The Art of Gentrification

By
Real Estate Agent with Liberty Bell Real Estate

Gentrification, historically and loosely known as the act of the wealthy displacing long term, low income residents in any particular neighborhood where redevelopment looks promising and current conditions for the residents grim.  Gentrification, no doubt builds a community by attracting investors and developers who build homes, retail shops, and restaurants to lure in wealthier homeowners.

Sounds great, right?  Well although building wealth in a community sounds promising; it often leaves out the residents that have long called their neighborhood home.  These homeowners can be offered double for what they paid for their home, sometimes even more by a snazzy and aggressive real estate investor who shows up on their door step and promises the sum in cash and a quick settlement in just a week. It's often a take it or leave it deal, to build up a good deal of anxiety in the homeowner.  But if they don't take it...they'll be back.   

Sure a bulk load of money promised to a family who is just making ends meet, and has dreams of a better life is quite tempting.  True the home in which they reside may be crumbling and the block in which they stay is riddled with blight, however in that blight they share the same dreams, and want the same things as those wealthy investors...a safer, cleaner, and prosperous community.  

I'll throw the question out there, where does a family go with $40K, $50K or even $100K in cash?  Do they buy back into the neighborhood where their recent home was extensively rehabbed and is on the market for 5x's what they originally paid for it?  See they either owned their home out right or had a small mortgage paying a couple of hundred dollars a month.  A $100K in retrospect is a lot of money but not really if someone is depending to live on that alone for a lifetime and unfortunately people who are eagerly pushed out of these neighborhoods due to gentrification are not seeking expert financial advice.

Gentrification increases property value drastically, many times by a 100% or more.  The effect that it has on long term home owners, is an increase in real estate taxes as seen in popular cities throughout the country, notably Harlem, NY during the 1980's and even more so after the unveiling that Former President Clinton would locate his office there. A sharp surge of new business's and residential developments to accommodate a higher demand of residents flocked in to secure real estate, in a place where years before these new inhabitants had only referenced Harlem with "The Apollo Theater" and "The Harlem Renaissance". 

Locally, in Philadelphia gentrification in the last decade, and in recent years has taken place in Bella Vista, Graduate Hospital, Northern Liberties, and growing concerns by residents are seen and heard in Brewery town, Francisville, and the southern tip of Kensington, closest to Northern Liberties for fear that they'll be displaced. These residents welcome new development and opportunity but not at the cost of their home. There is growing concern, that they will loose their voice and be overshadowed. It begs the question, can gentrification be established with the support and ideas from the people of a neighborhood in collaboration with the investors and developers who want to establish and build prolonged financial growth.  And if that answer is yes, would that abolish the term "Gentrification"?  In Rittenhouse Square,  the wealthiest neighborhood in Philadelphia, this very thing happens; where developers and investors can't build shop without a significant input and granted permissions from the people of that neighborhood.  We can understand the resaons why, wealth and education are just two reasons but do they lack any less enthusiasm or commitment for their neighborhood, than a low-income, high-school educated resident of Kensington?

No matter what your opinion of Gentrification is,  it is most definitely the PR(Public Relations) of all PR,  it takes a familiar and unlikely place and explodes it into "The Place" to live, work, and play.

Posted by

Zakiyyah Newman, RealtorĀ®

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