The progression of urban development is almost impossible to stop, as each city changes because of its past, current, and future residents. The social problem of gentrification is also a factor that changes cities’ environments and affects all residents. While one may view gentrification as a process that only brings difficulties to the neighborhood, it is necessary to focus attention on the underlying changes that this renovation brings. Without a doubt, gentrification creates many issues for people who have lived in the area before newcomers. Nevertheless, this process cannot be controlled, although its negative consequences can be mitigated with mutual support and open dialogue.
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The most surprising fact about urban living that I have learned is related to the problems that all residents – old and new – face because of gentrification. It was clear to me that people with lower incomes and less stable jobs suffer as a result of more privileged individuals settling in their neighborhoods. However, the hidden problems of this process were striking to me. People who do not want to engage with the new place of living create problems not only for their neighbors but also for themselves because they neglect the changing environment, losing all control over future developments. On the other hand, if newcomers actively engage with the local culture, they can positively impact the lives of all citizens. Thus, this course showed that interaction and active participation might become vital elements in making communities more stable and prosperous.
The initial separation of new and old residents encouraged by landlords, as noted by deMause, also provided me with a new perspective. Residents have to interact with each other in order to create a community that shares ideas about their occupied space. Otherwise, many issues can go unnoticed until it is too late to fix them. All improvements can originate from people who know the history and the layout of the area in order to support the existing citizens and give them a platform to share their opinions. Similarly, new residents have to show that they want to become a part of the area’s society in order to maintain living conditions for all people and not just themselves. As Rose points out, “being part of a tide of political will to push for better policies and stronger local communities” might solve some problems of gentrification. This ideology is proactive – it encourages newcomers to utilize their feelings of guilt to create a space that unites people.
Dynamic change can be positive if new residents remember to follow a number of steps. First of all, the dialogue with the community mentioned above is crucial in learning about local issues and concerns. However, this conversation should not be only verbal – it also has to be supported by actions. As deMause notes, “think locally, shop locally” should become a motto for people because local businesses need financial support to compete with newly arriving companies. Therefore, communication and active advocacy for the occupied territory have to be considered while negotiating urban change. If people come into neighborhoods with their own initiatives and opinions, they may fail to listen to the community, creating a conflict between the residents and contributing to their limited outreach.
Gentrification is a process that cannot be stopped entirely because neighborhoods with different income levels still exist. Thus, it is necessary for people who want to relocate to an area that has lower rent to be mindful of their choices. They have to keep in mind that the problem of community displacement is real in such places. Furthermore, they have to consider what can be done to mitigate their impact on the established residents and businesses before arriving. Active listening and the ability to raise the voices of others by using one’s privilege can be the first steps towards helping the neighborhood to maintain its environment.
deMause, Neil. “The Gentrifier’s Guide to Not Being an Asshole.” Village Voice. 2015, Web.
Rose, Kalima. “Your Guilt Trip Won’t Stop Gentrification.” The Guardian. 2015, Web.
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