When I think of the conversations that arise regarding gentrification I find it perplexing because by definition it is a process of renovation of deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the influx of more affluent residents (Wikipedia definition). Why can’t this be done with plans which include ways to help those who live there benefit and enjoy what is to be a more thriving community as well.
In my life, I have witnessed how gentrification has changed some communities but the people who originally made up the community seldom benefited. It was always the businesses coming in to save the community that benefited. Even then, the influx of “jobs” they were supposed to bring, often did not particularly aid those who lived there.
Maybe my thoughts are quite simplistic on why or how some of the neighborhoods that once were ignored are now deemed potentially valuable. It sometimes seems it is easier and more economical to contemplate displacing people from what may be the only home they have ever known then it is to improve infrastructure that support the crumbling of a community. Usually the community has cried out for assistance, but often their voices are not represented and their request for help is given little priority.
It often stems with economics. In general, the neighborhoods that have the most need often receive the least assistance in maintaining and improving structures and facilities that would provide better long-term conditions for those living in areas that become targets for gentrification. Secondly, the area for gentrification is usually close to what is considered the hub or an extension of an existing more affluent community that has run out of space and needs more space for growth.
All of us are for growth, but what frequently takes place during “renovation” is a community of people find themselves taxed out, priced put and often put out of the area that has been home to them. The residents within the community have little ability to object. Too often, they are left out of the early planning stages when their voices could offer collaborative initiatives. They have no choice but to make the best of what befalls them.
I believe that any economic emphasis should make improving existing economic conditions by adding resources that build up community’s primary resource…the people who live there. Having state of the art libraries to serve the community, having parks where children can actually play, alternative centers where teens can go after school to study, play and learn. This will both improve and level opportunities in economically underserved areas and can even spawn growth and opportunities from within the community.
One person’s reality is another’s dream. Everyone wants to be able to care for their families, have safe shelter and have opportunities for advancement in life. The reality is we don’t all begin at the same starting line. Some start at various points which are farther ahead of others, that those behind can only dare to dream of reaching that starting point in their life journey. We all start where we start, due to no fault of our own. That being the case, consideration, thought and respect should always be a priority when lives are going to be disrupted during “growth”. Finding ways to help a community that is struggling economically to become healthy should be the emphasis long before gentrification is considered the right answer.
There is no easy way to go about growth when the plan includes taking over an area where the people live there it home. That being said, being sensitive to those who will be disrupted during “the growth” should always include representation for them every step of the way. Everyone should win, the businesses wanting to move in and “revitalize the area” and those who call it home. What are your thoughts regarding gentrification? I’d love to hear them.