My Changing Neighborhood - Episode 4: The Brown house
There’s this one house on my street that longtime neighborhood residents call “The Brown House.”
It’s actually not brown. It’s gray. But it’s called "The Brown House" because the family that used to live there had the last name “Brown.” And this house was notorious seven years ago because neighbors knew it as a drug house, where people would come not only to buy drugs, but to use them, too.
In August 2015, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office convinced a judge to order that the house be boarded up. A few months later, the house’s owner, Sean Brown, was in prison and the house was in tax foreclosure. An investor bought the property out of foreclosure, renovated it and, in 2019, sold it to a young family for north of $300,000.
We tend to think of the reasons people leave a gentrifying neighborhood as being very straightforward. Housing prices and rents go up; people angrily or sadly leave the neighborhood because it’s too expensive. Or maybe, in some cases, we might think that some people who leave are happy, because they get to cash in on the gentrification, laughing all the way to the bank and a retirement condo in Florida.
But there are a lot more variations than that — almost as many variations as there are people who leave. And the emotions aren’t all on one side of the spectrum. Anger, sadness, happiness and gratitude all often coexist, within the same household and the same person.
On this episode, I and my collaborator Ricky Moore have a heartfelt conversation with Keith and Caitlin Laschinger, the new couple who moved in to the Brown House with their young son.
Keith Laschinger told us that he struggles with the issue of gentrification. He wants to be part of a diverse neighborhood, he said, "but at the same time, I am part of a dynamic where I'm pushing the price of homes up in the neighborhood."
He added: "The way I make peace with it is, it's better for Caitlin and me to raise a family here in the city of Cleveland and pay taxes here in the city of Cleveland and spend money in the city of Cleveland than it is for us to go live in the suburbs, just morally."
I also talk to other neighbors who've left the neighborhood about how they view their decision to move away.
And I tell the story of Lean In Recovery Center, a proposed sober-living community that tried to open in the neighborhood in 2016 — but was turned away. Was this a case of "NIMBY"-ism, where privileged neighbors organized to say "not in my backyard" to a project they opposed for selfish reasons? Or, as local leader Abbe DeMaio told me, were their concerns based the developer's lack of respect for the neighborhood?
On this episode: Why people leave, how they feel about it and how the people who move in feel about their role in neighborhood change.