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Philadelphia Gentrification: A Historical Perspective

Gentrified in the 1960s during the height of urban renewal, Society Hill is a historical precedent as Philadelphia confronts present-day gentrification.
April 3, 2018, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Angelo Yap

Jake Blumgart and Jim Saksa give a long view on gentrification in Philly, focusing on neighborhoods like Society Hill that were "renewed" during the white flight era. "The reinvention of Society Hill in the 1960s is widely considered one of the first instances of gentrification — although no one called it that at the time. [...] No one wants to identify themselves as a gentrifier, not even a half-century later."

It's often said that gentrification begets displacement, but one question is how. "Displacement is notoriously difficult to track, especially because low-income renters move more frequently than the average population. The studies that have come out with conclusive data have found that gentrification is associated with minor levels of direct displacement, but that rising housing costs make it less likely for lower-income people to move into gentrifying neighborhoods."

As prices rise in so many urban cores, those concerned with equity want to avoid following in the footsteps of ultra-expensive coastal metros. As the University of Pennsylvania's Ken Steif put it, "Look at cities like New York and San Francisco that were in similar places 30 years ago. Trying to find equity in those cities nowadays is almost a lost cause. [...] We should be figuring out whether Philadelphia is going to undergo the same kind of shock that New York and San Francisco have, and how can we ensure that everyone is better for it."

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Published on Monday, March 12, 2018 in PlanPhilly
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