Sunday, October 26, 2014

Matt Bruenig — Gentrification

I don’t write about gentrification, but I read about it often. Most of what I read about gentrification is less lucid than I’d prefer, generally because it is vague, myopic, or needlessly narrative. This has started to bug me, and so I figured I’d try my own hand at writing about the topic. 
As far as I can tell, gentrification is not a sui generis problem. Rather, it is just a particular instance of a broader phenomenon that can be summed up as follows:

When (1) a rich person and a poor person (2) vie for (3) the same resources, the rich person gets them and the poor person does not.
The numbers in the above statement demarcate what I take to be the three significant elements of gentrification. Nearly all gentrification analysis focuses on one or more of these three elements. Potential mechanisms for preventing gentrification can be grouped into these three buckets as well.
Matt Bruenig

Very simply, gentrification results from scarcity of desirable real estate, usually location of land. Then those that can afford rising prices and the resulting higher taxes force out those that can't. There was a mass exodus of the arts community from San Francisco in the Eighties, for example, with many moving to cheaper spot in Northern California above the Bay Area. Similarly with Greenwich Village in Manhattan, as artists moved to lofts in SoHo, which later became gentrified itself, and the art community moved on to TiBeCa, and then Williamsburg, with many just quitting the City altogether. In fact, a lot Americans who would have been residents of bohemian communities in the US are now becoming ex-pats, similar to the "the Lost Generation" of the Twenties. And now, many of those areas are becoming gentrified, too.

This presages things to come in the rest of the country as cheap space shrinks with population growth. First it was the arts communities and now it is former "slums" that are being recaptured as the land values increase. As a result the poor are increasingly joining the artists as always "moving on."

See also
New Geography
Joel Kotkin

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