The Living Glossary: "Auction"

The first completed definition for The Living Glossary project.

The Living Glossary

The Living Glossary offers expanded, personalized definitions of the sterile vocabulary of housing development, demystifying terms and concepts such as: "auction", "blight", "community", "development", "gentrification", "property". Moving through and beyond legal or "official" definitions, the glossary will detail the historic origins of the terms, the socio-political contexts that activate the words, and oral histories from individuals whose lives have been affected by the concepts, bringing a living fullness to deceptively simple words that frame our lives but whose shallow definitions flatten our ability to understand and work against oppressive realities.


Click poster to open "Auction", the first completed definition for The Living Glossary Project.

Neighborhood Cell Block
Excerpts from Blights Out's Living Glossary Project.


1915: “Those members of the New Orleans Real Estate Board who attended a meeting Monday afternoon expressed unanimous approval of the proposal that the Board join the National Real Estate Association. ...The real estate men, Mr. Ingersoll said, do not wish to be involved in politics, but through the eighty-seven exchanges can exert quite an influence if necessary.” ("Real Estate Men Decide To Join National Board Advantages of Big Association Set Forth by." Times-Picayune 2 Mar. 1915: 5.)

Editor's Note: The New Orleans Real Estate Board and City Planning Commission were architects of racial apartheid. The city’s foundational construction, wealth accumulation and racial inequity were all planned.

"[...] This commission will consult with the city engineers as to the laws concerning the character of buildings to be erected in certain locations, the erection of buildings that are a detriment to the neighborhood. Laws regulating the segregation of races in certain locations is also one of the duties of this committee, and general matters pertaining to street car transportation will be discussed by this committee.” ("City Planning To Be Considered By A Committee New Orleans Real Estate Board Names Body." Times-Picayune 10 Dec. 1916: 57)

1967: “‘Blighted areas account for 45% of the crime in a city… these substandard neighborhoods’, he said ‘swallow up 45 cents of every tax dollar and contribute six cents to each tax dollar.’” (A realtor) Schneider, Frank. "Six La. Realtors Debate Value of Urban Renewal." Times-Picayune [New Orleans] 7 Oct. 1967: 8.

“[...]Louisiana does receives urban renewal funds from the department of housing and Urban Development (HUD). Through this program, he said private enterprise is afforded the opportunity to rehabilitate with federal money."

1970: Editor's Note: In the 1970s, the Community Improvement Agency (CIA) was charged with implementing federal Urban Renewal programs, which focused on the elimination of physical blight. The federal government had already leveraged urban renewal policies and rhetoric for “slum clearance” projects in the 1930s and 1940s, including the Housing and Slum Clearance Act of 1930 and the Housing Acts of 1937 and 1949, which displaced people from their homes and warehoused them into massive segregated housing projects. The Housing Act of 1949 introduced the marriage of private enterprise with public services. Ultimately, slum clearance has been widely criticized for poor planning, corruption, and, particularly, discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities in that it often resulted in minority-heavy slums being destroyed and replaced with more expensive housing or non-residential public works that were not accommodating to the original inhabitants. Critics, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, have equated "urban renewal" with "Negro removal” (Kelo v. New London, 545 U.S. 469 [2005]). Through disinvestment and poor maintenance, developments like the Desire housing project––which at its height was a community of over 13,000 people––deteriorated with time.

The solution? The same as ever: to remove is to “improve”; to “develop” is to displace. In 1994, The Community Improvement Agency (CIA) reconstituted as the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) to focus on “neighborhood revitalization and returning blighted properties to commerce through biannual auctions”.

2005: Hurricane Katrina hits, displacing 254,000 residents. Policies are passed that allow these vacancies to be instrumentalized for massive urban renewal, aka gentrification of the city, through blight condemnation, liens, and auctions. Today, many neighborhoods have lost 75% of their black populations.