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Thread: The reality of urban gentrification (PLANETIZEN Op-Ed)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
    Feb 2004
    Philadelphia, PA

    The reality of urban gentrification (PLANETIZEN Op-Ed)

    Anti-Gentrification Editorial from PLANETIZEN

    Reading Charles Shaw's editorial piece from PLANETIZEN (in response to John Norquist's editorial from a few weeks ago about how fears of the negative effects of gentrification are overblown) gets me fired-up. While I do agree with him regarding cities' wasteful public spending on stadiums and giving outrageous tax breaks to corporations, I am really put-off by the more radical suggestions of a supposedly malicious, racist agenda of urban reinvestment.

    The author's nebulous connection between gentrification and the war on drugs, the decline of the independent farmer, and sweatshop labor in developing countries, as well as the use of the term "prison-industrial complex," paints him to be the very sort of "arm-chair liberal" that John Norquist astutely pointed out in his piece. In my mind, the conspiratorial tone debases what could have been a well-reasoned essay on the need to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification on the poor, and instead turns it into a 'wallowing in the warm muck of stagnation, poverty, crime, and despair,' socialist, stick-it-to-the-man manifesto that smacks of the same Coleman Young-esque antagonism that was a major accellerant of white flight, middle class flight, and business flight from cities in the first place (certainly not the only reason for such flight, but undeniable, especially beginning in the 1970's).

    I look forward to a range of responses.

  2. #2

    Oct 2001
    Solano County, California
    There was a hilarious article in one of the Bay Area's weeklies on "Mission District Residence Application" from the dot-com boom era. "Are you an unemployed lesbian performance artist of color? +10 points.

  3. #3

    Oct 2004
    Arlington, Va.
    I think that a good rule of thumb is that if someone think that there is a conspiracy, that's a pretty good indication that there isn't one. Most actions, especially by the federal government, are so clunky and badly coordinated that they hardly ever have the intended results (this does not mean that I believe that government should do nothing, however). The War on Drugs, though in my opinion indefensible, hardly had as its the goal the displacement of the poor so that yuppies could gentrify the neighborhoods...the fact that it might ultimately have had this effect, in some instances, is irrelevant.

    Shaw's point about the relationship between the decline of rural America and the state of its cities is a bit more interesting...I think that he is referring to the tendency for some rural communities to actively attract large scale prisons to boost their population numbers, which allows for greater government funding.

    Needless to say, he exaggerates his case throughout...I don't think that the primary effect of TIFs has been the dispossession of the poor by corporate America, for instance.

  4. #4
    I thought the piece was sad. While cities are better off when they can attract middle class and wealthy residents in addition to the poor, gentrification can have a negative impact on some people. Linking gentrification to all those other issues, no matter how heartfelt the author may be, does not motivate people to address the impacts of gentrification, it just turns people off.

    Gentrification's impacts need further study. We should be looking at the emotional impact on families unable to stay in their communities, the health impacts of dispersing people and the economic impacts of rising housing prices on people with stagnant incomes. A good look at gentrification would examine the role of assisted housing on keeping neighborhoods diverse, the utility of rent control (with and without provisions that decontrol units when curent tenants move out) and the use of government subsidies for upper income homebuyers. It would be intereseting to know if the costs to governments to increase services to these neighborhoods outweigh the benefits in increased revenue. So much we don't really know when we talk about this issue!

  5. #5
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    May 2003
    Staff meeting
    I was equally displeased with Mr. Shaw's editorial.

    All it was doing was blaming and accusing others for a phenomenon that is way more complex than I think he understands.

    Adversarial rhetoric does nothing when trying to mitigate the negative impacts of this market/economic trend.

    Though, Norquist was rather condescending in his op-ed.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

  6. #6
    Apr 2004
    Detroit, MI
    inner-city residents complain about gentrification even here in detroit- and the demand to move into the city is low and there is plenty of room to absorb whoever wants to move here. (any takers?)

    however, our property rates near downtown are so inflated that it is hard for anyone that is not an long-established professional to buy a house or condo. the rental rates remain low (thanks heavens) but for those youngsters or lower-middle class folk with a dream of owning a home near downtown: too bad, even in detroit.


  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Where the weak are killed and eaten.
    Quote Originally posted by boo
    however, our property rates near downtown are so inflated that it is hard for anyone that is not an long-established professional to buy a house or condo. the rental rates remain low (thanks heavens) but for those youngsters or lower-middle class folk with a dream of owning a home near downtown: too bad, even in detroit.

    I own a house in Detroit, I must be loaded (sarcasm)! Actually I bought it 10 years ago for $35,000. Hardly sounds like its expensive. What kills me is the new construction costs... the $300k ++ for a condo in areas with property taxes of 75 mills or so. Once the caps come off these folks will be stuck paying full property taxes.

    I agree there is plenty of room in Detroit for folks to move in, over a million moved out and took their factories, jobs, and stores with them. I don't want too many of them moving back though as it will increase my commutte time and I won't be able to find parking places at Eastern Market or for Lion's games.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
    Sep 2001
    skating on thin ice
    While slightly off topic, it is related to gentrification. This comic strip and commentry is pretty funny.

    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

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