Beginning in the 1960s, middle and upper class populations began moving out of the suburbs and back into urban areas. At first, this revitalization of urban areas was 'treated as a 'back to the city' movement of suburbanites, but recent research has shown it to be a much more complicated phenomenon' (Schwirian 96). This phenomenon was coined 'gentrification' by researcher Ruth Glass in 1964 to describe the residential movement of middle-class people into low-income areas of London (Zukin 131). More specifically, gentrification is the renovation of previously poor urban dwellings, typically into condominiums, aimed at upper and middle class professionals. Since the 1960s, gentrification has appeared in large cities such as Washington ., San Francisco, and New York. This trend among typically young, white, upper-middle class working professionals back into the city has caused much controversy (Schwirian 96). The arguments for and against gentrification will be examined in this paper.
Gentrification does not follow traditional urban growth theory, which predicts ?the decline of inner city areas as monied classes move to the metropolitan fringe.? The traditional economic model of real estate says that wealthy people can choose their housing from the total city market (Schwirian 96). Once these people decide to live in the suburbs, the lower social classes move into the old homes of the upper class, essentially handing housing down the socioeconomic ladder. Gentrification is actually a reversal of this process. For a variety of reasons, many inner city areas are becoming more attractive to the wealthy, and they are selecting their housing in those areas (Schwirian 96). The problem is that now when the wealthy take over poor homes and renovate them, the poor cannot afford the housing that the wealthy have abandoned. Many researchers have argued whether gentrification has truly created problems in cities. I will analyze the arguments for and against gentrification by exploring the subject from both sides.
Why is the City So Attractive?
Many researchers have theorized why the wealthy desire to move back into the city. Schwirian believes that many wealthy people are drawn to the architectural design of some of these old houses in urban areas (Schwirian 96). Harvey believes in a number of theories, and ...
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...ojects one at a time and assist individual households threatened with eviction. Resources should be divided between short-term and long-term actions. Finally, anti-gentrification advocates should develop a comprehensive approach to slowing down gentrification. ?A combination of relocation assistance, homebuyer programs, affordable housing development, land use planning, community organizing, and small business support must occur to address gentrification on all fronts? (Alejandrino 47). These are just some recommendations to help rescue those negatively affected by gentrification.
Alejandrino, Simon V. Gentrification in San Francisco's Mission District: Indicators and Policy Recommendations. University of California at Berkeley, 2000.
Harvey, Todd, and et al. Gentrification and West Oakland: Causes, Effects, and Best Practices 1999. 22 Nov. 2003.
Schwirian, Kent P. "Models of Neighborhood Change." Annual Review of Sociology 9(1983): 83-102.
Tierney, John. "The Gentry, Misjudged as Neighbors." New York Times 26 Mar. 2002, sec. B: 1.
Zukin, Sharon. "Gentrification: Culture and Capital in the Urban Core." Annual Review of Sociology 13(1987): 129-147.
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Gentrification carried out in the name of utilitarianism is a deception wrought upon troubled communities. It is too often that the promise of revitalization is made a cloak for a cleansing of a community's social order. The residents suffer through a process of steadily increasing hardships and eventual replacement by the more privileged; it's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", except with the bourgeoisie instead of aliens. With the increasing property values and magically disappearing poverty, statistics are made reinforce the idea that gentrification works wonders for communities. I cannot properly express my disdain for this sinister sort of planning; it is a type of dastardly deed fit for villains with long mustaches, twiddling fingers, and large hats. While I would vastly prefer investment and invigoration that allowed a community to become self-sufficient by its own efforts, I would simply settle for the sham of social good to be dropped from the pitch. If you're going to wipe out and rebuild a community, call it for what it is; they're probably too poor and helpless to stop you.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the arrival of poor and working class immigrants, especially the descendents of freed slaves from the South, into Washington caused a severe housing shortage and the construction of substandard dwellings reminiscent of shanty-towns. Nearly 9000 houses were without indoor toilet facilities. Over 4000 did not have indoor running water. More than 10,000 families had to use candles or oil lamps. As of 1938, the population had increased 30% in the previous 10 years and new dwellings for only half of these newcomers had been provided. These conditions were dramatically manifested in what were called Alley Dwellings, housing built on alleys within blocks that did not face any major streets. It is in this time that the nations capitol began the construction of public housing projects.