The Thorny Matter of Gentrification
A few days ago, I made a presentation to a group of thoughtful and accomplished philanthropists on sustainable land development. I made a strong pitch for urban revitalization and was countered with a question about gentrification, the messy phenomenon that occurs if longtime residents of older neighborhoods find themselves priced out of their own communities as those neighborhoods become more sought-after and valuable. To be honest, I don’t think I handled the question particularly well.
I never do, really, even though it comes up a lot. The issue is just too thorny on all sides and, in most cases, racially charged, because minority populations are the ones who feel squeezed when more affluent, generally white, residents rediscover cities and move in. I have a lot of sympathy for long-timers who fear losing control of their neighborhoods and, in too many cases, their very homes as rents and property taxes go up with increased value brought on my increased demand. But, on the other hand, the environmental, fiscal and, yes, social benefits of revitalization and repopulation of our older, frequently distressed neighborhoods are so substantial that I believe strongly that they must continue.