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The Meaning and Pros and Cons of Gentrification

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Everyday, people are forced out of the comfort of their homes onto the streets. The cities that these people live are completely renovated and a new atmosphere is created, causing increases in rent and property values and cultural changes. This process is known as gentrification. The official definition of gentrification is “the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.” The victims of gentrification are often lower-class citizens who are left for the streets. Homelessness becomes the result of gentrification because since property values and rent increase, these lower-class citizens are unable to afford living in these areas, leading them to being served with eviction notices. Gentrification is one of the most controversial topics in most American cities. Most times, gentrification is a negatively used word, but is it really all negative?

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Gentrification is very common in the United States, but it did not begin here. The term “gentrification” was started by a British sociologist, Ruth Glass, in 1964. Ruth Glass noticed that the social structures and housing markets in certain areas of inner London were being altered. Glass stated, “ 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”. The term gentrification was used to describe the dramatic changes that occurred socially, particularly in London. Now the term is used to represent a major demonstration of the class struggles in housing.

Even though the term was created several decades ago in London, London has also recently been experiencing gentrification in some areas. For example, in the past ten years the neighborhood of Shoreditch in East London experienced massive waves of gentrification, which has caused significant amounts of backlash against the rise of living costs and property values. Many people have complained about how to usual East London grittiness has been replaced with trendy stores and coffee shops. Dingy old sectors have been demolished, ethnic gems were destroyed, and malls were built. As a result of the “out with old and in with the new” mindset, housing prices have increased and local residents are being forced to move eastward.

In the United States, gentrification has been common in the later half of the 20th century through the recent years and currently. Gentrification is often found throughout urban areas as a solution to getting rid of crime and reinvigorate “poorer” cities. Studies show that the most gentrified cities in the United States are Los Angeles, California, Washington, District of Columbia, Houston, Texas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York, New York, Fort Worth, Texas, and Brooklyn, New York.

In order to determine what qualified a city as gentrified, researchers had to assess significant increases in median home value and median household income. They also had to assess the inundation of newcomers that had either a bachelor’s degree or some higher level of education. These factors help researchers to know, in general, what type of change is occurring demographically in terms of the resident that is being part of the gentrification process. Studies show the percentages of home value change, household income, and higher education change of all of the cities listed. Los Angeles, California has a home value change percentage of 707 percent. The household income change of LA is 95 percent, and the higher education change is 857 percent. For Washington, DC, the home value change is 207 percent, the household income change is 95 percent, and the higher education change is 857 percent. The home value change for Houston, Texas is 284 percent, the household income change is 71 percent, and the higher education change is 857 percent. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s home value change is 203 percent, their household income change is 95 percent, and the higher education change is 230 percent. For New York, New York, the home value change is 356 percent, the household income change is 32 percent, and the higher education change is 168 percent. The home value change of Fort Worth, Texas is 323 percent, the household income change is 103 percent, and the higher education change is 122 percent. Finally, the home value change of Brooklyn, New York is 167 percent, the household income change is 79 percent, and the higher education change is 95 percent. After analyzing this data, it is evident that the most gentrified city, having the highest overall 

Over the years, there has been an ongoing debate about whether the process of gentrification has bad effects or good effects. This is because there are many implications that have a range of impacts on a community, making it very difficult to determine if gentrification is good or bad. There are positive and negative effects of gentrification, due to the fact that there is a powerful change that takes place in a community, but some of these changes are very ironic.

Some positive effects of gentrification are that violence is reduced, the local economy is strengthened, property value increases, and racial diversity is encouraged. Crime and violence is reduced due to gentrification because when middle-income citizens move into the gentrified areas, the crimes that were generally being committed by low-income citizens suddenly faded away. In fact, “middle-income commit less crime than low-income people do, and the displacement of the low-income residents by newcomers should reduce crime”. Gentrification causes the local economy to strengthen because the median area income increases. When “wealthier” people move into a previously “poor” neighborhood, the economy notices. Over time, new jobs are created and businesses are built that are more desirable for this specific group of people, economically. This also causes wages to increase. Property values increasing also essentially betters the economy. Rising home property values allow a home to be sold for more money, which increases the amount of money spent by a consumer. Also, gentrification encourages racial diversity, bringing in multiple groups of people all interested in the same thing: better living. During the gentrification process, many trendy cafes and coffee shops have appeared on street corners, as well as restaurants of different cultures. Some say that “a lot of these neighborhoods are selling ‘cultural diversity’.”

Some negative effects of gentrification are that there is forced homelessness, evictions, and destroyed communities. Gentrification displaces the low-income residents and replace them with the wealthier residents. During the gentrification process, many residents are forced out of their homes and forced to relocate due to the fact that they can no longer afford it. As neighborhoods and communities attract new businesses, large corporations, as well as new skilled workers, the demand and cost of housing increases. Most times, this increase in value is out of the budget and range for the low-income citizens that reside there. That is why it is important to consider how gentrification can affect the eviction rates. As the price on homes and rents increase, the more evictions and relocations take place. “Poor buyers thus can not compete for the housing within gentrifying neighborhoods and are then forced to move to poorer neighborhoods that they can afford.”

Overall, it is still difficult to determine whether or not the process of gentrification is good or bad. Gentrification helps those who are interested in better living environments, allowing them to be able to be surrounded by new cultures and new atmospheres. Although it helps the middle-class citizens, those that are less fortunate than the middle-class citizens may be hindered by the process of gentrification. Focusing on the economical aspects of gentrification, the economy becomes stronger due to the increase in property values and the mean local incomes. The history of gentrification goes back multiple decades, but every day, new neighborhoods and communities are experiencing the growth and change of the atmosphere and environment, in regards to new people, new places, and new businesses.  

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