Gentrification -New Look at an Old Issue

Imani Lige-Crenshaw

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Gentrification defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as; “process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents.” The term Gentrification was coined in 1964 by Ruth Glass, a German British Sociologist who study such phenomena in her own country said, “One by one, many of the working class quarters have been invaded by the middle class – upper and lower … Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the working class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.” As time went one from when the term was coined, the mid-1970s through the 1980s saw laws being created to help developers buy up housing, making it more accessible to flip in urban settings. One law, in particular, was The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit. The in question was passed in 1978 and made flip industrial build attractive to developers. This helped make factory pop into the industrial lofts you see today. Moving into the 21st century we see both good and bad sides of Gentrification as actions taking to help preserve affordable housing or to overtake the urban setting come into effect. One major event noted by Next City, a national urban affairs magazine,wrote in their gentrification timeline was in 2005 when hurricane Katrina hit. This weather calamity permanently displaced many of the working class, and as they see it now New Orleans is whiter than ever, though steps are being taken to keep the roots of New Orleans with the working class. Jumping to 2018 Next City stated this in its 2018 slide, “In the 2017 tax reform bill, Congress created the Opportunity Zones tax incentive for investors. Billions of dollars worth of investment in low-income areas are already being planned under the new policy, which has no annual statutory limit, unlike the tax credit programs. Transparency and accountability for benefits to low-income communities are a major concern.” As it is seen it is a battle between the working class who just want affordable living and the middle class who are following trends to the inner city.

To continue this discuss we must look at if gentrification is as prevalent as many say it is or is being used as a buzz word to distract from other issues America is having in the housing industry. “Gentrification still remains rare nationally, with only 8 percent of all neighborhoods reviewed experiencing gentrification since the 2000 Census.” This is from one of three main stats on Gentrification from which did a whole study on this process back in 2015. One thing that they wanted to note that even though gentrification is not a problem in many areas that excludes the Gulf, the east and west coast that make up most cases of gentrification and that it is not as prevalent as it’s made out to be in the media. Though there are many special spaces including Denver, which has experienced about 50% of the area that could be gentrified is gentrified as of 2013. As we can all recognize the fault in using the term Gentrification we need to look at some of the conclusive facts.
Yes, Gentrification does push out poorer families, but long term residents usually stay in the area due to the neighborhood getting better. Economists Frank Braconifrom and Lance Freeman from Columbia University stated in their 2004 study on Gentrification, “As neighborhoods gentrify, they also improve in many ways that may be as appreciated by their disadvantaged residents as by their more affluent ones.” Gentrification actually causes higher crime rates as cops are called more when the demographics of a neighborhood change due to the different types of residents in the area. In the article “The Criminalization of Gentrifying Neighborhoods” by Abdallah Fayyad in December 2017 he stated, “But stepped-up law enforcement does create conditions for more potential misconduct… Gentrification also has long-lasting impacts on the criminal justice system that go far beyond police surveillance. As cities become whiter, so do juries.” Though this does not address the biggest issue gentrification seems to cover up: The growing issue of poverty in America.
America is a first-word country, so poverty would only really seem to appear to apply to the projects or slums that exist in inner cities. However according to The Census Bureau The Preliminary estimate of weighted average poverty thresholds for 2018 was $12,978 per person, though these, are only estimation looking at data from Poverty USA “In 2016, 40.6 million people lived in Poverty…..21.3 million people—live in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of their poverty thresholds” and, “95 million—live close to poverty.” These are startling numbers and the issue it that gentrification tries to address but actually distracts from it. If the working class made a living wage, affordable housing would not be as much as an issue, and with higher wages, they could invest more into the community which eliminate gentrification as there would be no need for developers to come into areas and update if the community itself did it way before it got to such point. However, we can not skip over this big point, affordable housing is only a huge factor in inner cities because we do not pay a living wage that competes with the middle class. Even then many who are considered middle class could be classified as close to poverty levels. But to leave this in mind for those in Colorado Springs our Mayor John Suthers said this, “You’ve got to look at what the job opportunities are, where they’re available … what the price of housing is in various parts of the country and things like that and make decisions that are good for you and your family.

“If you can’t afford to live in Colorado Springs, you might check and see if there’s another place that’s more affordable.” However, when you have most of the country saying this it becomes a question of, “Where do I move if I can not live anywhere?” Gentrification is a huge issue for certain places in America but what is worse is the poverty we are not addressing due to this term. Rather than look to stop developers from changing the social-economically levels of an area, help the area not need those developers in the first place.