As defined by Mirriam-Webster dictionary, gentrification is “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”
Major city centers and their outlying neighborhoods have historically undergone a shift in economic class due to the increase in transportation and with it, suburbanization. Lower/working class who once found themselves at the outskirts of the metropolis, began to find their way inward as the middle-class claimed the bordering neighborhoods for their own. What grew from were cities with diverse interior neighborhoods often centered on cultural lines, related to lineage and lifestyle (ie, artist colonies). While rich in character and ambition, these neighborhoods struggle to maintain themselves due to low average income and little government support. What have resulted are areas of depreciated real estate that are now under surveillance for “revitalization.”
There has been a push from the middle- and upper-classes to relocate to the interior cities and reclaim it for their own. Buildings are bought and demolished or renovated. Property values increase. Infrastructure is repaired or newly built and tax incentives are implemented through government-based initiatives that cater to the new class of resident.
The difficulty with this type of development, while positive from an objective, real-estate-minded point of view, is the effect it has on the native resident of the given area. Increased rent and removal of local business leaves the current class with little to combat the changing environment. The major debate around this issue, then, is between those who reside in an area out of necessity and those who wish to inhabit based on desire. We are left to question, what happens to the working class?
Committees are often the best, perhaps only, manner to combat gentrification by the working class. Through this, debate and compromise can be attempted within a formal, political arena. These committees, however, often have a greater number of obstacles to overcome in their effort to have equal political power regarding decision-making. Government agencies looking for capital, along with upper- and middle-classes seeking development often have the upper hand through their alliances and economic potential. Because of this, gentrification is often based on quantitative and not qualitative grounds.
Ideally, the players involved should attempt to find a manner in which the higher value can be established in a given region without the negative effect it has on its current residents. Government agencies have begun to regulate this relationship in the form of rent control and zoning designated for low-income families. This only partially relieves the tension associated within this relationship.
Possible Case Studies.
Historic Third Ward. Milwaukee, WI.
Robert Fishman. Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia. Basic Books, 1987
Japonica Brown-Saracino. The Gentrification Debates: A Reader (The Metropolis and Modern Life). Routledge, 2010.
Judith DeSena. The Gentrification and Inequality in Brooklyn: New Kids on the Block. Lexinton Books, 2009