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The Real Cause of Gentrification



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What’s Gentrification?

Gentrification—the word’s everywhere these days—but the term was first coined by sociologist Ruth Glass in the 1960s to mean a working class neighborhood which is “invaded” by the upper and lower middle class. “Ultimately, it’s not about the fact that new people are moving in,” says Dr. Debbie Bensadon. “It’s about the pushing out of the old residents. The fact that both communities—old and new—aren’t coexisting.”

The Process of Gentrification

The process of gentrification isn’t easy to boil down into exact stages, nor is it the same in every neighborhood, but generally this is how it works:

  • One or more factors increases the desirability of a lower-class neighborhood. Some possible culprits:
    • the presence of an artist class
    • hip cafes
    • renovated historical buildings
  • These conditions entice wealthier people to move into the neighborhood.
  • Some of these newcomers might start buying up and renovating houses, but eventually others resembling the newcomers demographically are attracted to the area.
  • The influx of new people starts snowballing, in turn causing more development and increasing the area’s desirability.
  • Original residents, often disproportionately people of color, find their cost of living skyrocket and their property taxes soar.
  • Eventually, many of the area’s original homeowners must sell and relocate. Hold-over renters are often evicted by their landlords so their property can be redeveloped.

Record Rates Nationwide

Gentrification is such a hot topic currently because cities across the United States, and across the world, have been growing at record rates. A wave of young people are moving back to the city to be closer to public transportation, their workplaces, and other people like them. In the US, 20% of neighborhoods have experienced gentrification between 2000-2015.

Scroll down this chart to see how the biggest cities in the US have gentrified since 2000:

City
Share of Eligible Tracts Gentrifying
Gentrified Tracts
Did Not Gentrify
Not Eligible to Gentrify
Total Tracts
Portland, OR 58.1% 36 26 80 142
Washington, DC 51.9% 54 50 75 179
Minneapolis, MN 50.6% 39 38 39 116
Seattle, WA 50% 7 7 118 132
Atlanta, GA 46.2% 30 35 62 127
Virginia Beach, VA 46.2% 6 7 86 99
Denver, CO 42.1% 24 33 87 144
Austin, TX 39.7% 25 38 119 182
Sacramento, CA 30% 15 35 54 104
New York, NY 29.8% 128 301 1723 2152
Oakland, CA 29.3% 24 58 31 113
Philadelphia, PA 28.7% 84 209 90 383
Albuquerque, NM 28.1% 9 23 95 127
San Diego, CA 27.5% 22 58 202 282
Baltimore, MD 23.2% 39 129 32 200
Long Beach, CA 22.4% 11 38 62 111
Fort Worth, TX 21.5% 17 62 71 150
Omaha, NE 21.4% 12 44 75 131
Nashville, TN 21.1% 12 45 96 153
Boston, MA 21.1% 12 45 122 179
San Francisco, CA 18.8% 3 13 180 196
Houston, TX 18.4% 35 155 271 461
Colorado Springs, CO 17.6% 6 28 61 95
Chicago, IL 16.8% 54 268 473 795
Jacksonville, FL 16.2% 11 57 95 163
Charlotte, NC 15.8% 9 48 137 194
Los Angeles, CA 15.1% 51 287 661 999
Phoenix, AZ 14.2% 20 121 214 355
Oklahoma City, OK 13.2% 9 59 128 196
Raleigh, NC 13% 3 20 59 82
Kansas City, MO 12.8% 10 68 70 148
Miami, FL 12.8% 5 34 58 97
Indianapolis, IN 12.2% 12 86 109 207
Columbus, OH 12.2% 11 79 117 207
Milwaukee, WI 12.1% 16 116 77 209
Mesa, AZ 12.1% 4 29 77 110
San Antonio, TX 11.7% 14 106 165 285
Fresno, CA 11.4% 5 39 69 113
Wichita, KS 11.4% 5 39 57 101
Louisville, KY 10.6% 7 59 97 163
Dallas, TX 10.2% 13 114 167 294
San Jose, CA 10% 7 63 125 195
Memphis, TN 8.8% 7 73 91 171
Tucson, AZ 8.3% 4 44 74 122
Tulsa, OK 7% 3 40 80 123
Cleveland, OH 6.7% 10 139 28 177
Detroit, MI 2.8% 7 243 46 296
Las Vegas, NV 2% 1 48 100 149
El Paso, TX 0% 0 27 104 131
Arlington, TX 0% 0 19 52 71

 

 

Chart courtesy of GOVERNING

The Real Impact

It can be easy to dismiss gentrification as simply economics, but these are real people who are affected. San Francisco’s Mission District is at the heart of the tech industry and is experiencing rapid gentrification. Here’s one long-time resident’s story:

The incident at the soccer field shown in the video is a microcosm of the issue at the heart of gentrification: instead of the old and new residents playing soccer together, they play separately. Instead of the old and new communities thriving together, their economic situations separate them.

Gentrification in My Community—Seattle

 

Gentrification is a hot button issue in Seattle right now. The booming tech industry downtown has caused to an influx of young, high-income residents to move close to their workplace. Increasing development in traditionally ethnic neighborhoods like the Central District.

Paul Allen’s development company recently purchased a large plot of land in the Central District to be developed into new apartments. “Do you think anyone from my neighborhood could afford to live there?” questions Zinda Foster, a resident of the CD for over 30 years. When I interviewed her for this project she recounted how recently her retired black neighbor had to sell her house and move because property taxes were getting too high. Black-owned businesses are disappearing and black residents are being forced to move outside the city to the suburbs. In their place white families are moving in, often employees in the tech industry. “Not long ago every household on my block was black folks. Now all the houses except for three are white,” reports Foster.

The data backs her up. A report from the Seattle Times reveals that since 1970 the Central District’s black population has fallen from 73% to less than 20%, while the white population has nearly quadrupled to 60%.

Tensions are high. The neighborhood’s changes seems to have taken on an Us vs. Them mentality. In September, two Central District artists gave out “gentrification citations” to new businesses condoning them for “being unapologetic gentrifier[s].”

Spent the night with @afroneonblues putting up these anti-gentrification flyers around #seattle’s CD.

A post shared by Yeni Lopez Sleidi (@real_person_with_feelings) on

Since 2000, 50% of Seattle’s land tracts which could’ve undergone gentrification underwent gentrification (read methodology here). The Seattle City Council is currently in the contentious process of determining how to accommodate the steroidal growth of the city and the opportunity—and challenges—growth brings.

Click to the next page to see what’s really causing the problem—and see a solution…

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COMMENTS: 5
  1. April 28, 2017 by Emma W. Reply

    This page is amazing– your analysis and presentation are fantastic! The one thing I would say that you might want to include in your page is the role of race in gentrification, i.e. of Latino communities in Los Angeles and historically black neighborhoods in New York, because I think this aspect is important to understanding the issue as a whole.

    • April 28, 2017 by Emma W. Reply

      Oops– I meant *more about race, as you did include some statistics about race/gentrification in Seatlle.

      • April 28, 2017 by Ravi S Reply

        Thanks Emma! I agree. Class is only part of the picture. Race has a a big, and often ignored, effect on gentrification in cities all over.

  2. April 28, 2017 by Leah Griffin Reply

    This is an amazing project. The use of Game Theory to describe both the problem and solution is eloquent and impressive. Your call to action is both impactful and realistic. Really well done.

  3. May 01, 2017 by Justin P Reply

    I like what you’re doing. A lot of times, gentrification is overlooked, and things like this help people take immediate action. I live in Chicago, and i’ve grown up around the Pilsen neighborhood, which is currently on the road to being gentrified. This presentation gives me hope that people all across the globe are staying aware.

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