Fight Gentrification With Local Mobilization

Gentrification has become a force to be reckoned with, as it spreads unhindered across not only New York, but also many other cities, nationally and globally. The process causes the displacement of low income residents in favor of higher income residents who can afford large increases in rent pricing. This residential displacement, along with “increasing demolition, affordable housing problems, and market failure,” all work as strategies to further “renewal” and gentrification, especially the residential displacement, which has become one of the “primary dangers” for those concerned by how the market has become structured to exclude lower income residents (Newman and Wily 27). The increasing prices of living in gentrified neighborhoods exposes the population benefitting most from the process at the expense of those who cannot afford them, creating a very efficient mask that looks like progress and improvement on the outside, but hides, underneath, the utilization of income inequality to choose who has access to these improvements.

In Loretta Lees’s Ted talk on gentrification, she discusses how it has become a global problem, seen even in London and in the city she spoke in, Brixton. She exposes the ways in which cities have put forth and idealized the implementation of gentrification in neighborhoods through words like “urban regeneration, urban renaissance, creative city, mixed communities and urban sustainability,” indicating that this process has become a kind of branding, like the names of East Village and Midtown Manhattan. The actual implementation utilizes a trickle-down effect: if low and high income come together in a neighborhood, then all of the social capital, education, and behaviors of the high and middle income population will trickle down to reach the poor, which of course does not, and has never, worked in any part of history as we know it in America. The poor are, instead, exploited and displaced to make more room for the higher income populations, and, therefore, gentrification becomes a polarizing force in communities all around the world.

She puts forth alternative strategies to curb this process’s destructive influence. The most important problem with gentrification is that the people do not realize that the process is negative for vulnerable populations. Since corporates have a “vested interest in selling gentrification as a positive process,” it becomes necessary for people to fight back against it through education and mobilization of the communities most affected. A combination of protests and powerful local committees can be used to push the consciences of the landlords, as was done by the Park Slope 5th Avenue Committee, through various creative policies, including uses of local religious leaders and legal help for tenants to push for negotiations with landlords involving the increases in private rents. Overall, she calls for the communities to take back their own power and implement their own strategies, such as community land trusts and resident-controlled community housing associations, without influence from the private developers and government that advocate gentrification.

This process, although becoming more and more mainstream, is not new but has gone through many changes and “mutations” (Stabrowski 797). Despite how long gentrification has lasted, with countless scholarly research projects done on the subject, it seems that there has not been enough done to put stop to gentrification and its negative consequences. With Loretta Lees’s idea of local mobilization, we may be able to utilize this as an alternative for improving a community with accommodations for the vulnerable population.

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