Political and Social Concerns with Gentrification

Political and Social Concerns with Gentrification

Political and social concerns with gentrification have waned and waxed since the initial coining of the term in 1964 to explain the movement of middle and low-income families into the former neighborhoods of London. From the first time the term was used, gentrification has become a subject of debates for both policymakers and scholars in Europe, the United States and elsewhere (Lopes de Souza 1236).  Some scholars have argued that gentrification is beneficial in boosting the economy and living standards of individuals, while others have blamed it for turning vibrant ethnic neighborhoods into something uninteresting and bland. However, rather than focusing on a few negative impacts of gentrification like the dilution of ethnic neighborhoods, people should understand that gentrification is essential as it helps in eradicating gang violence, encouraging diversity and boosting the local economy.

Anecdotal Evidence of Gentrification in San Francisco

A walk through the heart of the Mission District of San Francisco is entirely altered with the crowded roadside fruit markets, smells of pupusas and taquerias and lively music. Whereas this energy still exists, it is rapidly being muted by the inversion of the “techie” (Global Site Plans n.p.) They have improved San Francisco’s economy and placed it on the forefront as a technology hub. However, some scholars have argued that the technology boom in the city has diluted the formerly vibrant diversity in the City.  With technology powerhouses like Twitter, Facebook and Google establishing their operations in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the cost of living in the district has escalated to one of the most expensive in the U.S. The city has been swept by a rapid and ruthless wave of gentrification.
The Mission District along with other parts of the city has been affected by gentrification waves, caused by the technology environment. Businesses, families, and individuals are feeling the impacts and are being pushed out of the city they have lived in as their home for a long time (Global Site Plans n.p.). Established residents view the changes as a form of gentrification homicide sweeping out the poor residents to create space for the techie community. After living in rent-controlled apartments for decades, residents in the city are getting forced out of their residential homes left and right to create room for technology workers who can pay double. A small single bedroom apartment for which a resident may have paid a monthly rent of 900 U.S. Dollars is currently being charged between 1800 and 2300 Dollars per month. Many residents in the Mission have continued to receive notes ordering them to vacate their rental apartment so that they can be changed to condominiums.
The Mission District’s charm has also attracted a pool of technology workers who are whisked to Silicon Valley by Google buses. The free buses provided by Google for tech workers have stirred up anger and controversy (Global Site Plans n.p.). The buses have also gained fame for illegally occupying public spaces at transit stops. As such, they have become visual reminders of the timing pulse of the initially lucrative Mission District. Some people view such unwanted gentrification in the District as a declaration that entitlement is necessitated by money. Besides, residents have staged numerous protests against the free buses especially in Bay Area, with protesting residents trying to block the buses holding signs written, Eviction-Free San Francisco,” “San Francisco, Not for Sale” and “Get Off the Bus; Join US.” Anonymous tags and alarming graffiti have also surfaced in the district threatening the new tech workers to vacate the city.The population of Latinos in the Mission District is rapidly diminishing. Warm Tortillas, sounds of Latino music, and the commonly heard Spanish language are slowly fading away and being replaced by smells of coffee shops littered with skinny jeans, laptops, thick-rimmed glasses and alternative music (Global Site Plans n.p.). It is difficult to predict whether the invasion of the techie virus will take away every aspect that makes San Francisco what it is: A hub of musicians, artists, new and old age hippies, architects and the working class, bound together in a tight-knight community. A relatively fixed population of more than 800000 residents with no room for expansion because of urban density and small land mass relays a complex problem for the district in accommodating current residents as well as catering for the newcomers who have littered the city.

Pros and Cons of Gentrification

As wealthy people settle in originally poor neighborhoods, the median income of the area improves. Consequently, cash flows for local businesses increase making local business investments to be more desirable (Lopes de Souza 1238). Within a short period more businesses are established, wages increase and more jobs created. For instance, Milwaukee city was increasingly becoming abandoned and segregated as wealthy people migrated to the suburbs post-industrial period. During the early 2000s, new restaurants, waterfronts, and bars renewed the area in a revitalized nightlife and altered the city’s downward spiral.
The benefits of gentrification stretch beyond the private sector. Ideally, gentrification avails a fiscal windfall for city management (Lopes de Souza 1240). More affluent people come to the city and contribute more taxes to the city coffers. Also, gentrification causes an appreciation of home values, which begets higher property tax revenues to the government. The increased tax revenues enable local governments to increase investment in public infrastructures like public schools, transportation, citizen services, and law enforcement. For instance in Milwaukee, gentrification enabled the government to get the required revenue to fund a vast transit project that revived the city.
Generally, the long-term positive impacts of gentrification are in most cases associated with improvements in social diversity. Gentrification leads to an increase in social capital, which may be defined as the link between people that enhance productivity, knowledge, and skills (Lopes de Souza 1241). The growth leads to more restaurants and shops, more vibrant neighborhood and more employment opportunities. In addition to stimulating economic growth of a place, increased economic activity may provide substantial incomes for poor residents who also benefit from diverse sets of shopping options and services. Honestly, before gentrification, people living in poor neighborhoods may have small shopping places, forcing them to pay higher prices for essential products. However, with gentrification, affordable shopping centers, high-end cafes and boutiques, and supermarkets are often established making the residents able to purchase foodstuffs at affordable prices.Notably, the benefits of gentrification are usually long-lasting. Exposure to affluent neighborhoods enhances the probability of upward economic and social mobility, especially among the youth and children (Lopes de Souza 1243). In alternative words, gentrification avails a social ladder that eliminates social inequalities, by allowing people of different backgrounds and social status to intermingle. Gentrification, therefore, acts as a dominant force in eradicating social disparities and poverty.
However, in some cases, renovation replaces the unstable and poor residents including their unique businesses with the wealthy. As noted by the Berkeley Urban Displacement Project, more than 25 percent of San Francisco’s residents are at risk of being displaced (Sheppard 18). As communities attract skilled workers, big corporations and new businesses, the cost of housing skyrockets, thus pricing out low and middle-income residents. However, it is never the usual case for these residents to be displaced. Residents with low incomes tend to struggle with financial stability, making them more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of change. Low-income residents may lack spouses and job security forcing them to move. Specifically, the elderly single mothers, people living with disabilities and other vulnerable individuals may be displaced to other places with adverse connotations.
Poor buyers within gentrifying neighborhoods may be unable to compete for housing, making them shift to more impoverished areas, where they can get houses at affordable costs. Although gentrification may boost the entire economy, it essentially transfers problems over to other streets without providing long-lasting solutions (Sheppard 20). Such displacements may have negative implications like psychological effects on the victims. Besides, in some looser markets like Cleveland’s upward pressure on salaries and wages supersedes the upward pressure on the cost of housing, which can be quite beneficial to unstable and low-income residents.Particularly in abandoned and shuttered neighborhoods, gentrification improves property ownership rates. The increase in the rates of property ownership through the construction of new developments aids in the reduction of crime. Ideally, unoccupied properties often act as hideouts for criminals (Sheppard 22). The decline of the number of vacant properties combined with well-funded law enforcement aids in reducing crime, especially in gentrified neighborhoods. Previous residents may also benefit from some developments brought by gentrification like higher wages and an increased number of jobs. However, a more significant chunk of it may favor the newcomers who may be well educated. Therefore gentrification also causes some economic, social and physical impacts that may cause political conflicts and heightened racial, cultural and class differences. Residents may feel excluded, bitter and ignored in their communities.
It is normal for change to involve losers and winners and in most cases, regarding gentrification, it is the poor, and lowly educated residents that lose their apartments, homes, and community. Involving those affected by the problem, make it easy to find the solution that will be accepted by all than locking them out.  However, it is important to note that the impacts of gentrification vary broadly, making developers, citizens and governments to struggle with how to establish a win-win solution for all the parties. Notably, haters tend to ignore that gentrification helps in eradicating gang violence, encouraging diversity and boosting the local economy. Therefore, the positives of gentrification far outweigh the merely logical advantage of opposing change and progress— cheaper rents and old architecture that can crumble any time.

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