Essay title: Gentrification
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 D.C., 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 uses West Oakland, California as an example. One reason that the city is so attractive to the wealthy is the location. Since most of the main business centers of a city are located in the urban part of the city, the wealthy are closer to where they work, drastically reducing commuting time to and from work. Another reason is the lack of land ownership. For example, 80% of all occupied property in West Oakland is occupied by renters. Many cannot afford to buy their houses. “In 1990, West Oakland residents earned a median income of $11,529. By comparison, the median income for the Bay Area as a whole was $41,635.” Many residents in West Oakland are unable to purchase their homes at the assessed value, which is significantly lower than the asking price, due to the wealthy land developers’ plans to renovate the property. Probably the most attractive feature of the city is its low property and housing values. For example, “many of the single-family residential parcels in West Oakland are valued by the County Assessor’s office as $70,000 or less. Although many of these parcels most likely will sell for more than their assessed value, land in West Oakland still remains well below comparable land in other regions of the Bay Area.” The city property is much cheaper than the suburban, even though many of the city houses are more spacious than the suburban houses (Harvey). All of these factors contribute to the attractiveness of the city to the wealthy.
Negative Indirect Effects of Gentrification
According to Alejandrino, there are several indirect effects of gentrification. One effect is that community development corporations, or CDCs, pay more for land. These corporations are specifically dedicated to revitalizing and preserving neighborhoods. Due to the growing demand for housing, CDCs must compete with market rate developers when acquiring properties (Alejandrino 28). Because of this competition, the cost of developing affordable housing is driven up, and this makes it harder for the CDCs to complete their function as aids for people in the community.
Another effect is that service providers’ clientele and staff leave the gentrified area in search of affordable housing. For example, in San Francisco, many low-income constituents have left the gentrified area known as the Mission. In response