What is Gentrification?

In urban studies, gentrification refers to the process of renovation of a deteriorated area, generally associated with an influx of affluent residents.

What is Gentrification?

Gentrification is a term used to define the process where affluent residents move into an urban neighborhood, and their movement causes an improved quality of life. The influx of wealthy residents in a neighborhood causes landlords and local authorities to create a safer, cleaner and better-organized environment to make the area more attractive to the affluent tenants. The term gentrification is derived from an old French word “genterise” meaning “of gentle birth” and was used to refer to the rich people in society. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) define gentrification as the “transformation of neighborhoods from a low value to high value”. The change will displace long time residents and businesses. The displacement takes place when the original neighborhoods are moved from the gentrified areas due to high rents, property tax, and mortgages.

Causes of Gentrification

An area can experience gentrification based on several factors including the demographic composition of the locality. Experts believe that the increased levels of gentrification in US cities in the 1970s was caused by increased demand from the young people of the baby boom generation. This generation had different preferences for housing from the previous generations which meant investors had to renovate the existing houses to cater to the new market. The trend has also been seen recently with the advent of the millennial generation. Another factor is the economic growth where wealthy residents bring a demand for many other amenities such as efficient garbage disposals, coffee shops, high-quality schools and much more.

Arguments for Gentrification

Gentrification has many positive impacts on society. One of the advantages for gentrification is an overall decrease in crime rates. While this argument has critics, many scholars believe that improved amenities in a community spur the “broken windows” strategy of tackling crime which has been extremely successful in American cities. Many social vices are driven away from a community due to gentrification such as drug menace, crime, and prostitution once the aesthetic appeal of the community is improved. Another benefit brought by gentrification is an overall improvement in the quality of living in the community through the investments on better infrastructure. Gentrification also improves the economic status of the majority of residents of the community through increased entrepreneurial opportunities as the wealthy residents have high purchasing power for commodities. Real estate investors have higher incentives for property in gentrified areas as the property in such areas experience an increased demand which leads to increased value.

Arguments against Gentrification

Critics have been vocal in their criticism against gentrification. One of the vices attributed to gentrification is the displacement of low-income tenants who will be pushed away by the increased rent. While gentrification spurs improved amenities and an overall better quality of living, this comes at a price which is out of reach for low-income people causing them to be displaced. Some studies have even linked homelessness in the US to gentrification whereby previous tenants are forced to be homeless due to exorbitant rental prices.

Examples of Gentrification

Gentrification has seen increased application in cities all over the world due to increased capitalism as well as the growth of the middle class all over the world. In the US, gentrification is seen in the cities of Portland, Seattle, Austin, and Denver.

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