Gentrification: Positive Change or Destruction?

By Evelyn Gonzalez ‘18
Feminism Columnist

Gentrification has become an unfortunate trend in most urban areas, such as the Los Angeles area, and has had many socioeconomic consequences for the communities that reside in these spaces. Conflicting views on gentrification signal its importance as a topic of constant discussion and analysis. The arguments on either side illustrate that gentrification has a strong effect on certain communities but whether or not it brings with it positive change or destruction is still being debated.

Current perspectives on gentrification in Los Angeles are multifaceted.Many pieces of literature are not focused on further analysis of whether or not gentrification exists within specific urban areas but rather they have moved a step beyond and have begun to argue what its probable effects on these communities are. One of the ways that gentrification signals a changing neighborhood is the alterations made to the demographics of that area. Many communities who reside in these areas come from marginalized and immigrant backgrounds. As gentrification begins to occur certain areas see a rise in rent as a result of increasing property values, commercial business displacement, and a lack of affordable housing that results in the forced relocation of many individuals who can no longer afford the skyrocketing prices.

According to a report entitled Health Effects of Gentrification, written by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the real estate aspect of gentrification is defined as “the transformation of neighborhoods from low value to high value. This change has the potential to cause displacement of long-time residents and businesses ... when long-time or original neighborhood residents move from a gentrified area because of higher rents, mortgages, and property taxes”. Apart from the issue of housing and residency , “Gentrification is an economic and health issue that affects a community’s history and culture and reduces social capital. It often shifts a neighbourhood’s characteristics, e.g., racial-ethnic composition and household income, by adding new stores and resources in previously run-down neighbourhoods.” Gentrification puts a large financial and emotional strain on poor communities of color in particular and forces these individuals to try and adapt to these impossibly fast changing circumstances while facing the threat of compulsory displacement.

While many have discussed the detrimental impacts of gentrification on Los Angeles amongst other urban areas, some authors have argued that the term gentrification has undeservedly garnered too much negative attention. According to an article in the LA Downtown News entitled, “The Myth of Downtown Gentrification” the author posits that gentrification also signals the evolution of a community. “In a practical sense, gentrification refers to a run-down or deteriorated area that improves as middle-class or more affluent individuals move in, and in the process displace poor residents, many of whom have long histories in the neighborhood.” However, take for example the usage of the words ‘run-down,’ ‘deteriorated’ and ‘improvement’ in their analysis of what gentrification looks like. The language used to discuss gentrification illustrates a larger societal problem, one that points to racially and classed based ideas about what constitutes betterment and progress.

 Gentrification signals a changing community but the question of who these developments benefit gives us a lens with which to examine major issues plaguing our communities, that of housing and development as well as issues of income disparity and class based discrimination.