Gentrification is probably the most charged term in contemporary urban studies. (Maybe
“sprawl” beats it)
A struggle to define it.
What is it?
Why does it happen?
Is it a good or bad thing?
Not just a scholarly debate.
Only about 1000 or so scholarly books with the word “gentrification” in it.
But over 3 million web pages.
In some ways, scholarship hasn’t caught up to changing landscape on ground.
What is Gentrification?
• Debate over how to define it.
Influx of wealthier residents into poorer district –>
direct or indirect displacement.
Direct displacement eviction, harassment from landlord
Indirect displacement ex: social networks (church, extended family) disrupted
Or too expensive for next gen. to stay near parents
Or new boutiques too expensive to shop
Or feeling alienated, out of place
What about when working-class renovate own homes?
What if no displacement? (displacement is hard to measure)
Does gentrification sometimes replace rather than displace?
Does it matter what race or ethnicity either group is?
(Ex: Are there African-American and Latino gentrifiers? New immigrants?) Short History of Gentrification
1960s – 1970s -- “Classic Gentrification”
* “Gentrification” coined in 1964 by Ruth Glass
English sociologist studies London.
Majority of London losing pop. to suburbs
But Glass sees tiny countertrend
New middle-class (“gentry”) rehabbing old homes
Islington – an early ‘hippy’ neighborhood
* Americans adopt term “gentrification” in 1970s
First sociologists discover term
Newspapers first use “gentrification” in late 1970s
In 1960s, people use other names - “brownstoning,” “sandblasting”
Am. cities experiencing massive flight to suburbs
But small countertrend
Ex: Dupont Circle
Young “pioneers” moved into poor inner-city areas
Purchased and renovated old townhouses and Victorian homes. Subdivided townhouses single-family
Often displace poorer renters.
Redlined areas - little gov. or bank funding available
Renovators often used “sweat equity”
Sociologists in 1970s first study “gentrification”
Develop theoretical models (“first artists move in, than developers, etc…)