Opinion

Finally, a response to the housing crisis in Miami

This is a shout out to Shantytown: you all kick ass.

In case you live under a rock-which is a common ailment here at Suntan U, so no sweat-there are 400,000 people in Miami in need of affordable housing, 44,000 of whom have actually been displaced from project housing.

Now let me break that down for you: the city wanted to revamp the downtown area, so they kicked people out of the projects, all the while promising to build new, better housing. They proceeded to bulldoze the project houses, and then they embezzled the money they were supposed to use to build more affordable housing. Oops. And when I say “money,” I mean “seventy million dollars”.

“Holy shit” is right-and I don’t care what side of the fence you’re on, I think we should all agree that such type of corruption is the kind of thing that should have you roasting on a stake long before you reach the gates of Hell.

So there are all these empty lots sitting around, and few concrete plans to develop them. According to the Miami Herald, less than one-fifth of projects funded have been completed, and what’s worse, some of those completed weren’t given to the poor.

Anyway, armed with a group of lawyers and backed by a number of the major non-profits in Miami, a courageous group of the displaced decided to build a shantytown on one of the empty lots in Liberty City. They recently named it Umoja Village, from the Swahili word for “unity.” It’s totally legal, because they are temporary shelters -the police have already tried the vulture tactic, and the badass lawyers successfully fended them off.

So in my mind, kudos is the understatement of the century. There is a line from “Rent”: “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation,” and it’s a telling phrase. Before this housing crisis, the only time I had ever heard of destruction leading to large displaced populations was within the context of guerrilla warfare, like those waged by Shining Path in Peru or the FARC in Colombia. Shining Path wanted to destroy “the system” and build anew, which led to a war where 85,000 civilians were killed in the crossfire. I wrote papers on guerrilla and paramilitary warfare my freshman year, for which I read articles such as, “The Chainsaw Massacre is Not a Movie in Colombia.” I’ve read about torture tactics in the Southern Cone, and I’ve seen the deformed fingers of survivors in Chile.

And yet for me, that a city government would displace its own citizens simply because they are poor is a graver sin still, because in the words of George Bernard Shaw, “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That is the essence of inhumanity.”

Bethany Quinn is a senior majoring in Latin American studies and photography. She may be contacted at b.quinn2@umiami.edu.

December 1, 2006

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Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.