Gentrification is the phenomenon when more wealthy people moving into lower-income communities. They often faces opposition, sometimes for the wrong reasons. It is important to consider all benefits and costs when formulating urban development policies.
During last century, most North American cities experienced urban disinvestment, often called “white flight,” as middle-income households moved to suburbs, leaving concentrated poverty in many urban neighborhoods. it affected population patterns of the continent and created a number of problems, both for impoverished urban communities and for suburbanites living in sprawled, automobile-dependent areas. An increasing number of households now recognize the benefits of urban living, which is attracting more people, businesses, and investment into lower-income urban neighborhoods. While urban redevelopment seems good and desirable, the same phenomena is also called gentrification, which is generally considered undesirable, and some groups actively oppose.
Is urban redevelopment good or bad? On one hand, urban redevelopment can provide significant benefits to the new and existing urban residents. On the other hand, gentrification can impose risks and costs to vulnerable communities. It is important to consider all of these impacts when formulating urban development policies. This column attempts to provide a comprehensive assessment of them.
Let’s start with benefits. Living in an urban neighborhood improves accessibility and mobility options ; that is, it reduces the distances residents must travel to reach services and activities (education, employment, shopping, recreation, etc.) and tends to offer better walking, cycling, taxi, and public transit services than in suburban, automobile-dependent areas. Urban living reduces the time and money residents must spend on travel, plus the external transport costs motorists impose on others, including traffic and parking congestion, parking subsidies, collision risk, and pollution emissions. In addition, the provision of public infrastructure and services (utilities, roads, emergency response, schools, etc.) tends to be more efficient in compact urban areas, allowing them to be cheaper and better. Because urban neighborhoods are generally very walkable, residents tend to be fitter and healthier ( not necessarily in Asian Cities).
Urban redevelopment can improve residents’ economic opportunity by increasing local employment options and reducing poverty concentration. It can be noted here that urban poverty is different from rural poverty. Urban neighborhoods have much better job access than suburbs. Urban redevelopment increases neighborhood business activity, which increases local economic development and employment. This can increase the number and variety of businesses in a neighborhood, for example, supporting a grocery or hardware store, that benefits existing residents. This is particularly beneficial to lower-income residents who rely on walking, cycling, and public transit, and so depend on neighborhood services.
There are potential risks and costs to existing lower-income and minority residents that can result if more affluent households move into their neighborhood.
The most obvious risk is that increased demand by wealthier households can drive up housing prices.
If the number of lower-income consumers declines while rents increase, neighborhoods might lose businesses that sell lower-priced goods, such as cheap cafés and used clothing stores. However, this may be offset if increased demand (more total customers) makes local businesses more successful overall.
Opposition to gentrification can also reflect fear of community change. Many urban neighborhoods have distinct cultural identities and strong connections among local friends, businesses, and institutions. Lower-income residents might fear disrespect from more affluent and educated neighbors. Fear of cultural change can be reduced if communities maintain a strong identity, for example, by establishing a neighborhood name and deciding how public facilities are designed and community institutions are managed.
If we take the case of Asia, In Delhi, India gentrification is evident in some old areas. It can be read here in detail.
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