Who’s Afraid of Gentrification?

Examining the complex sources of concerns about displacement and opposition to investment in low-income neighborhoods.

June 23, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


MsSaraKelly / Flickr

In an article in Governing, Aaron M. Renn explains the importance of cultural forces in shaping local responses to economic development initiatives. According to Renn, studies show that “gentrification-driven displacement either doesn’t happen in practice or is limited to a small number of locales nationally.” However, Renn points out, citing this data to allay concerns “misses a bigger point: Inflows of higher-income people do cause cultural displacement, as the values of the new wealthy residents become dominant in the community.”

What Renn calls ‘cultural displacement’ “can have practical and tangible consequences for daily life in these neighborhoods. In Oakland, Calif., gentrifiers have filed complaints with the city about gospel choir practice sessions at local Black churches, accusing them of being a noise nuisance.” Meanwhile, “Cultural concerns are frequently treated as illegitimate by intellectual elites.”

Renn notes that “As Jane Jacobs noted in The Economy of Cities, ‘Economic development, whenever and wherever it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.’ People in leadership positions in a community are generally benefiting from the status quo, hence can fear change.” Renn argues that “Cultural concerns should be understood and engaged with in order to create real progress,” rather than dismissed as unfounded fears.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 in Governing

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