Tag Archives: gentrification

The problem with gentrification

As explained by David Galbraith

One of the problems with gentrification is that the people that originally make an area more desirable (artists) don’t gain and the people that gain (yuppies), often make it less desirable. The reason for this is that creatives rent and can’t buy, and yuppies buy but don’t create.

But imagine a property fund that was based on a simple rule – follow the artists, it would make a fortune. It should be possible then to fund the arts through some mechanism that capitalizes on this.

An arts fund that created artists mortgages with the expectation that they increase the value of properties without normally benefiting (as happened in Shoreditch) could really help mitigate this kind of change, without any external subsidy. It could be run as a non-profit – but would make a healthy one which is fed back into urban regeneration.

The artists wouldn’t be squeezed out at the inflection point of gentrification (the subsidized mortgages would be funded by the those who decided to sell out, since the capital value increase would be higher than for ordinary mortgages, and a percentage of the profit would be taken by the arts fund). This would dampen the negative effects of change and mean that instead of artist flight and a process of gentrification which destroys the very character that started it (as has happened in NY’s SOHO) you would get organic and long-term, sustainable improvement to neighborhoods.

The impact of gentrification on San Francisco

From a series of articles written in 1999 in the San Francisco Guardian

LET’S SAY THE NEXT major earthquake that hits San Francisco is of roughly the same magnitude as the Loma Prieta quake of 1989, or maybe just a little bit stronger. Let’s say it wipes out roughly 1,000 houses and apartment buildings and leaves some 5,000 people homeless. Let’s say the falling buildings and flying debris and the overload on medical facilities lead to 120 deaths.

Let’s say the damages leave 50 local neighborhood-serving businesses — hardware stores, pharmacies, bookstores, cafés — on the brink of bankruptcy.

And let’s say a few unscrupulous profiteers take advantage of the shortages of critical supplies and charge desperate residents triple the normal rate for food, blankets, and drinking water. Let’s say a few speculators work the hardest-hit areas with wads of cash, trying to buy up distressed property cheap. Let’s say some greedy out-of-town charlatans arrive by helicopter with prefabricated structures and cartons of goods, and set up shop in the neighborhoods, selling hammers, medicine, and coffee before the local businesses can get their doors back open.

It’s not hard to imagine the official response. The president and the governor would declare San Francisco a disaster area. Emergency loans and relief funds would roll in. The mayor would launch a crash program to rebuild damaged homes and find places for displaced families to live.

The profiteers, speculators, and charlatans would be exposed in the press and roundly, loudly denounced by every political and community leader in the city. The ones who didn’t wind up in jail would be forced to leave town in disgrace.

* * *

So listen:

In the past three years San Francisco has lost more than 1,000 low-cost housing units to demolition and hotel conversions, some 2,000 public housing units to demolition, and roughly 1,600 rental apartments to back-door condominium conversions. In all, city figures show, more than 8,000 residents have lost their homes to evictions, and many have been unable to find another place to live. Those who haven’t left the city entirely are now among the roughly 10,000 homeless who try to survive on the streets.

Last year 103 homeless people died on those streets, mostly from a lack of adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

Since 1995, dozens of local businesses have closed up shop, driven to bankruptcy by big, out-of-town chains.

It links to some steps that cities can do to deal with gentrification.  It isn’t the best written list but it gives you some ideas of what can be done if you care about the issue.