Thursday, 5 November 2015

Is Gentrification a Myth?

Is Gentrification a Myth?
  • We are constantly fed information on how gentrification is ruining neighborhoods and causing great distress to local households. But the facts and figures suggest the opposite is true.
  • 'Gentrification' is a word used by left-wingers to scare people about the effects of innovation, enterprise and evolution.
Two Saturdays ago a large of anti-gentrification protesters attacked the UK's first and only cereal cafĂ©, in Shoreditch, a “hip” area in East London. The “Cereal Killer Cafe” is propertied by two working class brothers from Belfast both past pupils of  Grosvenor Grammar school in east Belfast.  Why has this cafe garnered such fierce animosity to the extent that a violent protest occurred? A backlash against gentrification is believed to be the root cause.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class tastes.  'Gentrifiers' are often wealthy individuals who mould run-down urban areas to suit middle class standards and tastes, and it can be argued that  such changes displace the existing population of the area. The locals feel alienated by their new surroundings, believing that the area  has lost its soul and culture.

However, after conducting fairly extensive research, I have found that a lot of the claims over the negative effects of “gentrification” are fictitious or at least highly-exaggerated. Anti-gentrification activists argue, for example, that it results in local households feeling displaced and having to relocate when studies have shown the opposite. A study undertaken by Columbia University in 2007 showed that disadvantaged households in gentrifying neighborhoods were actually 15% less likely to relocate than in households in non-gentrifying neighborhoods.
It is argued that gentrification causes the area to become populated by the white middle and upper class. However, statistics show the depopulation of black households in cities often started before the 'gentrifiers' arrived; for example in Washington the black population peaked in 1970 and has been declining ever since - long before any gentrification occurred.
Research undertaken by Columbia University in 2009 found that diversity in gentrified neighborhoods had in fact increased in terms of income, race and education. A study in 2009 by the Journal of Urban Economics found no direct link between black  families' displacement and gentrification: the overriding factor was  educational attainment - or lack of. Gentrification was found to be  largely beneficial to educated black households and thus appeals to these families. Uneducated black families, on the other hand,  were pushed out of their neighborhoods. It is obvious that  this is not a direct effect of gentrification but a problem with education in general, which is the government's responsibility and cannot be blamed solely on 'gentrifiers'.
Often very general anti-gentrification statements are postulated which are not backed up by any concrete evidence; for example Will Harvey writing for “The Guardian” opined: “Property developers and private landlords are making millions forcing these children and families out of their homes, often through violent evictions, and they are regularly moved into inadequate temporary accommodation and sometimes on to the streets. Many parents in the area suffer the indignity of relying on foodbanks to feed their children while the new Shoreditch residents can make a successful business selling children’s cereal for £5 a bowl.” Where is the evidence for these statements? Who are these families and landlords? Although he states that “some 49% of the children in the borough live below the poverty line”, he does not state what this figure was prior to gentrification and therefore cannot lay the blame for such apparent poverty on those who are trying to improve the area.

The areas were “run-down” to begin with, so it seems illogical that the locals would they complain if something new and fresh was happening in their area. 'New locals' may well be interested in making a living for themselves but the on-going effect is the provision of more exciting opportunities for the established population.  New businesses provide more job opportunities which in turn benefits the local economy. Research published by the Journal of Urban Economics in 2010 and the Regional Science and Economics Journal in 2011 showed that gentrification had a positive effect on the income of households which did not relocate and further had a positive effect on housing satisfaction.
This regeneration and development creates an atmosphere of excitement and innovation; there is no need for local young people to feel “stuck in the ghetto” because the ghetto is now a thriving part of town.  The young people can experience how you can change something run-down into something great and use this in their own lives. Research conducted by “Governing” found that, compared to areas which had failed to gentrify in the USA, there had been a decrease in the poverty line. Thus gentrification is not something that should be feared but something that should be embraced.
So who were these anti-gentrification protesters who showed up on the doorstep of an innovative business to intimidate and humiliate its owners and customers? They were nothing but a bunch of spoilt wasters who were jealous of other people’s success. Perhaps if they were not protesting they could instead be enterprising and reap the rewards on offer. The facts and figures show there is no logical reason to be anti-gentrification; perhaps gentrification is not an actual concept but is just simply business people demonstrating enterprise - just what our country and the world needs.
Adam Henry Magee

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  1. If a bowl of cereal cost £5.00 I would not go in. I would not attack the building. I think "gentrification" is just another excuse for violent protests by people with nothing better to do. Every place has been "gentrified" over the years. If it were not so many people would be living in squalor with outside plumbing or in over crowded tenements. I call it progress if living standards are raised for each generation.


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