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Every so often, we hear about ethnic groups and indigenous people clashing with local authorities over their neighborhoods being gentrified. One example is when residents and police clashed in Portland, Oregon as recently as December 2020 over the issue. But what’s wrong with any attempt to create an upscale neighborhood, you might ask? Won’t it create more job opportunities, create a boom in the real estate market and improve the overall quality of living? To try and answer that question, we need to first try understanding gentrification’s pros and cons.
What is gentrification?
Before we get into the pros and cons of gentrification, let’s try and define it.
Gentrification refers to when a poor or working-class urban area becomes a popular residential choice for the middle class. What often follows is the displacement of the original residents of the neighborhood, often throwing the local community in disarray.
While gentrification has been an ongoing thing, the most recent spurt in the United States can be chalked down to when those born between 1980 and 2000, popularly called millennials, started gaining employment and decided they prefer living in the cities as opposed to the suburbs.
There are economical reasons for this as well. A lot of educated youth are looking for affordable rents with easy access to public transport, so they no longer have to own cars.
So while this means that a younger, more educated, and aware crowd is filling up our cities, making the cities trendier and more beautified, it also means that rents are becoming less affordable for the lower class communities, and they’re being forced to relocate from neighborhoods that have been their homes for generations.
Let’s now take a closer look at the pros and cons of the process of gentrifications.
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- The influx of a younger, more aware, and educated populace means landlords have more of a reason to improve the upkeep of their existing properties.
- This new crowd will also ensure that vacancies reduce while rents go up.
- The neighborhood is likely to see a spurt in private sector commercial investments and job opportunities, from brands like Starbucks.
- Crime rates will reduce, making public safety less of a problem for the local authorities.
- The general spending power of the neighborhood will increase.
- Real estate values will increase.
- These positives will encourage further development of the neighborhood.
- According to the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia, original inhabitants of gentrifying neighborhoods who continue to live there often reap benefits that include better credit scores, better job opportunities, and safer living conditions.
- Increased median rent may make it difficult for lower-income residents from the existing community to afford housing there.
- This will eventually cause displacement, and lead to community resentment and violent outbursts.
- Displacement will not affect only residents. Mom and pop shops and other cornerstones of the community will also face its effects as chains replace them to appease the demands of the millennial crowd.
- Property prices will become unsustainable.
- Homelessness is often another unfortunate byproduct of gentrification.
- The original social diversity of the neighborhood will be lost, although a new social mix will take its place.
- Gentrification may not always work and may lead to increased vacancies and underpopulation.
- Surrounding lower-income neighborhoods will also face displacement and increased demand for housing as a result.
What’s the judgment?
Well, it is definitely difficult to say whether gentrification is wrong or right entirely, looking at these pros and cons.
While Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Denver, Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco top the list of cities undergoing gentrification at a fast rate, a lot more cities around the country are bound to face it as well.
In an ideal world, gentrification would be inclusive of new incumbents without displacing the existing community. That, however, will take a political and socio-economic system that almost seems utopian. Well, we can hope for the best, can’t we?
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