Many people associate gentrification with positive change. Middle- and upper-class people move in, bringing wealth and political clout. As a result, a greater police presence cleans up the street; businesses cater to voguish tastes; and homes are renovated to highlight historic architecture. People profit from the neighborhood's development. (Plaza in the South Bronx, New York City. Photo by authors)
For others, gentrification spells trouble. Longtime residents of gentrifying neighborhoods may find themselves unable to afford rising rents and property taxes. As housing costs increase, marginalized residents face unstable housing conditions such as overcrowding, forced displacement, and even homelessness. Low-income people may no longer be able to afford to move into that neighborhood, a condition known as 'exclusionary displacement.' (Los Angeles, Photo by Richard Vogel for the Associated Press)
Gentrification brings tangible benefits. But something is wrong if vulnerable residents suffer as their neighborhood develops. Rather than bringing about integrated neighborhoods and healthy communities, gentrification often causes socioeconomic or racial tipping. Communities scatter, causing various forms of psychological and economic harm to the most vulnerable. What's left is an urban landscape more polarized than ever. (International District, Seattle. Photo by authors)
You might ask, 'So what? Isn't this all part of natural neighborhood change and market forces? Well, it's a little more complicated. A look at history reveals that America's marginalized communities - especially African American ones - have experienced displacement over and over. (Bronx residents protest rezoning to allow more expensive housing, New York City. Photo by Jay Espy)
Following slavery, Jim Crow laws and Northern equivalents mandated segregation across much of the country, legitimizing a particularly heinous form of exclusionary displacement. Even after such laws were found unconstitutional, a mix of government, neighborhood, and financial practices continued to deprive African American neighborhoods of investment using a practice called redlining. (1927 San Francisco Residential Security Map. San Francisco Municipal Archives)
Discrimination and disinvestment helped create inner-city ghettoes. In response, urban renewal efforts from the 1930s through the 1970s led to wholesale demolition of black neighborhoods across the nation, with little regard for the fate of communities torn apart. In the following decades, manufacturing jobs fled the cities, the neoliberal state retrenched its welfare handouts, and black incarceration rates exploded. (Vinegar Hill, Charlottesville - demolished 1965. Photo by Rip Payne)
This is the context in which gentrification occurs. We know that its negative effects are part of a systemic, not natural, process.
(Seattle. Photo by authors)
Gentrification and homelessness coincide in growing
urban areas across the US.
See how they're playing out in 5 major cities: