While a disaster could be an opportunity to address existing stresses and inequities, it’s also an opportunity to exploit them. Many times vulnerable communities are hit twice by disasters, once with everyone else, then again during recovery. Los Angeles and specifically South Central, have witnessed the devastating impact of natural disasters and financial crises. Following the 2008 housing finance crisis, when tenants lost their homes, thousands of houses were foreclosed. Corporate landlords swept in and bought up the land just to re-rent at exorbitant rates. More recently, communities across Northern and Southern California dealt with similar displacement after the wildfires.
This is disaster capitalism at work. It uses the moment of crisis to change cities in a way that benefits private capital and investor profits at the expense of the poor, working and renting class. While COVID-19 demands an emergency response today, it’s important to stay vigilant and start organizing now for the upcoming years of recovery. Making sure our communities thrive post COVID-19 and not just survive the health crisis will require a dramatic shift in priorities for policy makers. A home should be seen as a home, not as an investment and profit-making opportunity. We need policies organized around community-centered development, that result in healthy and affordable housing because nobody should make money from the misery of our communities.