The Two Sides Of Gentrification

by : Ki Gray

Gentrification comes from the root of the word for "gentleness", which isn't quite what we think of when we imagine ripping down quaint old homes and displacing lower income families.

But what about when the old homes aren't quaint so much as decrepit? And what about when your city has nowhere to go but take over those (often more centrally located) areas or expand into suburbs? What then?

In order to have a decent discussion about gentrification and to decide whether to buy in an area that is undergoing gentrification, let's look at some issues.

1) Will the families indeed be displaced?
Though often older families can not afford to pay the increasing property taxes that come with an area's appreciation, many times they can. If the taxes are being raised for things like schools and roads, it might benefit them too. If they must leave the area, will the have safe places to go? Will the places be close by, so they aren't so unfamiliar with the area? Take a look at the surrounding neighborhoods next to the one you're considering.

2) Will the area go up in value?
Despite a lot of middle class families buying homes, a neighborhood has to be consistently improving for the value to go up. Many times, this takes years. Reconsider buying property in a gentrifying area with the intent of flipping it soon. It makes more sense to live there for a while and get to know your neighbors-this often makes the gentrification process more friendly and the area more secure.

3) Is there anything else you should know about the area?
Before you move anywhere-to a neighborhood full of millionaires, to a home in the suburbs, or to a lower income area-it makes sense to check the local crime statistics and school systems. Also, try and learn about the history of the area and the people who have lived there before you. Get involved with local businesses and see what can be done to make your new neighborhood more economically secure for everyone in it.

4) Will the area be full of "smart" growth?
If the neighborhood you're considering is having renovations that maintain the integrity of the old and often historical homes, that's generally a good sign. If many homes are being razed for condos, this might be a cause for concern. And take a look at the roads-will a quaint little backstreet turn into a major thoroughfare? This has happened in some areas like the Denver and Austin real estate markets. Are the businesses going up considerate of the needs of new people living there as well as people who have been there for years?

Make sure to try and make your new neighborhood a safe and nice place for everyone living in it. Sometimes this means money-supporting locally owned shops and stores even though they may be more expensive-other times it means time. Organize a neighborhood trash clean-up, spend time volunteering at a local or literacy senior center. Vote when the time comes to improve your area. And be patient-good things come to those who try and put the gentleness back in gentrification.