The Misconceptions of Gentrification
Ever since the 1960's when gentrification was first coined as a term by Ruth Glass, corporate businesses have been trying to spin it to make it sound like "positive growth". The more confusion they create the better for them, which is likely why when asked, most of us fumble to try to put it into words. It's also not something easily defined, because gentrification has many complex layers of who it affects and how. It's tethered to deep-rooted issues of social injustice by displacing minority families and has been going on across the globe for decades.
Where do they go?
A question asked by Spike Lee in a lecture in 2014 regarding the gentrification of his childhood neighborhood, Brooklyn New York.
"So, where you gonna go?" Lee says in his lecture at the Pratt Institute, "Puerto Ricans say the same thing. A lot of people said 'well, we're gonna move to Bucks County. Or move back to Puerto Rico'. People can't afford to live here anymore."
"So, if New York City is not affordable then the great art that we have is not going to be here, because people can't afford it.
So, I know what you're saying, but I don't see a lot of good coming from gentrification for the people living in those neighborhoods. We got a new neighborhood in the South Bronx now, what do we call it? What? SoBro. It's a scam! It's shenanigans, trickery, people being bamboozled, leather string, run a-muck.
Where does the community go? If these developers insist on spinning the term as a positive "cleaning up" of a city sector by tearing down buildings and throwing in coffee shops to appeal to the new residents moving in, can they at least answer that question? They can't.
Another misconception is: what about the residents who are from there, who stay as the city expands? Aren't they benefiting from these new stores and increasing property values? Consider this, if all the people you knew as your peers were being pushed out one by one because they can't afford to stay in their hometown anymore and find yourself surrounded by a completely different type of culture, what do you think that does to someone emotionally and psychologically? It's a complete invasion, a takeover, and it's overwhelming.
Professor Stacey Sutton of the University of Illinois-Chicago, says "gentrification is fundamentally a social justice problem." -
Professor Stacey Sutton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy and the Director of Applied Research and Strategic Partnerships at UIC’s Social Justice Initiative. Her scholarship and teaching are in community economic development. More specifically, her research investigates collective action and equitable development in marginalized communities; the solidarity economy; racialization and alternatives to capitalist formations; gentrification, dispossession, and neighborhood change; and racially disparate effects of place-based policy and planning.
Another misconception is it's only happening in the U.S. Sadly, it is not. In this lecture, Laura Lee goes on to explain the gentrification issues that London faces as well.
Loretta Lees is a Professor of Human Geography in the Department of Geography, University of Leicester. Her research expertise is in gentrification/urban regeneration, global urbanism, urban policy, urban public space, urban communities, architecture, and urban social theory.