Does Gentrification Need to be a Bad Word?

Gentrification has come to signify wealthier residents pushing lower-income residents out of a community, but gentrification also has some "undeniable upsides". Ward 8 in Washington D.C. offers a glimpse into how gentrification can aid a community.

"Reconciling the two edges of that sword -- improvement versus displacement -- is becoming a more urgent issue with each passing year as cities continue to rapidly transform. Rather than being seen as an injustice, can gentrification correct an injustice by returning prosperity to a long-neglected neighborhood?", asks author Will Doig.

"Gentrification has changed large swaths of D.C. in recent years, from Columbia Heights to H Street. Most recently, change has been trickling into the city's poorest area, Ward 8, a district in Southeast Washington that's the home to former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.... Ask two Washingtonians what they think of these changes - even two people from the same neighborhood - and you can get two very different responses."

Thanks to Cate Miller

Full Story: Can gentrification work for everyone?



As the big G began around

As the big G began around Pratt Institute in Fort Greene, Brooklyn we dubbed the new buyers of very low cost row houses in fair to bad shape as the "risk oblivious" - a term they did not appreciate in our complaints. We too were the same, only without capital to buy a $20,000 row house and frankly, little interest in doing so. As students, we bought the houses for these new owners, and the rents were set as much by the mortgage payments than the mysteries of the market. We "moved on" more quickly than we could be pushed or displaced. The new owners produced better living conditions but they reduced the number of units available for rent by turning four units on four stories into a triplex with a "garden apartment" or a duplex plus two, to produce the famous "illegal three" of NYC. On the other side of the coin, the African-American dominance off Bedford-Stuyvesant just to the east is substantially more integrated by a young white minority than it ever was since the 1950s flight of its old white minority.

In addition, one other factor of recent interest, the African-American middle class sold their homes and moved south with a substantial profits according to the early 2010 Census summaries. The housing bubble pleased this group, but what is left behind is nothing less than the spoils of financial predation. The overall damage is now easily absorbed in NYC overall, thus the question is not about the gentry but those selling lies for dreams and taking this country one more step toward a wealth disparity nightmare.

The question is really when

The question is really when does upgrading and population densification become gentrification? Personally, I think we need to upgrade and fill vacant buildings, regardless of whether the in-movers are of higher income than the surrounding residents. We need to fill vacant lots with new architecturally appropriate infill structures, although ideally the new buildings can attract a mixed-income base through clever application of good architecture to camouflage the fact that a building with the same mass as the historic structures may have smaller or larger units to create a desirable social mix of incomes.

Let's look at it another way also. We've become too complacent about the omnipresence of poverty. How about a much more concerted effort on the part of local governments and non-profits to work together to match job skills with the economic development initiatives and entreneurship underway. How about a much more grassroots approach to finding and re-integrating people who are pretty dysfunctional as far as making a living for themselves goes. Substance abuse and addictive behavior of many types is keeping people from earning the income that they could be earning. We have too many veterans, abused women, and otherwise broken or traumatized people running around turning to drugs and gambling, a nonproductive activity, as ways to cope.

If we raised the incomes of some of the lower income folks, gentrification might not have to be so much of a focus for those of us who love social justice. Think about that.

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