What is gentrification?

Wetzel, Tom
Year Published:  2004
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX9146

Both gentrification and disinvestment are processes made up of the activities of certain kinds of social agents or institutions. Landlords, developers, and banks all play key roles. To understand how both decay and gentrification of urban neighborhoods happen, we need to look at the dynamics of capital flows into and out of the built environment.



Displacement, whether via urban renewal and the bulldozer or by market forces, is an act of force. It is anti-democratic because it denies self-determination to an existing community.

Displacement usually doesn't happen without a fight. Tenant activists have pushed for things like anti-eviction or rent control ordinances. In the long run, though, these are not likely to be more than a speed bump in the process of displacement.

One way to ensure that the residents are not displaced is to change the ownership structure of the land and buildings. Community land trusts offer one promising approach. On the community land trust concept the residents own the buildings they live in, and a community land trust — a non-profit neighborhood membership organization — owns the land under the buildings. Under this model, restrictions are placed on the price or rental of dwellings. For example, if a resident owns a house or apartment sitting on community-owned land and wants to sell it, she must offer it back to the community land trust at a restricted price. Permanent price restrictions thus ensure that the housing will always be affordable.

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