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The Gentrification Debate Here And Around The Country

icantcu via flickr

As the details of Seawall Development’s “Remington Row” emerge, residents are questioning who the apartments will attract. They also want to know if they will be able to afford to stay in their neighborhood. The cheapest one-bedroom apartment will rent for $1100 a month.

Nationally, calls for affordable housing have increased as many believe gentrification is pushing lower-income residents out of cities. What are we talking about when we talk about 'gentrification'?

In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Daily News, Richard J. Riodan and Tim Rutten write:

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which has analyzed the process for some time, defines a census tract as “gentrified” when its average home price moves from the bottom half of the regional median to the top half. By that measure, 61 percent of Boston has gentrified over the past decade, 55 percent of Seattle, 46 percent of New York and 23 percent of Los Angeles.

NPR also used analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in its reporting on gentrification.

The subject stirs debate in many cities. These are stories from hot spots across the country.

New York

Last month, director Spike Lee made headlines when he raised concerns about gentrification:

·         Spike Lee’s Amazing Rant Against Gentrification: ‘We Been Here!’ (from New York Magazine)

So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!

The back and forth between Mayor Bill De Blasio and developer Jed Walentas over real estate plans for an old Domino Sugar refinery highlighted concerns about inclusionary housing in Brooklyn. The deal announced last week added more units of affordable housing in exchange for zoning changes and the ability to charge higher rent on some units:

·         Plan to Redevelop Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn Hits Snag: De Blasio (from the NY Times)

·         Deal Is Reached on Redevelopment of Brooklyn Sugar Refinery (from the NY Times)

San Francisco

And there were the “Google bus protests” last year in California:

·          In A Divided San Francisco, Private Tech Buses Drive Tension (from NPR)

Tech companies like Google, Yahoo and Apple have locations in Silicon Valley, about an hour's drive south of the city. But because a lot of their employees live in San Francisco, many companies use a network of private shuttle buses to get their people to work. For some residents, the buses have started to symbolize San Francisco's economic segregation.

Contributing to the protests is the soaring eviction rate. California’s Ellis Act allows landlords to evict tenants in order to pull out of the rental market and sell the property.

·         As Rent Soars, Longtime San Francisco Tenants Fight To Stay (from NPR)

A recent city report finds that Ellis Act evictions have increased 170 percent over the past three years. Low- and middle-income tenants are unlikely to find another affordable apartment in San Francisco, where the median monthly rent has risen to about $3,400.

Washington, DC

Affordable housing is a huge issue in DC’s mayoral race. Greater Greater Washington interviewed candidates on how they would address the city’s housing needs.


·         Station-North development plans raised similar concerns to those expressed by Remington residents. Last year, City Paper interviewed local artists and activists, including Kate Khatib, a member of Red Emma’s collective. Her take, “How can we make sure the people who have stuck it out and the people who have historically been in the neighborhood aren’t displaced?”

·         Here is a recent Baltimore Sun article about Remington.


Richard Florida of The Atlantic Cities mapped the percentages of creative, service, and working class residents for census tracts in major cities. His findings?

While our cities may be increasingly diverse in terms of nationality, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, they are becoming ever-more divided by class.

Follow the Debate

·         Is Gentrification All Bad? (from New York Magazine)

·         8 Reasons Why The Rent Is Too Damn High (from NPR's Code Switch blog)

·         Gentrification: Blessing or Blight? (from NPR)