How the rich are taking advantage of disenfranchised neighborhoods
Gentrification is real, and it’s affecting a lot of people — especially people of color. Their voices need to be heard instead of developers, who decide where the next strip of condos are going to be built. They have been here and so have their stories.
Signs you know gentrification is approaching your area are a new Starbucks on the street, Whole Foods on the corner and maybe a new boutique, where everything is one of a kind. Upscale businesses are moving in, and a lot of old are moving out. Neighborhoods are no longer recognizable.
Gentrification is happening in big cities such as New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis and maybe yours is next. You may have the luxury of not realizing it because you don’t have that lens of, “How will it affect me?” But maybe it is affecting you, but you just don’t realize it.
Legal housing discrimination has affected people of color since the Roosevelt Administration and the era of redlining. Redlining, the discriminatory practice by the federal government that led to the systematic creation of segregated neighborhoods, affected many of the places where we see gentrification today.
These maps were color-coded by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the colors on the maps would indicate where it was “safe” to live. People of color were barred against buying into neighborhoods that white families were able to inhabit. Words like “detrimental” and phrases like “undesirable population” were pinned to the redlined areas.
According to Alexis Madrigle of the Atlantic, “Some mortgage lenders may refuse to make loans in these neighborhoods and other will lend only on a conservative basis.”
People of color were forced into red neighborhoods through the denial of loan application, solely on the basis of their skin color. If that applies to you, you could have your education and health affected for decades.
You may never understand the deep connections people of color have with these areas because their homes have been there for generations. We can see the role government has played in institutional practices of racism still affecting communities today.
The research shows that people of color that were displaced ended up in more dangerous and polluted areas and didn’t have equal access to health care. Like many people who have difficulty getting access to health care, people of color who are displaced are in an intersection of race and class. This displacement can affect their mental state, education and economic mobility.
In The Forces Driving Gentrification in Oakland by Kathleen Richards, the Associate Director of the Urban Displacement Project, Anna Cash is quoted as saying, “So low-income households are often displaced to even more low-income neighborhoods than they were previously living in. Displacement can lead to longer commute times, as well as stress and depression. Children suffer academically and from behavioral and emotional issues.”
So what’s changed to make these redlined neighborhoods attractive to developers?
The cause of gentrification is the influx of affluent residents who push out the old to make room for upper-class luxuries. If you can relate to that, you are considered a gentrifier. If you can’t LIVE without your Starbucks at the end of every street, you are considered a gentrifier. When was the last time you thought, “Who lived in this space and how was it occupied before me?”
Looking at gentrification as a person of color and someone who has seen the effects in real life, gentrification is hurting people I care about. In Buffalo’s Fruit Belt, soaring property values are forcing people who can’t afford them to move out due to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Some of these tenets pay $1,400 for rent, a price that is too steep for many former residents. These are low-income people of color who are once again being taking advantage of by the system because they have no choice but to move. And where do they go?
So, for people who say, “pull yourself up by the bootstraps,” how can you do this if you were never given the chance? There have always been obstacles in front of us. The wealth gap is increasing, and public education is failing. If major metropolitan areas are being gentrified and residential exclusion persists, how do we not know the next place they reside won’t be another stop on the gentrification express?
Calissa Brown is a third year anthropology major who doesn’t even like Starbucks.