Pushed outwards
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - February 11, 2020 - 12:00am

One of the most important topics that I discussed over coffee or drinks with friends last month, before the 2019-nCoV outbreak in China caught most of our attention, was about the increasing cost of living in the city vis-à-vis its decreasing quality of life.

Several of us lamented about the worsening traffic situation and that this is the reason why we must reside near our place of work. However, the cost of a good location is also becoming more and more prohibitive.

Condominiums are mushrooming all over the city, yet many city workers still reside in shanties near riverbanks or squat in government properties. Others rent boarding houses located in slum areas, or reside in suburbs made even more far from the business districts because of traffic.

The irony is not lost on us young, or should I say middle-aged professionals, when we compute for how much it will cost us to get just even a one-bedroom condominium unit in the city. Those of us who are lucky enough to belong to kin and family that already own real estate in the city long before the property boom may, in the near future, run out of luck.

The market value of lands in the city are increasing at a rate which locals will no longer be able to afford, say, 5 to 10 years from now. Property developers are offering millions of pesos to middle-class residents to buy their properties and replace these with multi-story residential and commercial complexes.

Unless these sellers are gifted with at least half the business acumen of that of the buyers of their properties, instant cash, no matter how big, has its limits. So even these instant cash-rich locals will soon likely be edged out from their own prime place and status in the city.

I and my friends have a description of this scenario: We are being pushed out toward the periphery by our own city’s development. It’s a natural progression, of course, that as the city prospers, most of its areas become prime location – turning out to be more and more exclusive for only those who can afford.

On the other hand, suburban area living is seen as an ideal alternative for most people – a residence far from the city center, with green environment, fresh air, lower cost, and peaceful neighborhood. Yet it could be the worst possible location when you consider the hours lost, stressed caused, and smoke inhaled or gasoline consumed –every day– because of heavy traffic.

In ideal cities like Singapore, they have built multi-story housing units for their working-class citizens and have designed mass transport systems that move people in and out and around the city efficiently.

Of course Metro Cebu is not like Singapore, a rich city state that can afford a subway transport system. Well, it is not like Curitiba either, a city in middle-income Brazil known for its innovative urban planning. Or Yogyakarta in Indonesia which is close to realizing the concept of a smart sustainable city.

A city is an ecosystem comprised of people from different walks of life. That is precisely the reason why the expansion of urban capitalism should be checked for its attendant injustices and growing inequalities.

Where do you think the janitors who clean the malls, offices, and condominium units live? Where do you think those sales attendants, restaurant waiters, BPO workers and other office employees go home to at the end of the day? If they are not in the slums inside small boarding houses, they are in the outskirts, dealing with the daily traffic congestion.

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