4. ECONOMICS


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Barrio street scene.


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In this chapter we have attempted to outline the economic status of the study area. General trends in development of the Barrio have been considered and are compiled from 1970 census figures, interviews, reports, articles, and our own observations within the community.

The study area is primarily residential despite the changing character of the center city. Those variations which have occured in the Barrio were perhaps the result of changes within the surrounding areas on which the Barrio depends economically.

The Barrio has unique characteristics which differentiate it from other areas of the city. Its architecture remains as the strongest unifying element. At present we should not only recognize the area's historic character, but should also consider its future because of its ideal relationship to downtown and the partially completed Pueblo Redevelopment Center. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Barrio is beginning to experience the fate of progress, a process which could easily destroy the cultural and physical characteristics of the area as we know it today.

Since World War II, Tucson has witnessed phenomenol economic and physical growth. The abundance of land in the Tucson basin, especially on the east side has caused the growth to expand eastward with little stablizing power generated there. While the rest of the city of Tucson has witnessed such progressive growth, the Barrio has seen only neglect. With each passing year conditions in the area have become more pronounced, while, by comparison, the rest of Tucson continually experiences a higher standard of living.

One of our main objectives in this phase of the report is to present the census information over a ten-year period between 1960 and 1970 where applicable, so that any particular trend, such as overcrowded conditions, could be established. Most economic aspects such as the physical condition of structures or property turnover rates can further be evaluated in terms of the relationships between owners and renters living within the Barrio.


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An analysis by blocks indicates that there is a direct correlation between units lacking some or all plumbing facilities (Fig. 4.5) and overcrowded conditions. The most blighted area is again that block bounded by Kennedy, 17th, Meyer and Convent.

Fig. 4.6 shows by blocks the average monthly rents being paid by all of the renters in the area. Although there are no unusually high rents being charged in the Barrio, higher rents are charged in those blocks where dwellings are in better physical condition, as shown in the previous maps. We note that the block bounded by Kennedy, 17th, Meyer and Convent is not the block where the lowest rents are being charged, despite a great deficiency in the dwelling units.

Fig. 4.7 shows the average value per square foot for each individual structure within the Barrio. This information was compiled from the assessed valuations of the structures as provided by the County Assessor's office. Such valuations are about one-third of the actual market value of the structures. From this map we notice that those blocks on the east side of the Barrio have a higher valuation. In reference to the other maps, we notice that these structures are in a better physical condition. These blocks are less crowded and also have a higher landlord to tenant ratio. The block bounded by Kennedy, 17th, Meyer and Convent, with its mix in valuations, is about as expected.

It is difficult to draw inferences from the data contained in all of the maps. All of the conditions reported on are specific elements of the total economic picture. Each of these elements appears to exert an influence, which, in turn, could easily affect all of the other elements. Yet there is no one element which we can pin down as being the contributing factor to the blighted conditions in the Barrio. It seems that many of the people living in the Barrio are there simply because they cannot afford to live elsewhere. For this reason, it is impossible to estimate how many of them want to live there.

The number of absentee landlords is high, and it appears that one of their basic reasons for leaving is that the Barrio is not a prestigious place to live. If the Barrio were a prestige location, rental increases would follow, and the poor would be forced to move elsewhere, as they have been doing for generations.

Certainly, the Barrio is in need of some controlled economic stimulus. The block bounded by Kennedy, 17th, Meyer and Convent must be carefully considered in future planning because of its central location within the Barrio and the visual strength of its Convent Avenue facades. This block can be the key for planning toward a directed goal. Yet we cannot discuss the economic future of the Barrio without considering the area's role in relation to the rest of the city. Its economic success is dependent upon its ability to function with its immediate surroundings and the whole city of Tucson.

According to our analysis, economic pressures on the Barrio have substantially increased within the past few years. The threat of the proposed [sic]


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Our first map (Fig. 4.1) shows the proportion of owners to renters by blocks in the Barrio. Although housing conditions in the area are getting physically worse (comparing 1970 census with 1960 census), one reason for this could be that the number of owners in residence in the Barrio is continually declining. Most of the landlords have moved out of the Barrio into more prestigious areas of the city. Because of this fact, many of the rented dwellings are being allowed to fall into disrepair and neglect, while the low rents are the only reason for the impoverished and disadvantaged to remain in the Barrio.

Our second map (fig. 4.2) shows owner-occupied dwellings in relation to enter-occupied dwellings per housing parcel. Although some owners do live in the Barrio, the proportion is small; 25.5% of the houses are owner-occupied.

A survey was taken, parcel by parcel, to determine the rate of property turnover. Our results, recorded in Fig. 4.3, show specific properties which have changed hands since 1960. The indication is that turnover is very high. On further analysis, we found that most of those parcels which had changed hands since 1960 are often retained within the same family, thus the number of those properties which have acquired outside owners remains proportionately low. The map indicates that the greatest changes in ownership took place in the 1950/1960 period (64%). Another 14% of the proporties had changed hands between 1960 and 1971; approximately 5% of these transactions taking place within the last six months. All information for this map was obtained from the records of the County Assessor's office.

According to census figures for 1960 and 1970, definite overcrowded conditions exist in the Barrio, as shown in Fig. 4.4. The census reports consider that an overcrowded condition occurs when there is an average of more than 1.01 persons per room within a dwelling unit. We note again the disparity between the total number of housing units as compiled from other census figures, such as the information contained in Fig. 4.5, and our own information presented in Fig. 4.2.

Evidence of the differences which exist in the standard of living between the owners and the renters is provided in Fig. 4.5, indicating by blocks those structures which are lacking some or all plumbing facilities. It is difficult to draw analogies between this map and our other maps. For example, the previous maps gave us no indication of a severe increase in the number of deficient units over a ten-year period in the block bounded by Kennedy and 17th and Meyer and Convent. While the proportion of owners to renters is low for that block (only 7%), we see no valid explanation for the increase in deficient units. Other blocks, such as the one bounded by Kennedy, 17th, Convent and Stone, saw a decrease in the number of deficient units lacking plumbing facilities during the past ten years. While the information for Fig. 4.5 was compiled from census data, whereas the information contained in Figs. 4.1 and 4.2 was gathered from records in the County Assessor's office, we have no way of knowing how complete the census data are.


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Butterfield Freeway obviously would radically change the economic base of the Barrio, probably by a change in land use. On the other hand, if a historic district was established, proper land use controls could be based on an analysis of values, customs, and behavior patterns apparent within the Barrio. In this way, traditions could be properly integrated within changing social patterns. In addition, the activities which are generated by the Community Center would undoubtedly create strong economic pressures on the Barrio. This aspect deserves intensive study; if the proper link were provided between the Barrio and the Community Center, the two areas could work together and enhance each other, rather than being a detriment to each other as they appear to be now.

The problem of the poor living in the Barrio as a last resort should also be recognized. Absentee landlords do not reinvest the rents they receive within the Barrio area; rather, such monies are fed into other areas of Tucson. On the other hand, the Barrio could perform a cultural/educational functions, and, at the same time, provide unique intown residences. Landlords should realize the need for and the marketability of such housing. All aspects of the physical and social environment need to be considered before embarking on such a course.

Perhaps change is inevitable. If the Barrio is to function as a Historic District in the face of increasing developmental pressures, a planned program is necessary to prevent uncontrolled speculation in the area. The major goal should be to preserve its historic character.


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Map.

Fig. 4.1 - Owner-Renter Percentages. Percent of owner occupied and renter occupied housing units, comparing 1960 and 1970 census figures.


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Map.

Fig. 4.2 - Occupancy type.


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Map

Fig. 4.3 - Property turnover: 1950 to the present.


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Map

Fig. 4.4. - Overcrowded conditions. The number of occupied housing units having 1.01 or more persons per room, comparing 1960 and 1970 census figures.


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Map

Fig. 4.5. - Deficient Units. Percentage of housing units per block lacking some or all plumbing facilities, comparing 1960 and 1970 census figures.


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Map

Fig. 4.6. - Average Monthly Rents. Comparison of block averages as reported in the 1960 & 1970 census figures.


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Map

Fig. 4.7. - Assessed Improvement Values.

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