Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Gentrification: discuss

Lisa and I were discussing gentrification and I suddenly realized I don't have a very solid basis in my opinion that gentrification is generally a good thing (or at worst and neutral thing). So What are your opinions


Rebecca C. Brown said...

I think anything that makes home ownership less accessible to low-income families is generally bad. It's not like dumping money into a neighborhood makes crime go away; it only makes crime move somewhere else, and it takes low-income, law-abiding families with it.

I'm curious to hear arguments in FAVOR of gentrification. I wouldn't contend that it's the worst thing ever, and I'm not very knowledgable of its empirical results, but I can't think of any convincing arguments promoting gentrification.

Paul said...

I don't know that anybody's in favor of gentrification per se, because I don't think anybody likes the idea of pleasant people being forced out of their homes because they can't afford to remain, and the word "gentrification" implies that sort of displacement. But I think people are in favor of developing economically blighted areas, and it's difficult to know how one might make an area nicer to live in without also making it significantly more expensive to live there.

Lisa said...

The reason Tom and I started talking about gentrification in the first place was the giant billboard you can see from BART in West Oakland that says "West Oakland for the people: stop Gentrification!" I found out later the billboard was put up by a group called Just Cause Oakland. I read their website and learned that they're not actually advocating to leave West Oakland the way it is.

Instead, they want a percentage of low-income condos to be included with any new market-rate developments. They want destruction of affordable housing and related evictions to end. They also seem to want local people hired to do construction (or other jobs) related to the development, and other new jobs created that pay living wages (so they opposed the Wal-Mart that was put in instead). They want developers to pay for construction of health centers and job training programs.

This seems like a fairly comprehensive program to improve the community without thoroughly displacing current residents.

Further, it is compliant with Tom's idea that dispersal of people living in poverty is better than concentration.

Anonymous said...

Yes, actually Just Cause is amazing. I'm so glad you took the time to read up on them, because they are probably about the most effective group in the Bay Area that is working on this right now. I think that Rebecca is right too when she says that "anything that makes home ownership less accessible to low-income families is generally bad." How do we ever expect low-income folks to get a foothold when even the RENTS in most desirable places to live are out of reach, let alone housing that would actually allow them to lay down roots and accrue equity?

I fear that all too often, middle-class people who largely grew up in the suburbs move to these areas because they can afford them and don't even realize or think about the fact that for them to live there, somebody else had to leave. Somebody else (in many cases, a number of people) with less economic power than they have was forced to leave because a greedy developer decided that they were going to "fix up the neighborhood"- not for the neighborhood's sake, of course, but for money.

So now there's this ironic switch that's happening where the middle class is flocking back into the cities and the people who lived there before are getting shoved out into the suburbs.

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