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i dk where to put this blog topic, but i think it's a very interesting one. what do you all think?

besides displacement, what are other gentrification issues?

 

Gentrification Is Good for You

Monday, June 06, 2005, by Joshua

 

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The gentrification-gets-a-bad-wrap movement continues to gain steam. John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, says that while the merits of a gentrifying 'hood are debatable in big cities like New York or San Fran, the issue is overblown in smaller cities, where investment in infrastructure and the centralization of goods and services should be top priorities. He writes,

 

"Even if gentrification happens with little or no concern for the poor, it will, in my opinion, in the long run be much better for the low-income population of a metro area than sprawl. The poor have more opportunity in metro areas with compact and economically healthy urban cores. You want the money in the middle where the poor have a better crack at getting some of it."

 

· Is Gentrification Really the Most Important Issue? [Planetizen]

· Gentrification: Fun for the Whole Family [Curbed]

 

***clik here for those hyperlinks:

http://www.curbed.com/archives/2005/06/06/gentrification_is_good_for_you.php

 

 

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Rich people pay money for taxes, the poor do not. Taxes are used to pay for city cervices that everyone benifits from. Gentrification typicaly pushes the crime out. Worry less about gentrification, worry more about people leaving the urban core for the burbs

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Who do liberals think pay for all the city services, but the companies, and the rich people through property and income taxes?

 

I guess many urban liberals are not opposed to rich folks living in their city.  But it wasn't without heavy cost that they came to this conclusion.  This is a dramatic turnaround from the 1960's, when Coleman Young drove most of the middle class and upper class people out of Detroit, as well as a lot of the big businesses, because he didn't want them to be there.  Detroit was left as a city of poor people, but who would be around to pay for the services?  Now there are only cuts in services and school closings.

 

It wasn't just Detroit.  There are other cities that have needlessly antagonized their wealthy residents, who promptly fled to the suburbs.  Unfortunatly, these are the folks who paid the bulk of income taxes to support city services.

 

Although I guess some other liberal cities like San Fransisco did not antagonize their rich, and continued to prosper.

 

The best bet (and quickest way) for cities to grow their tax base is to attract wealthy people who want to live there.  The top 10% pay more than half the taxes.  And the poor pay few or no taxes.  Once cities have their services (good roads, schools, ,and enough police) they can begin to attract the middle class once again.

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Locutus, Coleman Young isn't really representative of "urban liberals" as a whole, any more than David Duke represents rural conservative.  He was a very extreme case.

 

Let us not forget that there was a serious racial overtone to how Young drove out primarily white middle class folks.  He did at certain points more or less tell them, point blank, to leave the city.  That has alot less to do with political ideology, and alot more to do with racism and demagoguary.

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Historic districts need to be saved, gentrification is sometimes the result of saving the structures but not the goal (in most cases).  People need to take pride in their homes, rich or poor.  Larry Rhodes is a prime example of a wealthy white man who owns a number of buildings downtown that he just allows to die.  Gentrification has been turned into a negative term and it is not, it is a natural cycle that most communities will go through at some time or another.  The maintanace of large dwellings can be cost prohibitive to the poor but someone who wishes to bring the structure back to its original glory and turn it into a single family vs 8 family and if they bring in others who are willing to spend the money to do the same, how is that wrong?  But this phenomenon occuring on a large scale is called gentrification and unfair to the poor, yet those poor are given other places to live, section 8 still covers their rent.  The screams of gentrification is not coming from the liberal in the inner city but both the liberals and the conservatives of the suburbs these people are now bieng moved to.

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I was thinking about the constant changing of neighborhoods this morning after reading Jeff's  recent post

http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=10314.0

about the changes that have happened over the past 175 years in the Oregon District (especially the part about increasing density through alley houses/workshops and doubling houses on single lots.  I googled density increase and income change etc, and came up with this interesting, unpublished paper by Andres Duany from 2000 addressing this subject.  I admire the work of the New Urbanists because they are planner-architects instead of image-architects.

 

http://inic.utexas.edu/~bennett/__cwd/UBC/Duany.htm

 

Core quote from the article:

 

This is not a question of whether affordable housing should be available. To that, the answer is a clear affirmative. Society has its poor but it is necessary to make the distinction between the provision of affordable housing and its retention. These effects, while related, can be separated for discussion. It is a paradox that the retention of affordable housing may be more difficult to achieve than its provision which is well in hand through subsidy of the private sector, or entirely supplied by government as an extension of public works. The market also provides affordable housing in the form of older, out-of-date, building stock. The urban decay that supplies it is no less integral to the organic urban cycle as gentrification. Cities with such housing stock typically are portals for immigrants. These "Chinatowns" or "Little Havanas" are economic incubators. They represent affordable housing in its ideal form: the "old neighborhood" that is fondly recalled by the foes of gentrification. These inner city neighborhoods however, are not permanent as they were usually built originally for the middle-class and it is their quality that eventually attracts subsequent gentrification.  They are, in fact, only recovering their intrinsic value; they are reverting to their origins, not just being “taken away” from the poor.

 

For an opposing view, you could buy a the August 2006 Streetvibes (cincinnati) from a vendor and read a long article by a Miami University Professor about the dangers of gentrification.  I don't think it is available online. http://www.cincihomeless.org/content/streetvibes.html  I have many problems with both of these articles, but one assumption they both make is that "gentrification" is inevitable.

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I don't think any of us "urban liberals" misunderstand the benefits that wealthy citizens provide to cities. Nor do I personally think we should be dissuading the wealthy from locating in city neighborhoods or investing in property. I do think, however, that wholesale gentrification of neighborhoods can be bad for a number of reasons:

 

1. Displacing poor people from neighborhoods fails to increase the well-being of these existing residents. In fact, it can reduce their well-being if it disconnects them from their existing social networks or from the social services that are most likely to lift them out of poverty. Even if you don't care about this morally, it can have pragmatic consequences. Unless these individuals are picking up and moving out of the region entirely, they continue to be residents of our communities. If displacement makes them less likely to overcome poverty, then we will continue to deal with their issues, regardless of where they're located.

 

2. The urban poor are often treated en masse as a nuisance that needs to be tucked away. But in cities like Cleveland or Detroit, where such a sizable portion of residents ARE poor, we are wasting tacit opportunities. These are people, and many of them could be productive workers and residents if given the right opportunities. We are placing a great deal of resources into attracting a trickle of wealthy people into Rust Belt center districts. But unless we invest in current residents as well, I don't think we'll succeed in decreasing our levels of poverty.

 

3. Before we turn to cities like San Francisco as models of urban utopia, we should probably consider that wholly gentrified cities have their own problems. In places like San Francisco and Boston, where even modest rental units can fall above $1500/month, it is not just the poor that are being displaced; it is the middle class as well. This creates a kind of reverse model of Rust Belt Cities - instead of having service workers struggling to commute to jobs in the suburbs, such cities have service workers in the suburbs and exurbs struggling to commute to central city jobs. This has led to an incredibly high eviction rate in San Francisco, as well as ongoing tensions between service workers and the individuals they serve.

 

4. Gentrification is not only harmful to the urban poor; it can be harmful to a community's built environment and even its identity. Urban renewal projects in the 1960s not only displaced inner city residents elsewhere, but it tore down historic buildings and painted over neighorhood histories. And the planners didn't always get it right. Tons of cities have invested in large downtown shopping malls to draw in wealthy shoppers. Many of these structures are now filled with row after row of abandoned storefronts and certainly didn't help nearby, street-fronting merchants survive. When we rely exclusively on experts, without engaging residents in planning processes, we have to deal with the fact that we could make some VERY large mistakes along the way.

 

5. Simply having wealthy people in neighborhoods is no guarantee that a city will thrive. People are migratory, and the wealthy have more means to migrate than any other class. Cleveland was once inundated with steel barons and wealthy philanthropists. Mansions lined Euclid Ave. But where are those family lines now? Few are in our region, let alone in our city. I personally think that infrastructure and amenity investments geared exclusively to the rich are a bad public investment; we would be better served to revitalize neighborhoods in ways that will appeal to the entire economic stratosphere, neighborhoods that can withstand changing demographic patterns and the test of time.

 

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Locutus, Coleman Young isn't really representative of "urban liberals" as a whole, any more than David Duke represents rural conservative.  He was a very extreme case.

 

Let us not forget that there was a serious racial overtone to how Young drove out primarily white middle class folks.  He did at certain points more or less tell them, point blank, to leave the city.  That has alot less to do with political ideology, and alot more to do with racism and demagoguary.

 

Shame on both of you.  The flight of the white upper and middle classes from industrial cities began in the mid-1940s with subsidized VA and FHA loans for new construction in the suburbs, and a new wave of suburban investment by factories, who were retooling for civilian production once again.  To blame a single (black) mayor, for whatever reason, fails to understand the real causes of urban disinvestment.

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The market also provides affordable housing in the form of older, out-of-date, building stock. The urban decay that supplies it is no less integral to the organic urban cycle as gentrification.

 

That's certainly what is happening in the Dayton metro area today, where most of the new home construction is for the upper part of the market.  But that isn't what happened in the 19th century....where affordable housing was being built at the same time as mansions and middle class housing. 

 

Cities with such housing stock typically are portals for immigrants. These "Chinatowns" or "Little Havanas" are economic incubators. They represent affordable housing in its ideal form: the "old neighborhood" that is fondly recalled by the foes of gentrification. These inner city neighborhoods however, are not permanent as they were usually built originally for the middle-class and it is their quality that eventually attracts subsequent gentrification

 

That is a real good question as to what really was going on, sociologically, in the 19th century.  Places like the Oregon appear to have started out with a mix of housing for middle class people and for the developing urban working class, as indicated by some of the small doubles being built around the same time as single famliy houses.

 

And perhaps that was what happened in Cincinnati as well. In what's left of the West End, one can see Dayton Street, which was fairly well-off, surrounded by a more working class area.  Maybe even that little Betts/Longworth neighborhood, too, as an example.

 

I can appreciate the concept of urban recycling, which is sort of what gentrification is. But it would be ahistorical to say that some of the old Ohio neighborhoods we are talking about really would have been as homogenous as the New Urbanist writer implys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The market also provides affordable housing in the form of older, out-of-date, building stock. The urban decay that supplies it is no less integral to the organic urban cycle as gentrification.

 

Buildings falling out of favor due to old age are one thing.  Buildings abandoned due to subsidizing unsustainable development on greenfields is something else entirely.

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8shadesofgray;

Do you really think either Cincinnati or Cleveland is in danger of wholesale gentrification?  There are so many affordable and vacant rents, it just seems like an unwarranted fear.

 

I agree with many of your points, especially that we should invest in benefits for current residents. (My belief is that we should concentrate on the basics: home-ownership, transportation, safe streets, infrastructure etc..)  However, we should think about the possibility that so-called gentrification may never happen in some cities and some neighborhoods, and that would clearly be the worse fate.  Decline and rebirth of neighborhoods may be a natural cycle, but the rebirth can stalled or killed by government policy, bad design, racial fears, politics or just mismanagement.  I support good design, affordable housing and poor people’s rights, but it is all for naught if the whole place goes down the toilet.

 

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^ I agree. I don't think that either city is poised to face the same problems that San Fran or Boston do. I guess my beef (and I can only speak toward Cleveland) is that, IMHO, we increasingly focus on drawing in people of means, rather than coming up with creative solutions for developing means among our existing residents. There's no danger that Cleveland is going to gentrify current residents out of the region, or even the city. I don't think that we should avoid attraction strategies; I just wish that we could harness the energy that leaders have targeted toward the National Republican Convention, the OfficeMax move, the DFAS fiasco, casino levies, convention center levies (all of which, mind you, I DO think are important considerations) and invest that energy into stitching together nationally innovative models for educating and empowering the poor. We can do both.

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Happened to see this posted on the Detroit Shoreway CDO site:

 

As part of its Widening The Circle Forum series, Franklin Circle Christian Church presents the compelling PBS video "Flag Wars." The event will take place on Thursday, September 28 at 7 p.m. Everyone in the community is invited to watch this 90-minute video, followed by refreshments and a moderated discussion at Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1688 Fulton Rd. (near W. 28th). Ample parking is available. There is no charge for this event. Interested persons are invited to call Pastor Allen Harris at 216-272-0622 or e-mail him at PastorAllen@FranklinCircleChurch.org for more details, and to receive copies of background readings (which are strongly encouraged). For background readings and extensive interactive resources, go to: http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2003/flagwars/index.html For more information on Franklin Circle Christian Church, go to the church's website at www.FranklinCircleChurch.org. From the PBS website: “Flag Wars” is a poignant account of the politics and pain of gentrification. Working-class black residents in Columbus, Ohio fight to hold on to their homes. Realtors and gay home-buyers see fixer-uppers. The clashes expose prejudice and self-interest on both sides, as well as the common dream to have a home to call your own. Shot over four years, "Flag Wars" is a poignant 90-minute account of economic competition between two historically oppressed groups, seen through the politics and pain of gentrification. The setting could be any city with a once stable working and middle class black community, now aging and economically depressed, in danger of losing control of their neighborhoods as wealthier home buyers gentrify block by block. In this case, the neighborhood is in Columbus, Ohio and the home buyers are largely white and gay. The resulting conflicts are a case study of differences in perception. Where realtors and buyers see run-down homes, black residents see evidence of institutional racism that steered resources away from this community. What newer residents see as a beneficial effort to renovate and restore value, veteran residents see as an assault on their heritage and a threat to their ability to hold on to their homes. The events in "Flag Wars" unfold against a backdrop of racism, homophobia, and tensions between privilege and poverty. Mix in government zoning boards, the court system, lending institutions, and civic leaders, and you've got a film that literally hits people "where they live." "Flag Wars" explores the complexity of gentrification, and the contradictions between intention and result, belief and action. It goes beyond merely assigning blame or labeling people as "good guys" or "bad guys" to examine the relationship between housing, heritage, and public policy. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Rev. Allen V. Harris Pastor Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 1688 Fulton Rd. (near W. 28th St. just west of Lutheran Hospital) Cleveland, OH 44113-3096 Phone: 216-781-8232 ~ Fax: 216-781-0013 www.FranklinCircleChurch.org or visit: www.Disciples.org ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Widening The Circle For All God's Children! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Thanks for the notice.  I went to the site and watched the trailer and read some of the interviews.  Unfortunately the film showed on PBS in June and isn't scheduled for a rerun anytime.  The preview portrayed the realtor in a very bad light, which isn't suprising.  It kind of reminds me of a similar film made by activists in the 80's about Over-the-Rhine and the Liberty Hill area.

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It's just a natural process for people to rebuild some cities. If the liberals cry "gentrification" so what?...how are we going to rebuild our cities?. Who was there before the poor etc?....just tear down the bad areas and give the land to developers...

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It's just a natural process for people to rebuild some cities. If the liberals cry "gentrification" so what?...how are we going to rebuild our cities?. Who was there before the poor etc?....just tear down the bad areas and give the land to developers...

 

And exactly where should the poor go???  When the land is developed, who is next, the middle class?

 

People like me will be the only people left and the population of the cities would shrink to virtually nothing.

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You just can't win this discussion: "gentrification" is bad but "urban renewal" is good (or is it the other way around?).  Bringing more money to our urban cores is good but the logical consequence of that (people with less money get outbid for downtown housing) is bad.

 

Generally, I side pretty completely with developers and gentrification advocates because, well, we're not going to run out of poor neighborhoods anytime soon.  Therefore, the notion that we're leaving lower income residents with nowhere to go has never seemed to carry much weight with me.  I think that a lot of revitalizing urban neighborhoods get attention disproportionate to their size because they have money and a certain amount of glitz (new, happening areas); if the poor are actually crowded out at all, it's not many and not far, and that's a small price to pay for bringing urban professionals and the creative classes back into otherwise derelict and decrepit urban cores.

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I agree that gentrification isn't a pressing concern for Ohio cities (although it is still a very valid concern). But we now have a phenomenon in cities like San Francisco and New York (and to a degree places like Boston and DC and Chicago) where we are talking about pushing large groups of people, including the middle class either far away from the city center or beyond city borders. That to me is really problematic, not only ethically, but just for the distribution of everyday services. The hardship of food and hospitality workers in the Bay Area, for instance, having to commute into the city from the outer reaches is pretty substantial. And in many of these cities, many members of the Creative Class are pushed out in this wave as well.

 

I also wouldn't underestimate the interruption, expenses and hassles that arise from moving short distances, even a few blocks, particularly if that move lands you into a less desirable and less safe neighborhood.

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I agree that the coastal cities are a completely different ballgame.  I'm speaking from the perspective of an UrbanOhioan.  I let that go without saying; maybe I should have been more specific.  My point was that, in pure acreage terms, Tremont and similar neighborhoods aren't all that big.

 

Moving is one of my least favorite activities, so I completely sympathize with the point that it can involve unpleasant expenditures of time, money, and energy.  However, on a macro level, that's not a good enough reason to resist revitalization of urban cores.  Also, I doubt that many people are forced into truly less safe neighborhoods; what I find more likely is that they are forced into neighborhoods roughly comparable to those in which they lived before, adjusting for the passage of time.  (In addition, as it's primarily people who make or break a neighborhood, the mere fact that they're moving to a given neighborhood helps make their new neighborhoods roughly about as safe as the ones they left.)  The deleterious effects are more often manifest in the commuting times of those who move, not their personal safety.  I won't say that this is universally true, but generally, if you could hold down a rent payment of $800/mo. and were driven out of Neighborhood X when your townhome there went to $1600/mo., you're very likely to find that the nearest neighborhood in which you can rent an $800/mo. townhome will be very similar to what your old neighborhood was before higher-end professionals started moving in and bidding up real estate prices.  A Columbus example: the gentrification of German Village almost certainly pushed some people out.  However, if they could move to the next neighborhood out--Merion Village--they'd likely find that they were in no more personal danger in Merion Village in 2000 than in German Village in 1990.

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Gentrification is most an issue in rental dominated neighborhoods. If gentrification can occur in a neighborhood with reasonable levels of ownership by locals then even if some feel like home is no longer a place they fit in, with reasonable acumen they can use the higher property values to sell and move somewhere else.

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I'd say I'm for revitalization. "Gentrification" tends to imply a process which does not take into account any negative factors for those with less income. At the same time, I'm not at all against pushing out some residents such as thugs and thug wannabes and I'm sure plenty of low-income residents wouldn't mind either. Just because a neighborhood is "poor" doesn't mean it has to be unsafe and overrun with criminals. It's up to residents to a certain degree to shape the culture in the neighborhood, but in the case of poorer neighborhoods it's made more difficult when the city plops some projects down the street and there is an influx of dangerous people who know that you live nearby. Anyway, there are measures that can be taken to minimize displacement and increased property values can actually benefit homeowners in these areas. There are too many examples of how to do this successfully to pretend that it can't be done.

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Most of the inner-city poor urban neighborhoods in Ohio cities were historically mixed-income areas with much higher populations 70 years ago. After decades of white flight, these areas were left with a fraction of the people living in them, and only those with low/lower incomes.

 

The bad part of gentrification comes from the <i>displacement</i> of people.

 

If the end goal is to simply restore these neighborhoods into the vibrant mixed neighborhoods they once were by brining the middle class and wealthy folks back to fill in the acres of abandoned housing and vacant lots, well then... I really don't see much of a problem with that.

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Most of the inner-city poor urban neighborhoods in Ohio cities were historically mixed-income areas with much higher populations 70 years ago. After decades of white flight, these areas were left with a fraction of the people living in them, and only those with low/lower incomes.

 

The bad part of gentrification comes from the <i>displacement</i> of people.

 

If the end goal is to simply restore these neighborhoods into the vibrant mixed neighborhoods they once were by brining the middle class and wealthy folks back to fill in the acres of abandoned housing and vacant lots, well then... I really don't see much of a problem with that.

 

If the poor of today behaved like the poor of 70 years ago, I don't think this would be such an issue.  However, the poor of today (yes, I'm generalizing) have a value system that is some far removed from the middle class that it is impossible for the two groups to live in the same area.  Crime rates through the roof, children receiving no education, etc. 

 

And while you note that the "bad part of gentrification comes from the displacement of people," I'm curious what you think about "the bad part of placing poor people in nice neighborhoods?"  Does that not cause the same sort of displacement of the middle-class and wealthy (although I care less about the wealthy)? 

 

My point is, that statement cuts both ways.  I drove through E.65 & Bessemer (Slavic Village Cle, by Hyacinthe Lofts)the other day and was absolutely disgusted with how a once proud middle-class neighborhood has turned into an uninhabitable wasteland.  How did this area become such a hell-hole?  Because the poor moved in and have destroyed it.  I factually feel worse for these "displaced" people than the displaced poor.  Now it is not only "white-flight," but there is also "black-flight," as middle class blacks are getting the hell out, too.  Thus, maybe there actually is something to this "flight." 

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The poor didn't behave very well seventy years ago. The public schools were very poor and didn't really expect to educate most of the population past about 10th grade. There was widespread crime - the Italian mafia, Jewish gangs, Irish toughs, union/management violence. It is really the postwar affluence that allows much of the pre-war poor to make a leap up in living standards (esp. the ethnic Catholics and Jews).

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Ugh. It turns my stomach when we talk about gentrification ... so many overarching generalizations, people! :)

 

Anyway, it might be worthwhile to identify any innovative strategies we've heard for addressing these class issues. Who's doing something cool to prevent displacement? Who's doing something to acclimate the middle class and upper class into presently low-income neighborhoods while causing the least disruption to current residents? That kinda thing.

 

One fascinating methodology that's starting up is the Environmental Simulation Center's Human Development Overlay District: http://www.hdod.org/national/home/tabid/894/default.aspx?returnurl=%2fcommunity_of_learning%2fhome.aspx.

 

 

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It's hard to talk about entire cities, let alone many cities coast to coast over the span of a generation or more, without making some kinds of generalizations.  Accepting some generalizations as "good enough for discussion purposes" is practically a price of admission to any serious debate on issues this large.  This isn't a discussion of whether there should be a White Castle or a Ruth's Chris on a specific street corner.

 

Walker: The problem is that all properties (and their inhabitants) have some effect on those around them.  Therefore, if middle-class people started buying vacant lots or dilapidated housing in Weinland Park and building, deconstructing & rebuilding, or renovating houses on those lots, it wouldn't matter that they didn't intend to displace lower-income residents (i.e., not like buying up the rental properties and then expelling the tenants).  As soon as the landlords saw that the area was showing real life, with increasing owner-occupancy, increasing median income, increasing density, and fewer sinkholes (vacant lots and abandoned houses also affect nearby properties, after all), those landlords would start jacking up the prices they charge their existing tenants.  Those who could afford the increases would stay; those who couldn't would be displaced, even though the people who chose to move into that newly-mixed neighborhood had no intention of displacing anybody.

 

I'm comfortable with this phenomenon, because the benefits of having the professional classes coming back to the city and removing or renovating decaying housing stock are simply so high that it's worth the side effects.  In addition, the displacement tends to be very gradual, particularly if eminent domain is not involved.  Victorian Village, for example, has seen a profound change in its renter-to-owner-occupier ratio--over the span of 20+ years.  What would have been a dramatic upheaval if it happened all at once is natural and organic spread out over decades.

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That's exactly my point. It is incredibly difficult to talk about gentrification coast to coast or throughout the developed world. And I think we miss a lot in the nuance. Recognizing in this discussion that not all poor people behave alike, not all rich people behave alike and not all gentrification processes and timelines unfold the same would strengthen it IMHO. So, for instance, I think talking about what gentrification constitutes in Ohio cities or deindustrializing cities or slow market cities is largely different than what it means in Boston or San Francisco. The level of economic stratification that occur, the distance that people are displaced and the speed with which it occurs varies so drastically between a Buffalo and a NYC that it's almost impossible to have a high-end philosophical debate about how gentrification is playing out in the U.S.

 

Regardless, though, it would be great if anyone has any interesting models that they could share regarding how cities are addressing gentrification proactively and with positive outcomes.

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8Shades: I'll accept all of those criticisms as philosophical matters, but as political matters, the world doesn't stop moving so that philosophers can reach unreachable answers to unanswerable questions.  Hence my point earlier about needing generalizations that are "good enough" in order to function (even as one constantly tries to get better information for later).

 

In general, I think gentrification does more good than harm.  I'm open to arguments that specific instances of it may be counterproductive--but I haven't seen a convincing argument against broad-based gentrification yet, so if I were trying to shape urban development policy in my area, I'd be pulling out all the stops in favor of developers large and small.  (On the flip side, I have seen convincing arguments about overusing eminent domain authority in favor of developers, so I wouldn't go that far in "pulling out all the stops."  I mean primarily that I wouldn't try to slow people down with requirements or incentives to leave parts of a given area "ungentrified.")

 

I'm trying to imagine if any of the revitalized metro neighborhoods in Columbus would be better off today if there had been legal roadblocks to gentrification.  I can't see how they would be.

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I'm not trying to indicate that reinvestment in a neighborhood is bad. What I am suggesting is that:

 

a. Even on the political level, gentrification trends are so nuanced that any response has to be done at the municipal level, where the local context can be taken into account. Cincy's response to gentrification (or even what it defines as gentrification) is going to be radically different than San Francisco's.

 

b. If done strategically, reinvestment can occur without drastic displacement. There are all sorts of methods for ensuring that existing residents remain (permanently affordable units through a land trust, CDC ownership of affordable units, wealth-building programs, homeownership assistance for existing residents, etc.), even as real estate pressures step up. Neighborhoods that do this early can ensure that the neighborhood ultimately is a healthy mix of incomes. At least for Ohio, given the sheer amount of available land within our big cities' footprints, there is no reason that we have to choose between the wealthy and the poor ... both can have a place.

 

c. From a philosophical standpoint, I guess I have a problem with the notion that the primary determinant as to whether someone can enjoy the revitalization of an area is their income, rather than their longevity of residency or existing investment in the neighborhood (even as a renter). Would a neighborhood look better if only people at or above $250,000 a year could afford it than if the median income was $75,000 or $50,000 or $10,000. Probably. But I also wonder if we're too concentrated on the outcome for the physical environment, rather than for the residents themselves. 

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See, that's just it.  Because my philosophical orientation is different to you on ©, I have a very different perspective on (b).  Our politics flows from our principles, and our principles are formed only on the basis of the ever-imperfect answers to philosophical questions we ask ourselves.

 

All of those things you listed might well ensure that existing residents remain; however, if existing residents are not owners, I don't see that they have any moral (let alone legal) right to remain, and if they are owners, I don't see that their rights are overly impinged by ultimately forcing them to sell at a huge gain in order to put the property in the hands of someone more capable of paying the property taxes.  I don't see that rental tenancy involves any "existing investment in the neighborhood;" in almost all cases, that rent money is sucked right out of the neighborhood the moment they put it in the mail.

 

I also don't see that a "mix of incomes" is intrinsically "healthy."  (To be clear: I don't see that it's unhealthy, either, but the fact that it's not intrinsically healthy means that I don't necessarily support it as an independent urban planning goal.)

 

So to turn back to the wellspring: Why should longevity matter more than income in determining who gets to live in a given neighborhood?  Why should long-term renters be considered to have real investment in an area?

 

I don't think that longevity matters because I basically see every day as a new one.  That means that I see Victorian Village 2009 as a completely different place from Victorian Village 1989; someone may have lived in the zip code for 20 years, but they've only lived in Victorian Village 2009 as long as anyone else.  As for renters, even long-term ones: I simply don't see what stake in a neighborhood a 20-year renter has that a 2-year renter doesn't.  (A fairer question, I'll allow, is what stake an absentee owner, such as a condo or house flipper, has.)

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[added later] Would a neighborhood look better if only people at or above $250,000 a year could afford it than if the median income was $75,000 or $50,000 or $10,000. Probably. But I also wonder if we're too concentrated on the outcome for the physical environment, rather than for the residents themselves.

 

Well, at least in Ohio, you'll never see more than maybe one neighborhood per city (and it would have to be a pretty small one at that) where a $250,000 income was required simply to live there.  In Columbus, you'd be hard pressed to find individual streets where that was the price of admission.

 

In addition, you'd need to go one step further to convince me: I'm more than willing to concede that an all-high-income neighborhood isn't necessarily a better "outcome ... for the residents themselves," but I also don't see it as any worse, which means that I don't think that we actually lose anything by letting neighborhoods rise, and I therefore wouldn't stand in the way of it.  I'd much rather have wealthy individuals coming downtown and buying million-dollar condos at Miranova and North Bank Park than living in gated communities in the suburbs.

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I have to say that it's ridiculous to think that a renter would have no "investment" or "stake" in a place that he/she has lived for 20 years, unless we believe the only thing that matters in our world is money.  Unless we're reducing the issue to nieghborhoods to the level of financial transactions (and if we are, why should we care enough about them to be having this discussion at all), it's an absolutely indefensible statement that someone would have no stake in the place that they've lived for such a major chunk of their life.

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