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Gentrification: Positive and Negative Sides

Gentrification, the process of change aimed at raising the economic value of a neighborhood, is highly controversial. On the one hand, it increases property value in the area and provides opportunities for new businesses. On the other hand, it often results in the local community’s interests being disregarded and displaced due to the inability to afford the increased property prices. This essay will consider the concept of gentrification and its significance in New York City. It will also examine victims and beneficiaries of gentrification as well as some examples of losses and benefits of the process.

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The process of gentrification is supposed to improve the economic level of life and enhance old established neighborhoods. The term was first coined in 1964 by British sociologist Ruth Glass, who defined gentrification as a process in which “all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced, and the whole social character of the district is changed” (Sutton, 2018, p. 66). The displacement is achieved through the renovation of the area and the attraction of new investments. Although the process can be viewed as economically beneficial for all stakeholders involved, including the local community, significant cultural, ethnic, and ethical issues are routinely raised. Gentrification is commonplace for most developed countries, including the United States of America, the UK, and Canada. Nevertheless, some countries and cities are more affected than others due to their advantageous economic position. For example, in New York, it occurs at a worrying rate, with many neighborhoods, specifically African American districts, being redeveloped (Sutton, 2018). Displacement from one’s community can have a severe adverse impact on one’s life and well-being. Thus, gentrification is of extreme relevance to modern society and requires scientific exploration.

Although it is a controversial process, gentrification has both advantages and disadvantages. It can have a substantial positive impact on the economic and business development of the community. Some researchers claim that gentrification enhances the development of the cities, reshaping them and facilitating investment in poorer neighborhoods (Easton et al., 2017). The influx of funds in an area can be beneficial for the community. Thus, if businesses and companies choose to open a facility of any kind in the redeveloped site, they contribute to its economic development due to many new workplaces being created. Furthermore, Easton et al. (2017) claim that gentrification can be a helpful instrument to unite people preserving cultural and ethnic diversity. Thus, gentrification can positively change the city when it is planned carefully, respecting the rights of all minorities and cultural unities and providing new opportunities for the community.

Nevertheless, it can also have an adverse impact on the citizens of the redeveloped area. With the new individuals moving into the neighborhood, the ethnic and cultural diversity of the district can be harmed (Easton et al., 2017). In addition, gentrification can lead to displacement, discrimination, and racial tensions being exacerbated. Segregation can also become an issue when many white people move into a traditionally African American neighborhood. With a sizable number of people losing jobs to gentrification with small businesses unable to compete with the incomers, criminal activity can also become a concern. Thus, gentrification can have a considerable negative impact on the members of the local community.

Gentrification is beneficial for large-scale businesses and corporations. By extension, persons with investments in such companies can also be viewed as beneficiaries of gentrification. Such companies benefit from the area being redeveloped, opening new stores or offices and attracting new customers. Upper-middle-class and upper-class citizens can profit from gentrification as it broadens the property market for them, with some individuals being able to benefit from renting out or flipping houses in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Thus, individuals and businesses with greater economic opportunities and means can profit from an area being gentrified. However, it should be noted that, as a rule, these companies and persons are new to the area.

In contrast, small businesses of the redeveloped communities can be viewed as victims of gentrification. Small companies that existed before the districts’ renovation are likely to be eliminated because of the increased rent costs. In addition, a redeveloped neighborhood attracts new companies and organizations that can offer a broader range of products and services, increasing the competition in the area. Moreover, the new high-quality companies and new designs of buildings can impact the lifestyle of the neighborhood, shifting it to a more formal one. It can also lead to the smaller, informal companies not being favored by the newcomers to the area. Thus, small business owners cannot benefit from their neighborhood being gentrified.

Furthermore, the members of local communities do not benefit from the area being redeveloped due to few opportunities being provided to them. Thus, although gentrification can create new employment opportunities, they are rarely given to the indigenous citizens. According to Easton et al. (2017), poorer households cannot improve their position and circumstances within the newly redeveloped area and are displaced as a result. For instance, property prices and rent can increase significantly due to gentrification, leaving some families unable to afford to live in the neighborhood. In addition, if they are not displaced, the indigenous community can suffer from racial, ethnic, and economic discrimination (Johnson, 2019). Thus, the community of the redeveloped neighborhood is adversely affected by gentrification.

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In summary, the rights and needs of the local community, including minorities and cultural units, should be respected when considering the gentrification of an area. Gentrification has various positive aspects, such as increased property values, economic and commercial opportunities, and lower crime rates. However, it can lead to an ethical shift, which can be used maliciously in discriminative aims. Government planning on gentrification requires amendments and should be oriented only on economic growth but also on preserving racial diversity.

References

Easton, S., Lees, L., & Tate, N. (2017). Measuring and mapping displacement: The problem of quantification in the battle against gentrification. Urban Studies, 57(2), 31–44.

Johnson, O. (2019). Choice and gentrification. In I. Ellen & J. Steil (Ed.), The dream revisited: contemporary debates about housing, segregation, and opportunity (pp. 329-330). Columbia University Press.

Sutton, S. (2018). Gentrification and the increasing significance of racial transition in New York City 1970–2010. Urban Affairs Review, 56(1), 65–95.

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