Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Consequences of Gentrification

Gentrification has some positive affects, such as reducing the concentration of poverty. At the same time, sociologists have been concerned about gentrification because negative consequences often outweigh the positive ones. Gentrification may lead to:

1) a housing crisis for working-class and poor residents
  • caused by rent increases, the disappearance of rental properties, increases in house prices (so that homeowners may not be able to move to other houses in the community).
  • leading to a variety of outcomes: tenant displacement (including through harassment by building owners wishing to sell or convert to condos), temporary or permanent homelessness, personal suffering from displacement, and destruction of communities.
2) increased inequality, class segregation, and racial segregation within the community:
  • In Ward 6, we have a sense that many working class or poor residents have left. Since these people have left the ward, we usually do not know what has happened to them. Are they better off? Are they worse off? It is highly possible that gentrification did not help them.
  • What has happened to the residents who have remained? To understand some of this, let's compare the richest and poorest census tracts in Ward 6. Tract 67 is just below Lincoln Park to Pennsylvania Avenue; Tract 71 is east of 11th below Pennsylvania Avenue. These two census tracts are just a couple of blocks away from each other, but on opposite sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. What do we find in the census data?
Poorest by income: Tract 71
Median Household Income: $29,063 (decreased by 10% since 2000)
% change in population, 1980-1990: -12%
% change in population, 1990-2000: -3.5%
Percentage of households making under $30,000: 53%
Percentage of households making over $100,000: 21%

Richest by income: Tract 67
Median Household Income: $135,573 (increased by 37% since 2000)
% change in population, 1980-1990: -7.1%
% change in population, 1990-2000: 1.8%
Percentage of households making under $30,000: 4%
Percentage of households making over $100,000: 66%
  • We do see increased income inequalities. We also see a decreasing population, which continued at least through 2000 in Tract 71. The population numbers are difficult to deal with since we don't know much about the specific people leaving. [I also need to look at other indicators in the future.]
  • While I have talked about the problems with persistent racial discrimination in the housing markets nationwide, class-based discrimination also persists in housing markets and other areas.
Does gentrification necessarily have these negative consequences? What have residents done in other cities to stop these negative consequences? More on this in a future post!

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