The on the opposite side of the pond,

 The Complexities of Gentrification: Is it a
Dirty Word?Introduction     An article was written on the Baltic Triangle
website with the headline, “Exciting new development comes to the Cains Brewery
Village.” (Jessett, 2017). This new development takes a historically important
building in Liverpool, United Kingdom, and transforms it into a new work space
for “creative and digital industries.” (Jessett, 2017). In that same year, but
on the opposite side of the pond, ‘Brooklyn is not for sale,’ is read on the
shirts of hundreds of people at a protest in Brooklyn, New York. The
borough-wide protest is against gentrification, a process that they prevalently
see in their community (Bellamy-Walker, 2017). This uproar was partially
sparked due to the development project where an old historical armory is
planned to be turned into luxury apartments in the neighborhood (Bellamy-Walker,
2017). Rewind three decades and, “Is Gentrification a Dirty Word?” read a
headline in the New York Times on December 23rd, 1985 (The Real Estate
Board of New York, 1985).
The ad was purchased by The Real Estate Board of New York to defend gentrification,
and their article is intended to convince the public that it is not a negative
process (Smith, 1996). Gentrification is a tricky concept but the purpose of
this paper is to answer the question that was posed by The Real Estate Board of
New York, “is gentrification a dirty word?” First, a brief origin of gentrification
is covered, and the term ‘gentrification’ is defined in multiple ways as the
process is redefined. In addition, the complex views of gentrification are
explored. Finally, the benefits and drawbacks will be thoroughly analyzed, and
a conclusion will be drawn.Origin    The
term ‘gentrification’ was first coined in 1964 by Ruth Glass, a German Urban
Sociologist (Jackson, 2017). The word came to be when she observed a lot of quarters
in London transition from a working-class neighborhood to a predominately middle
and upper-class neighbourhood (Glass, 1964). This demographic change also
altered the character of the communities; scruffy homes were transformed into stylish
houses and it brought new social character to the region (Glass, 1964). Although
Glass created the term, many people believe that gentrification has been a consistent
practice since the start of civilization; some even say that it is a form of colonialism
(Jackson, 2017). Gentrification has roots and can be seen on every continent;
from North America (August and Walks, 2017) to South America (Cummings, 2015),
Europe (Ascensao, 2015) to Africa (Teppo and Millstein, 2015), and also Asia
(Ha, 2015) to Ociena (Walters and McCrea, 2013). It is very prevalent and
important to analyze.Definition    The
root of the word gentrification is ‘gentry’ which are “people of high social
class” (Anon, 2018. The Gentry). The original creation of the word was used
to describe middle and upper-class intrusion into working-class districts, and
the focus was on the rehabilitation of shabby properties that had a residential
purpose (Glass, 1964). It was the process of neighborhood change to have higher
social class through private investment. Today, gentrification can be applied
to more than just residential properties, it involves vacant land, industrial
areas and new build opportunities (Atkinson, 2004). It is quite hard to narrow
down a specific and current definition of gentrification because it can involve
multiple factors; it is not exclusive to residential properties, it can be
state-led or market led, it can be a new build or a revitalization of a
historic district. Public Perception    Today,
gentrification can also be found in urban planning articles under names such
as, revitalization, renewal, regeneration, rejuvenation, etcetera. It is
disguised because gentrification is seen as a ‘dirty word.’ To begin, scholars
are contested on the topic; many articles have been published that are either
anti-gentrification, or pro-gentrification. When scholars are confused, that
typically leads the public to be confused. The public realm is bombarded with
media outlet articles that claim gentrification to be negative; headlines read,
“Stoked Croft ‘gentrification fears…,” “I feel guilty for gentrifying my
neighbourhood…”, “Is gentrification causing rise in evictions?” (Wood, 2018., Noor,
2018., Nathan, 2018.). Although there are multiple negative repercussions,
there are also many positive impacts involved with gentrification that should
be addressed.Positive Influence     First,
an argument for gentrification is the rehabilitation of neighborhoods. Older communities
are great targets for gentrification because the lot sizes and the square
footage of the homes are usually larger (Whyte, 2010). In many cases, state
policy has influenced this revitalization to occur, not simply private
investment (Atkinson, 2002). The revitalization projects transform dilapidated communities
into attractive places that appeal to more and more people. Examples of this
can be seen globally, but in Amsterdam, one development project has caught a
lot of people’s eyes because it does not involve a transformation of
traditional residences. The run down Bijlmerbajes prison is planned to be
revitalized into a new eco community (Anon, 2017. Old prison.). The new area
will incorporate multiple public and private spaces, this includes affordable rental
apartments, luxury condos, parks, art and health centers, and a school (Anon,
2017. Old prison.). This project is just one of the many examples of
neighbourhood enhancement that is brought on by gentrification.    Another
major benefit that can occur from gentrification is improved monetary flow in
the economy. When homes are rehabilitated in a neighbourhood, it raises the
value of homes in the area and this is one way to increase monetary flow
(Atkinson, 2004). This property value increase can benefit home owners; both
new and original to the neighbourhood. An example of this can be seen in the
North American city of Toronto, Canada. Everyday there are articles posted as
to why people should move to the city of Toronto and many explain what the up-and-coming
neighbourhoods are (Krneta, 2017). Toronto has seen gentrification throughout
the city for decades and it has majorly increased the average property value
(Anon, 2017. Toronto Homes). Between 2016 and 2017, property value has soared
33% and that number is expected to increase again in 2018 (Anon, 2017. Toronto
Homes). This is just one city out of many that have experienced a drastic increase
in the real estate market due to gentrification.    In
addition to increased property values, local services are revitalized and
improved for the community. There are studies which show that gentrification
can improve the quality of shops and services (Henig and Gale, 1987). Jager
explains that the new middle-class residents bring a ‘new circuit’ of
consumption that opens a whole new market that can quickly become saturated (Jager,
1986). An example of this is exemplified in the Melbourne, Australia in the
early 1980s. The gentrification process that created the cottage industry in
Melbourne also opened up a new market for services such as cafes, restaurants,
theatres and lounges (Mullins, 1982). These new markets also create new flows
of money that can improve the economy.    The
last major economic benefit of gentrification is increased tax revenue. This is
because cities have an increased quantity of houses and the residents of these
households are in higher tax brackets (Atkinson, 2002). There are multiple
studies with empirical evidence that further explains the benefit. A study conducted
on the city of Philadelphia in the USA, first compiled an analysis of revenue
flows and found that neighbourhood averages increased from 0.354 in 1975, to
1.091 in the year 1981 (Lang, 1986). Furthermore, the study gauged the economic
strength of gentrification in the city; it subtracts the neighbourhood
improvement costs from the total neighbourhood revenue and found that the areas
are able to improve without a detrimental strain to economic resources (Lang,
1986). This increase in tax revenue directly relates to the improvement of
living quality that was mentioned because this flow of revenue funds state-led gentrification
to further the process.    Negative Repercussions             Gentrification
also comes with a slew of negative impacts; in contrast to the positive, the consequences
are usually social instead of economic. First, the most commonly talked about
drawback of gentrification is displacement. The work of Grier and Grier (1978),
and LeGates and Hartman (1981), explain four types of displacement. First,
direct last- resident displacement is an economic or physical force (ex. Landlord
increases rent). Second is direct chain displacement; this is when residents
(not the last residents) are forced to move out at an earlier stage.
Exclusionary displacement is the third type and it is when housing has been
gentrified or abandoned so they can no longer access housing. Last,
displacement pressure is when there is a pressure to vacate because the neighborhood
is in transition (ex. Residents see all of their neighbours move due to
displacement and this pressures them to move as well) (Grier and Grier, 1978.,
LeGates and Hartman, 1981.). Displacement from gentrification is difficult to quantifiably
record because it usually involves movement from within a city and the data is
very limited (Marcuse, 2010). Although it is difficult, many studies piece
together how gentrification causes displacement from a range of different times
(Badcock and Cloher, 1980., Chan, 1986., Atkinson, 2000., Ascensao, 2015.). An
impactful way to understand the negative impact of displacement is from
personal accounts. An article in the Guardian records multiple experiences and
opinions related to gentrification (Perry, 2016). Daniel DeBolt from Silicon
Valley, USA states: “My entire
family has left… to more affordable places for the working class… Every time
there’s a boom, something like six times more jobs are created than homes
built. People are casually displaced every day and $1,000 a month rent hikes
are not uncommon.” (Perry, 2016). DeBolt’s
experience is a direct example of direct last- resident displacement and or
chain displacement. This displacement is linked to the next drawback of
gentrification: the absence of a trickle- down effect.     The
trickle-down effect is a concept that is used in economics; it is the idea that
the benefits of the wealthy flow, or ‘trickle-down’ to the middle and
working-classes, and it benefits everyone (Akinci, 2017). The trickle-down
effect is often used to dismantle gentrification doubters; people say that
although gentrification typically benefits the wealthy, it will ultimately
benefit the poor too (Altshuler, 1969). This concept is widely used, but it is
not necessarily true; gentrification does not always benefit the poor as much
as it widens the gap between classes (Lees, 2008). Even Richard Florida stated that,
“the knowledge economy powers growth and generates class and geographic
inequality at the same time.” (Florida, 2013). An example of this can been seen
in Kensington and Chelsea boroughs of London, United Kingdom. The Labour MP for
Kensington says, “the poor are getting poorer,” and “Their income is dropping… there
is no trickledown here.” (Anon,
2017. Kensington). Kensington has gone through extensive gentrification with
the hopes that it will benefit everyone, but the gap between the rich and the
poor continue to grow. The average income is very high but the median income is
very low, these disparities show how large the gap is between social classes in
one neighbourhood. There are multiple other arguments against gentrification but
these two above encapsulate the theme that surrounds the anti- gentrification argument;
the process is socially unjust. Conclusion    Gentrification
has caused a divide between planners, policy makers, and commentators for many
decades; this division is very complicated. As mentioned previously, there are
multiple positive impacts associated with gentrification, but the question must
be asked, ‘who do they positively influence?’ There are examples of academics
using empirical data to make the claim that all of the positive impacts only truly
impact the wealthy (Atkinson, 2002). Atkinson concluded that when a
neighbourhood is revitalized, the original residents are usually displaced before
they can experience the benefits of gentrification (2004). Alicia Boyd, the
lead organizer of the protest called “protect the people,” is quoted saying, “they
are just fumbling opportunities to build wealth for the 1%.” (Bellamy-Walker, 2017). Protestors agree with her
statement that gentrification fosters inequality (Bellamy-Walker, 2017). There are people who believe
that markets should be open and they would probably accept gentrification as a
natural process that will inevitably happen (lees, et al., 2010). In contrast many
say that gentrification shows how socially unjust the system really is through
state-led gentrification and policy enabled gentrification (Lees, et al., 2010).
The Real Estate Board of New York headlined their ad with the question, “is
gentrification a dirty word?” This is a loaded question that is difficult to
answer because the topic is not as simple as many make it out to be. Currently,
the public perception of the word is inherently ‘dirty,’ but some positives of
the process include the revitalization of neighbourhoods, increased property
values, improved services, and increased tax revenue. In contrast, the negative
impacts of gentrification surround social issues such as community displacement
and the increased gap between classes. The important point note from this paper
is that gentrification is not black and white, instead, it is a very dynamic
and complex issue. “Is gentrification a dirty word?”, the greater question ‘is
gentrification a dirty process?’                    

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