Saturday, January 8, 2011

What do you think about gentrification here?

Gentrification is definitely happening in Ward 6. Internationally, Ward 6/Capitol Hill is in fact known as "one of the most intensively gentrified neighborhoods in the country" (Wyly and Hammel 2001). What is gentrification?

: convert (a working-class or inner-city district etc.) into an area of middle-class residence. gentrification/gentrifier- Oxford English Dictionary (1993).

gentrify: to convert (an aging area in a city) into a more affluent middle-class neighborhood, as by remodeling dwellings, resulting in increased property values and in displacement of the poor. gentrification - Webster's Dictionary of the American Language (1988).

the space is being transformed for more affluent users. - Hackworth (2002).

The middle class are the gentry. Gentrification is the replacement of one class by another. How does this happen? I just read British geographer Tom Slater's fascinating, eye-opening article "The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research" (2006), which in fact discusses Capitol Hill. According to Slater, it happens when the middle class buys up historic buildings and restores them, while the city sells rental or other buildings (Hines School?) to developers, sells formerly working-class industrial space to developers, and creates policies that lure middle class professionals and foster gentrification.

What's so bad about that? I love my neighborhood and my neighbors. It's great to live in the city. I grew up in the suburbs, which felt deadening to me. Well, the problem is that it is completely natural for me to feel this way, since I am a beneficiary of gentrification or, more correctly, I am a gentrifier. What happens to the non-gentrifiers? What are the consequences? According to Slater, here are some:

  • rent increases and disappearance of rental properties
  • increases in house prices
  • tenant displacement (displacement of the working class and poor), being priced out of the city, being harassed by building owners wishing to sell or convert to condos
  • increased inequality
  • class segregation, the middle class "values the presence of others...but chooses not to interact with them. They are, as it were, much valued as a kind of social wallpaper" (Butler 2003).
  • personal suffering from displacement
  • destruction of communities

Now what do you think about gentrification here?

1 comment:

  1. A really interesting blog. As someone from London, new to DC, the whole gentrification theme is of real interest. I feel like we are hamstrung by other people's expectations because those expectations decide property prices. Even though my fiance & I are mixed race and want to live in a balanced, mixed community, I am aware of the damage to the value of our property which could be triggered by even a slight increase in the number of working class, lower income or visibly ethnic-minority people in my neighbourhood. That really makes me feel awful.


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