Today’s Awesome Word is actually yesterday’s. We apologize ever so sincerely for delaying your Fri-daily word. And so, without further ado:
If you’ve driven around the south or west sides of Chicago, or some suburbs, or the city of East St. Louis… or the city of Detroit… or many, many other urban areas of the country, you will have noticed sprawling areas of abandonment, neglect, and general blight.
The decrepit houses, boarded-up stores, and vacant lots of such areas are often homes to those whom we consider “underprivileged.” Such regions tend to be higher in crime, lower in income, healthcare, and even such simple things as parks and grocery stores.
Obviously, this is an undesirable circumstance.
From time to time, cities and those who run them like to engage in varying efforts to uplift these downtrodden neighborhoods. One of the more successful methods of doing this is also the simplest—move in the rich folks.
To gentrify (JEN’trif’eye) an area is to buy up its land, houses, stores, and other property and renovate or rebuild them. This is usually done by middle- or upper-class persons—those of sufficient affluence to buy property and remodel, rebuild, or develop it from the ground up.
Gentrification works, at least in one sense. If nice, new housing, and a wide variety of high quality stores begin popping up in forlorn neighborhoods, persons with higher standards of living and more cash to spend begin to move in. Property values rise, which increases the worth of those lots neighboring or near the ones which have been directly improved by gentrification. As a result, those properties become more desirable, and they, too, are purchased and improved upon.
Although this may sound like a perfect solution, it is not without serious flaws and substantial controversy. The people who live in the bleaker parts of our cities are almost always those who have very little disposable income. When we gentrify an area, we make it nicer. Doing so makes it more expensive—indeed, it is this increase in worth which motivates those who gentrify neighborhoods and makes gentrification profitable. The result is that the poor families who lived in the areas originally can no longer afford to live there. Even if their houses have not physically changed, the increase in property worth will result in higher taxes, and sooner or later, they’ll have to move.
In a cold, calculating sense, gentrification has been shown to work for restoring forgotten urban areas. In a human sense, however, it often has the undesired (and perhaps unintended) result of steamrolling poverty-stricken persons out of their homes and into other, possibly even more wretched, parts of the city. While it may help the city’s bottom line and the pocketbooks of those who organize the gentrification, it does little good—and often, some harm—to the original residents of the affected areas.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs. Mark is an editor for The Jet Fuel Review and Blog. He is an Aviation major, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer. Mark is a sophomore and works a few hours a week as a tutor in the Writing Center in this school year.