, this isn't all about cars. It is about NOT having cars meaning more money for real estate.

Go drive on Route 2 - that was built for cars.

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Blaming artists for gentrification is ridiculous. They move places because they are cheap. Then the people who own the land say, "Hey, there's artists here!" and try to build a ton of condos before they all get priced out and it's a boring place to live again. Blaming anyone aside from developers for gentrification is idiotic. The working class old school Somerville people have more in common with the artists than they do with the developers, let's fight them instead of each other.

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Somebody sold them the properties.

Here's a typical scenario: an elderly couple raised eight children in a property they inherited or bought from their parents. All but maybe one or two of the kids moved to the suburbs. Elderly couple passes on without a will or with property evenly split between the eight kids. Property is sold and the proceeds divided by court order. Developer buys the property and flips it.

Here's another: in the 1980s, it was popular for such elders to sell the homestead and retire to Florida, leaving any kids who were living there to rent from the new owner. Over time, they move on or their leases are terminated, and the property is renovated and split.

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that Costello identifies...take Cleary Square/Logan Square; relatively (and I use that word with caution) low real estate prices and a business district that is funky, a bit run down, etc. with probably more cosmetologists, bodegas, and hair cutting places than anything else; great hardware store; great bowling alley, great T access, best Y in the city, good library and community center, and a few decent restaurants. It's kind of quaint if not a little depressed; it's endearing in a weird way!....

Delfino-owner (Rozzie) is sprucing up the old "Hyde"...peeked in the other day and the reno is quite amazing (serious investment): good for him and good for HP. Some new investment in the Verdullo Bldg with new tenants. Eventually, with some trickle down from JP by way of Rozzie, Cleary/Logan will benefit (again, caution) from new investment and real estate prices with rise forcing folks to the ring cities. There is almost an invisible hand and the direct result of "market forces" in all of this but I think the foe, if there is one in all of this is simply us. This is not dissimilar to food shortages which create scarcity which raise prices: we all consume, like locusts sometimes..... We all will take the rent we can afford, even if it displaces a family who cannot. Developers are as much following the market, as much as they might be leading it.

Lived in Brkline Village when it was pretty funky (like JP is now), lived in JP when it was "dangerous"(as HP is perceived now), lived in Rozzie when it was a backwater. No doubt I am part of the problem cited in the song.

It's scary. First time homebuyer of the cheapest smallest house in my neighborhood in HP 4-1/2 years ago. Was glancing thru some RE prices yesterday: I could not afford a similar house anywhere in Eastie, Dorchester, Quincy, Roxbury, Rozzie, Revere, and forget about Somerville, etc etc. Lucky, I guess, to be where I am...but can't help think that so many are now locked out of living in Boston and environs...and not likely to get better.

So, as much as I anticipate and will patronize a new coffee place in Cleary (look for Salamanders opening soon), and welcome the new "Hyde", and get excited about new investment and building facelifts, I also know this comes with a cost of losing the grit, as John put it above, and losing the multi-class and diversity that makes HP pretty unique among Boston neighborhoods.

Big question: is is possible to provide supports to maintain a cross-class community, to keep the grit, and establish constraints to prevent gross gentrification within a capitalist free-markets system? If so, who takes this on?

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He's a maaaaan of action.

Still one of my favorite campaign songs ever written.

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Harvard owns way-too-many buildings in Cambridge and Allston. BU way-too-many in Allston and Brookline. Emerson/Suffolk a little-too-many near the Common and Beacon Hill (I can't even tell those last two schools apart). Even Berklee is gobbling up real estate in symphony/back bay.

Number of units for residents who are not students (especially families) disappears. And local gov't's don't get the same amount of revenue when that happens ( payment in lieu of taxes is a nice bribe--I mean, gesture, but not as much bread for the town/city).

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I'd rather have the universities own more housing stock so they are responsible for the upkeep of it vs having slumlords like that guy the Globe profiles. They have also been building some more dorms to reduce pressure on rental housing.

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IMAGE(http://50.56.238.19/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ford.jpg)

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Nailed it.

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But you're the reason all those hidden gems get polished. Yes, you - ukulele-playing, kombucha-drinking, granola-munching, signature-collecting, trust fund check-cashing types. You're not the ones who discovered those neighborhoods, it was the starving artists and the gays - you showed up late to the party, long after anyone who was making the place dangerous and would have caused your Stamford, CT mommy to clutch her pearls was already priced out and long gone. All those cruelty-free organic kitchen utensil shops and upside down ice bar yoga studios opened up to serve your needs and take your money, and it was only a matter of time until the range rover crowd followed.

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I get that you're just taking pot-shots at hipster stereotypes, and I'm gonna let you finish, but I want to copy something that the songwriter Amy Kucharik wrote elsewhere in response to a similar comment:

I am a real working musician (you can see my performance schedule at amykucharik.com), and I challenge you to find any musicians who are making a living on their porch. Come talk to me in Davis Square and see me working for dollars. The ukulele is the tool I use for accompanying my real voice singing real songs that I write, not an ironic fashion statement. But I'm glad the sentiment rang true for you and thanks for the comment!

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Yeah man, there hasn't been a REAL starving artist since the 90s. These artists today are just not the same.

Wait, who is the hipster?

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I appreciate what you are trying to say here, but you have grossly mixed up a handful of stereotypes. It may be possible that the person you describe as a "hipster" does exist, but that is not me. I do, in fact, play the ukulele and eat granola. I don't drink kombucha. I certainly do not have a trust fund. My clothing comes from Goodwill and when you see me in Davis Square playing for tips, you are seeing me earning my so-called "living."

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at an online forum. Liz had earlier answered a question about what she would like to see in Davis Square for amenities. She was disappointed Roach Brothers backed out from the former Social Security office building, and wants lower priced groceries for residents. Later, someone asked about how to bring more arts into Somerville. I followed up on the food store:

Me: "Liz and others, I'm just tuning in, but was surprised by your call for a more affordable grocery store in Davis that helps artists survive. With limited car access and limited parking, there is only so much sales volume that foot and bicycle traffic can sustain at a store selling a broad spectrum of products in order to offer lower prices. How can you expect anything but high prices when the square has been made to keep out customers who would come by car, thereby limiting sales volume? I'm sorry, but people will just have to expect specialty shops and generally higher prices. McKinnon's is a rare gem made possible by its niche focus."

Her answer:
"Cyclists, pedestrians, and those who use public transit need just as much food as drivers; we just have to go to the store more frequently."

Clearly she didn't understand that when people can come by car to a business, the business can serve a larger geographic radius with exponentially more customers, more sales volume, lower margins, and lower prices. If she were running for folk song author, I'd want to vote for her, though.

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People seem to still eat in downtown Boston, NYC, and just about every other dense place in America.

Conversely, Los Angles, Dallas, and other cities with abundant traffic lanes and parking lots are known for horrendous traffic.

So far the City Target in the Fenway area seems to be doing just fine even though it's larger then a normal Target and has about the same amount of parking as David Sq. Impossible to believe, eh? Even Fenway park -- an urban stadium with a relatively small amount of parking nearby -- still manages to pack the house when the Sox don't suck and that includes the most expensive ball park beer in the US.

Stop trying to turn Davis Sq into Burlington.

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in the old Sears Building? (since Sears failed there and at Porter)

Do all the fans take home a shopping cart full of souvenirs from Fenway Park with them?

I'm not trying to change Davis. Just clear muddle headed idealists who are deluded in thinking they can have anti-car policies AND low prices. Sorry, you just have to expect to pay more for groceries, that's all. Same as at neighborhood bodegas.

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But by the same logic about parking, what does that say of the DTX Roche Brothers? Parking is minimal at best in that area without paying a boatload for parking in a garage. What makes you think that they wouldn't be able to do comparable business in a populous square like Davis just because a lot of people wouldn't be traveling by car?

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and especially lunch traffic, and now people living in the neighborhood than Davis. Roche also charges higher prices than the type of Market Basket prices Liz was hoping for in Davis. Roche probably figured they might have a chance in Davis but the landlord letting the building crumble sunk the deal. Many places in DTX have gone under or moved: Fliene's, Filene's Basement, Lafayette Place, Barnes & Noble, Woolworth's, Stoddard's, Felt etc. etc.

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I think you just answered your own question and refuted your argument, then: it wasn't about the market of Davis Square so much as it was the infrastructure of the building being too much of an investment for them. The Davis T stop, as of 2013, had a daily average of 12,857 entrances, and it serves a much more of a residential area than DTX does. I don't know about you, but I prefer to do my grocery shopping closer to home than further, unless I'm really going out for a spectacular deal. We're not talking going over the border to NH to save on sales tax anymore, either.

I think we can go back and forth on this a bunch, but I just don't buy your argument that Davis Square needs a supermarket with a large parking lot to be a successful operation, Roche Bros., Market Basket, or what have you. I think the bigger issue for Weinbloom is that it would keep a lot of the business in Ward 6, serving the immediate Davis community. And it would also draw a lot of business from Ward 5 from the Ball Square community, especially in the Morrison Avenue area of Somerville that's highly serviceable by the bike path.

Honestly, though, I personally thought that a large grocery store would be a threat to the smaller operation that McKinnon's is in comparison. Even though meats are a heck of a lot cheaper (in line with Market Basket prices, and even their sale posters suspiciously use the same font and color scheme), the convenience of one stop shopping would be appealing to a lot of the folks in that area.

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If you read the news Best Buy is losing money everywhere. You can blame Amazon, not parking. As for Sears, they moved out decades ago before "gentrification" was even a common term.

The Bed Bath, REI, Staples, etc seems to be done fine.

As for muddling ideals, how about the people who live in small dense neighborhoods (like Arlington) who hate the fact those around them actually like the trees and bike lanes. There are plenty of places that have huge parking lots and no bike lanes (AKA most of America). Perhaps you should move to someplace which makes you happy.

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They are called Interstates, and they are built just for driving. You can drive around in circles all day!

Meanwhile, those of us who don't feel entitled to take up so much public space will use the local roads. You can too, if you can share. Otherwise, Texas awaits!

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And stay over there in 02474. The adults are talking here in Somerville.

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Clearly she didn't understand that when people can come by car to a business, the business can serve a larger geographic radius

Clearly you don't understand that driving in and out of Davis Square is very slow and always has been, especially in the evenings when many people do their grocery shopping. Anyone in a "larger geographic radius" who prefers to shop by car almost certainly has a larger, more car-accessible grocery store available to them.

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and more car accessible businesses are preferred for groceries and other shopping etc. My point is she is deluded in expecting car hostile AND low prices. No, the two don't go together, except in rare instances which I pointed out like McKinnon's. It has a very niche market of meats and open for fewer hours than grocery stores. BTW, the liquor store is also more expensive.

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You ever park at the Somerville Ave. MB? That parking lot is a nightmare. Sure as hell doesn't stop people from driving into it. Any grocery store that would go into Davis would easily be able to offset some of the costs by business they do at other outfits that are more suitable for cars.

I'm not entirely sure that I understand your arguments for even wanting a grocery store with parking in Davis. It sounds like it'd be a big inconvenience for you, anyway. To which, I'm happy to say with my tongue in cheek, if you don't like it, don't shop there!

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MB on Somerville Ave is closer to me than Burlington, but between driving on Mass Ave to Somerville Ave and then the much too small parking lot makes the extra distance to Burlington and even the parking limitations there.

I don't want a grocery store with parking in Davis. People just need to not expect MB prices, that's all.

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Davis is soooo car hostile now that the train no longer comes through at an awkward angle, running underground instead. Also, please tell us a story about the days when major roadways didn't meet there in a strange clustered tangle.

My point: When the hell was Davis Square EVER car FRIENDLY? It wasn't built for cars, it didn't ever cater to cars, and it was never about cars in the first place. Trying to squish cars into it was a failed experiement and exercise in futility. Given those historical constraints and experiences, expanding the capacity of the area means fewer cars, not more cars.

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WalkBoston has compiled info into a pamphlet titled "Good Walking is Good Business." http://walkboston.org/good-business

or for direct PDF link: http://bit.ly/WalkBoston2012GWiGB-Brochure

& another link that may be of interest:
http://www.citylab.com/commute/2012/12/cyclists-and-pedestrians-can-end-...

Now I may have to stop by McKinnon's tonight on my walk home from the train. (House marinated turkey tips ftw).

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I love that its ALSO car-friendly. I hate that its being made less car friendly for virtually no actual benefit, simply an ideal to torture motorists into bicycling instead through added traffic congestion only for them and bus riders.

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#BigBox4Life

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Can these out-of-towners give this Somerville gentrification bullshit a rest. Jesus Christ. Moved here in 2009! Oh, wow, those were the gritty days, I'll tell ya! I'm sure these chicks were poppin' percs, and downing pints with the boys at Coleman's and Irish Eyes. Not that the premise premise of rising rents isn't a problem, but the song is about 20 years too late for Somerville.

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I'm glad to see such thoughtful comments and discussion here. Thank you for engaging deeply with the song, and for understanding that it is a protest of city inaction in the face of skyrocketing housing costs.

For those who are wondering "but what is she going to do about it??", let me direct you to my website, which has a great deal of information about my proposed policies: www.elizabethweinbloom.com

Some specific affordable housing proposals that I would strongly support:

++Reward benevolent landlords
Recognize and reward good landlords who help the community by offering reasonable rents and maintaining their properties by starting a Benevolent Landlords program. Landlords who met criteria — based on reasonable rent increases, property maintenance, and other factors — would be eligible for tax credits or access to resources. Such a program would incentivize community-oriented decisions by those landlords who might not be so inclined otherwise.

++Use a transfer tax to fund affordable housing
A tax on property sales above a certain (high) threshold would allow the city to raise funds for costly affordable housing programs, such as subsidizing the construction of new affordable units and guaranteeing the mortgages of income-eligible new buyers. A transfer tax would also discourage flipping and speculation, while allowing the city to collect revenue on flipping that did still occur.

++Expand inclusionary housing
The limited space available for new residential construction is in demand by developers. The city should require developers to include 20% affordable units in large housing construction, as well as providing a diversity of units at all price points, with units suitable for families, seniors wishing to age-in-place, artists who want to live and work in the same space, and residents with disabilities.

++Enact progressive zoning
Eliminate the parking requirement for new residential construction in transit-oriented areas; end the cap on the number of unrelated tenants per unit (and replace with overcrowding cont

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I grew up in Somerville. Spent the first 35 years of my life there and never had a desire to leave. I lived there when it was called Slumerville for legit reasons in some parts. I got priced out. Did it suck for me ? Yes but you know what? Cities change over the course of time. It is kind of what they do. People live,people die,people move out,people move in. Get over it. Who is to say what the next 25 years are going to bring to Somerville. Maybe all the Barnies kids will think that the white picket fences of Reading and Wilmington are really where it is at and the city will be on skid row again. Who knows? If one person should be "angry" about the gentrification of Somerville it is me. It is part of who I am and always will be but who the hell am I to say to my neighbors "You can't sell your house for $750K, that means I won't be able to buy one for less"

So we bought a house in Roslindale and are now part of the crowd that is gentrifying Rozzie. Such is life in the medium sized city!

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I grew up, and still live in, Quincy. The rent is rising like crazy here, because of downtown redevelopment. I know I will eventually be priced out, but have no idea where I would move on to.

It's easy to tell people to "get over it" when they have the resources to move on to another community, perhaps a little further away, a little less central. But what about people who don't have the resources? What about people who rely on public transportation and other amenities that mainly exist in centralized areas?

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jilliebean--It really does suck and I do get what you are saying. I was truly in the same boat as you. When we were in Somerville we were on the Red Line (super easy and relatively inexpensive commute for my wife. I was 15 minutes from work. Roslindale is great but it is far from central for us as Somerville was. Maybe "get over it" is a bit harsh but the reality is that this has happened all over the Greater Boston area and no complaining about it is going to change it. People are going to get what they can for rent and home prices and honestly more power to them for that. Again, it does suck for those of us incapable of dropping $600K on 1200 sq ft house. The only solution is to buy a small place before the prices get to crazy. I know that a LOT of people are not in the position to do that but I do not have the answer as to what to do about people who rely on the T and such but I do know that you have to realize that this is the way it is and there is not a whole lot you can do to change it so you have to try and find out what works best for you and make the best of that situation.

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14 Sept 2015 Washington Post has a "wonkblog" article "Here is everything we know about whether gentrification pushes poor people out" Notice the whether.

The conclusion of this article "One takeaway from all of this is that gentrification — especially its relationship to displacement — is hard to study. But it's also true amid all this uncertainty that researchers have left some space for the possibility that revitalization may benefit long-time residents, too. And this record hardly supports the idea that "gentrification" and "displacement" are synonyms for the same phenomenon."

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She finished far behind the leader Lance Davis, but a crucial 20 votes ahead of the third-place candidate. Full results here:

http://davis-square.livejournal.com/3599949.html

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