How do we mold gentrification into good for all?

Over the last decade, we have seen cities transform in good ways and certainly questionable ways too.  We have witnessed urbanization not only in America but other countries as the millennials have flocked to cities.  They have transformed neighborhoods by creating economies for new stores, restaurants, and services.  They have also put pressure on the public school education system to step up their game.  The good news is that many neighborhoods that were in decay have rebounded to be safe places for people to live.  The bad news is what happens to the people who can no longer afford to live there.

Many people have moved into urban areas because they embrace the diversity of a city and want their neighborhoods to remain diverse but with gentrification, neighborhoods begin to look a bit like a one-dimensional suburb and that is bad.

How do we mold gentrification into good for all?  I have read a few articles about cities in upstate NY such as Newburgh where a new generation is moving there because it is affordable and there is an opportunity to make a difference.  For instance, I read about a couple who took over a dilapidated house, rebuilt it and planted an incredible food garden in the backyard to share with their neighbors.  We are seeing that in Detroit too.

It is wonderful to see those city neighborhoods that have fallen on hard times have a fresh set of eyes move in, embrace their neighbors and perhaps bring light to the next generation living on those blocks.  How do we create laws, tax breaks or incentives to ensure that the diversification of the neighborhoods grow and then stay intact?  Wouldn’t the perfect neighborhood be where the mixture of races, religions, socioeconomic means remain together so that the children can grow up together in the same school systems and learn from each other’s different family values.

As a country, we have drawn a very deep line in the sand in regards to haves and have-nots, red vs blue, conservative vs liberal, religious vs atheist, straight vs gay, feminist vs anti-feminist, etc.   As our cities are changing and gentrification is taking place, we should take this opportunity at the state level (at least the states that care about this vs ones like South Dakota) to think creatively around using this change that comes from people for the good of the future.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Matt Kruza

    This may sound too simple (and its certainly a slight reductive view and simplification), but it almost 100% comes down to housing prices. But there is the rub, when an area gentrifies, everyone who owns the real estate (homeowners and investors both small and large), don’t care really about those left behind, they want their 100k property to become 300k (in the midwest gentrifying areas that I am from) or to go from $300k to 800k in the coastal areas etc. That only happens due to people with more money moving in combined with incredibly crazy loans (either to investors who then jack rental rates, or to people who can get FHA 3.5% loans – again usually only applies up to 525k with some regional exceptions). I guess the point is people are using it as a way to self-segregate and also as a way for their most valuable financial resource to go up in price, the “negative externalities” that cause the previous owners to leave don’t factor into the financial analysis. The only real answer is build more housing supply. Change zoning on height and even more importantly on minimum home size and prices go down. But almost no one that owns property wants that, so this change is incredibly unlikely to change. Its the same issue of elite / high end suburbs with great schools in most metro areas, zoning drives the price up way beyond fundamental value, but that is NOT a bug, its a feature for people who decide to live there. There are half-measures maybe, but its only due to the anti-free market zoning rules that you get this gentrification to this degree. Not holding my breath for it to change. Didn’t mean such a long comment but this is an area I know / think about a lot so figured I would add some detailed insight here

    1. Gotham Gal

      this is very insightful