Gentrification: Definition, Pros & Cons

Instructor: Monica Gragg

Monica has taught college-level courses in Tourism, HR and Adult Education. She has a Master's in Education and is three years into a PhD.

This lesson explains a very sensitive and complex topic, gentrification. We define gentrification, why it's so controversial and discuss the negative and positive aspects.

What is Gentrification?

Gentrification is a tongue-twisting word, and its meaning is just as complex. Gentrification is when a low-income or deteriorating neighborhood is revitalized. Local governments, real estate businesses and other companies invest in new buildings, housing, and retail to attract the upper middle class. Now, the once poor, crime-stricken neighborhood is a thriving utopia of financially stable, trendy, young singles, and couples. Sounds good, right? Well, there is a big problem linked to gentrification. Low-income families are forced to move out and the upper middle classes, primarily white, move in.

What Happens When a Neighborhood is Gentrified

Let's dive a little deeper. Gentrification does not happen overnight. It starts when a few old, abandoned or foreclosed homes are sold to middle-class people at a good rate. Or the government may initiate an effort to clean up a neighborhood by promoting commercial real estate at a discounted price. Think of an old industrial area in a big city. Manufacturing is not coming back to the U.S., so these industrial buildings are turned into office spaces, trendy restaurants, retail, and luxury apartments. You can see why there is a class and cultural shift because the communities that lived there for generations cannot afford the rising cost and living standards. However, the upper middle class, who are also primarily white, can afford the rising costs.

Why People Hate It

When the low-income families move out, their quality of life drops. They have longer commutes to work and school, less access to resources, the community becomes scattered, and the crime rate within the new community increases. It's not just about forcing generations of communities out of the city; it's also about the racial divide and cultural differences.

For example, in Harlem, New York, wealthy new neighbors that paid millions for their homes were in dispute with the African drumming community that played their drums in a nearby park. It gained national attention because there was no winning solution. Do you stop a four-decade long tradition that is part of the Harlem culture because wealthy new neighbors don't like it?

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