Make Florida Fair: Lessons for the green economy from the housing boom and bust.

Authors: Hashim Yeomans-Benford, Miami Workers Center

Hashim Yeomans-Benford is a community organizer with the Miami Workers Center and a Green For All Academy Fellow. Hashim is currently working on a campaign to win green jobs and housing for low-income communities in Miami. 

It seems like just yesterday that Florida was at the center of a housing boom that analysts claimed would never end.

Supposedly, housing values were going to rise and rise. But it was only a matter of time before the inflated financial market was brought crashing down to reality. And just as Florida had been at the center of the boom, it quickly became a center of the economic crash and resulting recession.

This is a pretty familiar story to most Floridians. Often missing from this tale, however, are the nuances of inequality that color major economic ups and downs in this country.

Not everybody gained from the profits generated by the real-estate frenzy.

For working-class families in black and Latino communities, runaway development and the construction of towering condos meant gentrification, displacement, environmental injustice, and the buttressing of pollution-based economic infrastructures. Despite all the profits being made, our communities were dealing with a crisis in housing,jobs were hard to come by, and our students were trapped in underfunded and failing public schools.

In short, many of our communities were in recession before the recession hit; we now are experiencing a full-on depression as all of the pressing issues affecting our communities get compounded by the weight of a global economic crisis.

The response of the government to the recession was swift to be sure. There were trillions of dollars in bank bailouts and a $787 billion stimulus package designed to put people back to work and stabilize housing markets. But money must be purposefully invested in the hardest-hit communities if we are to avoid reinforcing preexisting inequalities.

In order to actualize the potential of a green economy, we must address long-standing social and economic disparities. We must target investment in those communities that have historically been left out, focusing on responsible economic development that actually builds the wealth of black and Latino communities.

Building a fair Florida is about placing power in the hands of everyday people. And as we unite around this vision, Florida can once again come to the forefront of national trends, not as a center of a boom or a bust, but as a focal point for justice and democracy.

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