Gentrification, Why the Only Responsible Action is Political Action

I’ve met a number of folks overseas asking me about where I bought property in DC (in a historically Black neighborhood) that is bordered by a historically Latino neighborhood. As a solidly middle-income person of immigrant origin, living in a renovated row house where each level is a separate apartment, therefore increasing the utility needs of the house and the cost of the property, but also backs into low-income housing, it’s a legitimate question – what is this neighborhood – what is the character, am I displacing people, what do I do about that? Questions many have asked. As this socio-economic debate began being consciously discussed and people desired to make socially conscious choices in where they choose to locate, we’ve seen a proliferation of articles regarding the topic. For a primer on gentrification in the U.S. see this collaborative piece by the University of California’s schools. I personally find this academic’s quest to decide where to live in Chicago as an urban planner studying gentrification enlightening – because it demonstrates what my neighborhood does too – you can have diversity and amenities, but you can’t do it without changing the character of a neighborhood and likely without displacing people of a lower socio-economic class.

There are a lot of interviews with urban planners and researchers that point to the same in New York, across the country in historically immigrant communities (like Chinatowns), and in DC, where libraries across the city are hosting Anacostia Community Museum’s Right to the City, describing the changes six different neighborhoods have undergone in the last several decades. To be fair, some also see benefit in gentrification as demonstrated by those who moved from NYC to Philadelphia, as documented by this 31 year resident.