We’ve all seen it happen right underneath our noses. That neighborhood that was comprised of mostly minorities and that was once referred to as being “ghetto” by the “outsiders”, now has a Trader Joes, expensive real estate, yoga studios and coffee shops. The black and brown faces that have occupied the area for so long, now walk past the white faces on the sidewalk and barely look at each other. You may even notice the white faces ‘still’ clutching on to their purses or crossing to the other side of the street. Gotta love a gentrified neighborhood.
Gentrification refers to the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.
And it’s happening to everywhere.
Take the H Street Corridor of Washington, D.C. for example, newly named the “Atlas District”. A few years ago, you couldn’t catch hipsters walking up and down the street as if they didn’t have a care in the world. But fast forward to today, and you’ll find bars, a new trolley system being built, restaurants, and pie shops. Currently, there’s also some pretty expensive real estate being built. Further up on Bladensburg Road, you’ll find new condos and even a Denny’s now. With all of this rebuilding, property taxes are being raised and it’s forcing out small business owners that have occupied the area for decades.
As of last year, D.C’s black population has dropped by 50% according to the Brookings Institute. This drop clearly shows that black people simply can’t afford to live there anymore, but where does that put them? Do you find a new affordable area to live in, are there even affordable areas to live in any more?
Are there benefits to gentrification?
Jason Allen, a developer and designer based out of Newark, NJ has seen the effects of gentrification in his area and thinks the benefits are only on the surface, “It is an improvement from the dilapidated landscape typically associated with urban blight. But at what cost? Municipalities stand to benefit because higher-income inhabitants spend more money locally and tax revenue is increased which may not necessarily be the case when you’re talking about renters in over priced lofts as opposed to people actually buying property.” He did state that one of the benefits of a gentrified neighborhood would be a greater police presence, but that also brings into play other issues such as racial profiling.
There are some cities, like Newark, NJ, that did make an effort to not only build up the area to accommodate new inhabitants, but Newark also made sure to provide an adequate amount of new affordable housing for its ‘tenured’ residents.
So your block has a new Starbucks with free wi-fi and a new drinking hole but at what cost?