Skip to main content

Tag: gentrification

Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction

For a background on the themes discussed in this article, check out Part I of this two part series on gentrification, Gentrification – Understanding & Context.

The Ongoing Debate Over Gentrification

The implications of gentrification—rising housing costs and changes in neighborhood culture—have a range of impacts for those it affects, and it is often very difficult to determine if gentrification is good or bad. Often the positive effects of revitalizing poor neighborhoods exist alongside the negative, and this is where the surrounding gentrification originates.

There are many positives from gentrification: the rising popularity of a neighborhood increases amenities, with additions of modern green spaces, remodeled subway stations, and essential community centers, like libraries and recreational facilities. Heightened popularity and surging demand for housing also raises property values, augmenting overall neighborhood wealth. Meanwhile, hype attracts more stably-employed and better-educated residents, increasing the quality of local schools, reducing crime, and increasing the tax base, further allowing beautification projects and educational investment. These are wonderful assets for neighborhoods that have often struggled with securing a strong tax base, that have failed to provide basic infrastructure to residents, and that have struggling public school systems.

In recent years, the Lower East Side of New York has gentrified dramatically. The area now features a whole foods and many trendy restaurants and coffee shops.

In recent years, the Lower East Side of New York has gentrified dramatically. The area now features a Whole Foods and many trendy restaurants and coffee shops. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

However, all these benefits are also offset by a slew of downsides. Primarily of concern is the increase in property value seen with gentrification. These rising property values often set off a chain reaction of negative consequences for the neighborhood’s original residents. With drastic changes in home values, neighborhoods become less and less affordable for their long-term residents with spiking rents; meanwhile, increasing property values may tax-out homeowners with limited incomes. Pushed out of their own neighborhood, former residents—those that made the neighborhood so desirable and culturally distinct in the first place—move out, relocating to areas without community ties and support. In these more affordable neighborhoods, there may be heightened crime rates and other societal ills, leaving former residents with a reduced quality of life. Furthermore, with their displacement, the modern amenities and reduction in crime seen in their former neighborhood are left to be enjoyed by those who gentrified the area. Although some may argue that gentrification helps the “ghetto”, those who resided there fail to even profit from the positive aspects of gentrification. Simultaneously, the process also leads to an indisputable degradation in culture, tearing intricate and culturally distinct communities apart. As new groups flood in, the old guard is exiled with increasing property values, taking their cultural uniqueness with them. The irony here is that those who created the “hip neighborhood” to begin with—the community that so many gentrifiers “appreciated” for its particular uniqueness—leave, taking their culturally distinctive characteristics with them. All that is left behind is the culture of the gentrifiers themselves.

Clearly these complex consequences of gentrification, both positive and negative, add a layer of intricacy to the discussion. However, the debate is especially complicated and heated because of the impossibility of separating issues of race and class from the process. It is the wealthy, and typically white, that flock into the neighborhoods of the moment, dislocating low-income, long-standing residents, usually immigrants and people of color. Given the economic and racial implications of gentrification, as one writer stated, perhaps arguments and discussions about gentrification are really “about who deserves to live in a city” and who does not (Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker).

The complexities of race, class, and ethnicity add a particular intensity to the topic and are imperative to consider during debate.

Gentrification in Madison

These issues have been raised and contemplated here in Madison, WI. During my time in Madison, several new luxury apartment buildings have been constructed, including Hub Madison, The James East, Ovation 309, and other sparkling properties around the capitol. In 2013 alone, there were “$347 million worth of new development in the city of Madison” and “nearly two-thirds, some $223 million, [were] apartment projects”(Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). These figures are astounding considering that in St. Paul, Minnesota’s 2nd ward, which is similar in composition to Madison’s downtown area, there was only $91.4 million worth of total development in the same year (Pioneer Press). Thus, the sudden large supply of luxury rentals in a concentrated area of downtown seems a bit concerning. And, the price of these new rentals is astounding, especially considering that Madison is a city that is distinctively populated by college kids and lower- and middle-class locals.

The view down University Ave. in Madison before the construction of Hub Madison and The James East.

What is driving this residential development? With the influx of increasingly well-employed young professionals into the Madison area, especially with the recent shift of the region to a tech and start-up hub with the likes of EatStreet and Epic calling the Madison area home, there has been increasing demand for downtown housing. With well-educated and well-funded young professionals seeking access to nightlife, work, and leisure in “hip” neighborhoods, areas like Willy Street, Tenney-Lapham, North-East Campus, and East Washington Street have become increasingly popular (Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). And like with most cases of gentrification, the increased demand for residences in these neighborhoods has been driving monetary and cultural change in these regions.

Epic Systems has been hiring many young professionals who are seeking residences in the downtown Madison area. CC Image courtesy of Mandy Aalderink on Wikimedia Commons.

Property values and rents have been rising in the downtown area and many advocates are concerned that these changes will begin to push longtime residents out. For instance, a recent draft report from Madison’s Housing Strategy Committee has found that “as rents rise and vacancy rates fall, even moderate-income households are [now] being priced out of Madison’s rental market.” It states that “nearly half of Madison renters are now considered ‘housing cost burdened,’ meaning they are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income to their landlord” (Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). With rising rent burdens, many lower-income renters may have to look outside their neighborhoods for more affordable options as young professionals flood in. For instance, single mother Life Hardyman is concerned she will be unable to find an affordable home in her former neighborhood after a brief absence from the city—her previous apartment’s rent had inflated over $300 since she first moved to Williamson Street several years ago (Nathan J. Comp, The Isthmus). These steep increases in rent may push many out of their original neighborhoods.

At the same time, the cultural uniqueness of the hip and now gentrifying areas are at stake with cost spikes. In the Willy Street neighborhood, long-term residents speak of the demographic shift that is coupled with the area’s gentrification. Now Willy Street is “so desirable it’s become dominated by white, educated, alternative-types with means” and “[it’s] morphing into a socioeconomic mono-culture” (Nathan J. Comp, The Isthmus). Others have concerns over Madison’s State Street area, where gritty college locales have been increasingly replaced with minimalist store fronts, trendy coffee shops, and expensive grab-and-go restaurants.

The pricing and cultural shift in Madison is concerning, however, many of these changes have also brought positives into the neighborhoods. Violent crimes are down to their lowest level in 15 years, with only 209 crimes per 100,000 persons (US News). Amenities have increased, like a new central public library and spacious grocery stores. State Street and East Campus Mall are cleaner and more modern. The benefits are astounding.

Yet, we must ask the question, who is benefiting from these developments? Long-term or new residents?

San Francisco’s Mission District attracted young professionals in the last 10 years with its funky murals and distinct culture. CC Image courtesy of Jay Galvin on Flickr.

Gentrification & Eviction

It is integral to consider how gentrification and its consequences may impact eviction rates. Although evictions have remained relatively constant in Madison despite rent increases, an article published by the New York Times found that nationwide, evictions soar with rent increases. For instance in San Francisco, despite being under rent control, rents in the gentrifying Mission District have ballooned. Studios are going for nearly $3,000 a month; one bedrooms for nearly $4,000 (Carol Pogash, The New York Times). At the same time Mission District eviction rates have spiked and many locals were forced to relocate. On the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project‘s graphic of San Francisco evictions, the Mission District is in red—the worst.

In Milwaukee, where this year’s Go Big Read text, Evicted, is focused, gentrification, and thus rent hikes, are occurring as well. These cost changes may be contributing to evictions. From 2010 to 2013, evictions increased 10% in the city (Shaila Dewan, The New York Times) while 12.1% of the city’s lower tracts gentrified (Joe Peterangelo, Public Policy Forum Blog). Given that gentrification and eviction disproportionately affect lower-income neighborhoods, it seems convincing that the rise in evictions and the simultaneous gentrification of low income regions are related. Although Milwaukee’s rate of gentrification is minimal in comparison to figures seen in other major cities, it does give cause for concern if the trend continues gaining momentum.

Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood has gentrified in recent years. CC Image courtesy of Fox6 Milwaukee on Flickr.

Conclusion

Obviously gentrification is a complex issue in American cities today. It is important to consider the many intricacies of the matter and discuss the topic with an open mind as it continues to occur throughout our diverse neighborhoods.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Gentrification – Understanding & Context

Gentrification – Understanding & Context is Part I of a two part series on gentrification and its consequences. Stay tuned for Part II: Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction.

What is gentrification?

Gentrification is the process by which more affluent people (generally demographically young and white) settle in an urban neighborhood (typically populated by low-income residents and people of color), pushing property values and housing costs up and driving a complete change in neighborhood character and culture. The dramatic rise of housing costs and the overwhelming shift in neighborhood personality often drive low-income, long-time residents out of their own community.

Gentrification is a term that is oftentimes is “used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders” (PBS). Many critics go so far as to liken the process of gentrification to colonialism, the well known practice in which one group subjugates another, displacing the ‘lower’ group in the process (Zak Cheney Rice, .Mic). Although many aspects of gentrification do seem to mirror colonialism, and many label the process as a driving force behind the dissolution of culture,  “the effects of gentrification are complex and contradictory, and its real impact varies” (PBS).

A History of Gentrification

Gentrification is a distinctly modern phenomenon, first recognized in the later half of the 20th century. It has truly come to the forefront in urban areas in the last 25 years.

British sociologist Ruth Glass described the process in 1964, noting the sudden influx of middle class, young professionals into the London neighborhood of Islington, an area that was known for its working class roots and West Indian immigrant population (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Playing off the term “gentry”, Glass encompassed the current concept of the process into a single word, “gentrification”, instilling into the phrase both high-class connections and allusions to change.

Aerial view of the Olympic Park and the Stratford neighborhood of London, which has undergone major redevelopment and gentrification in recent years.

Aerial view of the Olympic Park and the Stratford neighborhood of London, which has undergone major redevelopment and gentrification in recent years. CC Image courtesy of EG Focus on Wikimedia Commons.

Although Glass developed the idea of gentrification in London several decades ago, the term still applies to many portions of the city. London in recent years has seen the revitalization, so to speak, of many city center locations and regions on the fringe of the urban core, with more and more educated, young business professionals seeking easy access to work and nightlife. The neighborhood of Shoreditch in East London experienced a massive wave of gentrification in the past ten years and there has been significant backlash against rising property values and living costs. Many locals have been pushed out, and the particular East London grittiness – which Shoreditch was always known for – has been replaced by trendy coffee shops and even a cold cereal bar. My own former neighborhood of Stratford, another East London locale, seems to be on the same track. Stratford—where I lived from January 2016 to June 2016—is one of the best examples of a modern age “melting pot”. The region transitioned from an industrial hub in the mid-1900s to an ethnically diverse enclave with an impressive mixture of cultures and nationalities. Still today, walking down the street you will find diverse cuisines and people of all backgrounds. However, gentrification had already begun before my arrival, particularly with the development of the area in lieu of the 2012 Olympics. With more modern structures came influxes of educated, young professionals and measurable change. Even in conversation with my former boss, who lived there only a few years before me, it is evident that Stratford has changed dramatically: dingy old sectors have been razed, malls have been built, a new tube station designed, ethnic gems destroyed, and crime reduced. In attempts to court whiter and more affluent young residents, new, modern buildings and amenities are constantly under development. As a result, housing prices have risen and many locals are being forced further eastward. Like Shoreditch, the neighborhood is in jeopardy of losing its cultural diversity due to soaring housing costs. However, at the same time, many residents, both new and long-term, are heralding some changes: nearly all regard the addition of green spaces, development of reliable transportation, and reduction in violence, as a positive, making the area is better for everyone. Yet, these positives are often times at odds with the negatives associated with gentrification in the region. The complex story of Stratford highlights the diverse and often times dueling consequences of gentrification.

The Lower East Side, a traditionally Jewish neighborhood, was one of the last portions of Manhattan to gentrify.

The Lower East Side, a traditionally Jewish neighborhood, was one of the last portions of Manhattan to gentrify. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

In the United States, as well, gentrification has been a strong force in the later half of the 20th century through recent years. The origins of gentrification are often found in the 1960s during the push for renewal throughout urban areas and the ongoing drive to cut crime and revitalize poorer neighborhoods of cities. The removal of blighted buildings, the addition of modern conveniences, and the decline of violence and drug use not only made neighborhoods throughout American cities better for their own residents during this time period, but also attracted outsiders (Nyesha Zenetta Maughn).

In New York for instance, over the course of the late 20th century, crime rates dropped dramatically—today, crime is at only 19% of its 1990 level (Thomas Rogers, Salon). Coupled with redevelopment of lower Manhattan and other districts, the affluent began to flock to the city, building up nearly every corner of the island. Areas like SoHo, the Lower East Side, and Flatiron are what they are today—sophisticated hubs for culture, shopping, dining, and living—because of stronger policing tactics and strategic urban renewal projects. The urban revitalization and crime abatement obviously had major positive effects for the city and the new residents. However, what happened to lifelong residents as their rent prices began to soar? What happened to their communities and distinct cultures as the new moved in and the old moved out? Given these complex consequences, many have asked if it is possible to make neighborhoods safer and more modern, without attracting more affluent residents and threatening specific cultural enclaves (The Dirt, Aaron King).

SoHo developed rapidly after an influx of educated professionals and artists in the 1990s.

SoHo developed rapidly after an influx of educated professionals and artists in the 1990s. CC Image courtesy of Fuzzy Images on Flickr.

But, then again, perhaps reduction in crime rates and the push for redevelopment was not the sole factor contributing to gentrification in major cities from the 1990s until today. In fact, a “1976 study by the Urban Land Institute”—even before crime rates declined and renewal peaked—”found that nearly half of the 260 cities [surveyed] with a population over 50,000 had undergone gentrification” (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Therefore, gentrification seems to have appeared in cities before major changes in the urban landscape occurred. This possibly suggests that there was a preference shift for the American middle class and the young. It seems that in the 1960s, educated, young professionals and artists had “an increasing desire for the kind of cultural and intellectual pursuits which are generally found only in the central cities—performing arts, museums, libraries, seminars, etc.” (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Their shift in priorities led them to move to cities, driving demand and rent up, displacing locals.

The Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg was representative of the working class roots of the neighborhood in the mid 1900s.

The Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg was representative of the working class roots of the neighborhood in the mid 20th century. Since then, many young professionals have flooded into the area. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

Whether a push for urban renewal, the reduction in crime rates, or the shift in young professional housing preferences, there is no doubt that gentrification was and still is pervasive. Gentrification has been widespread in locations such as San Francisco, which has the highest housing prices in the country; the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn; and Boston (Zak Cheney Rice, .Mic). In Williamsburg, rent prices have soared over 75% since 1990, with costs on average increasing 6.8% per year (Jessica Dailey, Curbed). To put this in perspective, when my grandmother grew up in Williamsburg in the 1940s, her parents’ 3-bedroom garden-level apartment would have cost roughly $900 in today’s real money. In 2017, a 3-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg goes for $4,000. This increase in housing costs seems excessive to many.

What’s Next?

Clearly gentrification has historically had widespread impacts in terms of housing costs and displacement of people and culture in urban places—and these impacts continue today. However, what has yet to be explored is how gentrification perhaps impacts our own community and the people we met in Matthew Desmond’s book, Evicted.

More to come on these topics next week in Part II: Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

 

Williamsburg, Brooklyn is ubiquitous with gentrification.

The Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn is ubiquitous with gentrification. CC Image courtesy of LWYang on Wikimedia Commons.