The Gentrification Conundrum

NB133611-1image courtesy of  Jacobin

As we get older and older and people become more and more volitile the idea of gentrification (gen – tri – fa – kay – shen).  Gentrification becomes more and more of a possibility in many cities across the United States as the millennials (mill – in – e – als) continue to graduate and enter the work force. The need to house them becomes more of a problem because unlike most groups, they aren’t looking to buy houses, they are looking to stay in the midst of downtown where the entertainment is going down.

Ironically most cities have lost the thrill of the downtown environment. Many cities abandoned that philosophy as strip malls and shopping malls emerged in the late 80’s early 90’s to accomodate Generation X. Unfortunately for many, of the patrons of that era, their offspring don’t entail the same visions and prefer more of a classic lifestyle of public entertainment than simplicity and private indulgement.

Here lies America’s problem. Gentrification is happening in pockets of American cities that have been dominated for years by Section 8 housing and poor economic conditions primarily by African Americans, poor whites, and Latino populations. Areas that have property that has low value are being reconstructed and are now becoming money makers for those who can afford to buy the property in abundance because the government owns it and is selling it, or property owners owe so much money in back taxes that they can’t pay out.

The conundrum occurs because there are some people that have invested in the property but now that the property is worth more after gentrification occurs the tax value is more than they can afford so they have to sell. Even though they may obtain a substantial increase on their investment, they are still leaving the deal short changed.

There are those who would argue that gentrification would never occur if there was less violence in these pockets that are being cleaned up. There is a lot of truth to that statement. There are also those that would argue that if the people who lived in these pockets would have stayed on top of keeping the property up to standards, gentrification would have never been an option in that area.

Here lies the conundrum. If you’re a young couple, looking to start a family. Are you more likely to want your kids in an area that is infested with millenials who are looking for places to workout, shop, and have a nightlife, or would you rather live in a neighborhood where the lifestyle is unpredictable? Maybe there’s drugs or gang violence. Maybe theres nothing around there that contributes to paying tax dollars to make the schools in the area better.

How do we fix this problem? How do we level the playing field? Is safety worth the price tag? If you think about it, most of the people who are losing the most from gentrificaiton aren’t upstanding, but people who are benificiaries of the system. Sure there are those who are doing the right thing and circumstances will not allow them to prosper. However those people fell into a situation of betting on people who let them down.

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