Can Gentrification Be A Good Thing?

Jul 13, 2018

With Linda Wertheimer

Gentrification, is a dirty word for a lot of people, but there are some upsides when the better-off newcomers come in. Is there a way to make it work for everyone?


Idrees Kahloon, U.S. policy correspondent for The Economist (@ikahloon)

Susan Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and co-director of Penn Institute for Urban Research (@Susan_Wachter)

Lance Freeman, professor in the Urban Planning Program and director of the doctoral program in Urban Planning at Columbia University

Maria Poblet, commissioner on the Berkeley Rent Board and former Executive Director of the community non-profit organization Just Cause

From The Reading List

The Economist: In Praise Of Gentrification — “The supposed ills of gentrification—which might be more neutrally defined as poorer urban neighbourhoods becoming wealthier—lack rigorous support. The most careful empirical analyses conducted by urban economists have failed to detect a rise in displacement within gentrifying neighbourhoods. Often, they find that poor residents are more likely to stay put if they live in these areas. At the same time, the benefits of gentrification are scarcely considered. Longtime residents reap the rewards of reduced crime and better amenities. Those lucky enough to own their homes come out richer. The left usually bemoans the lack of investment in historically non-white neighbourhoods, white flight from city centres and economic segregation. Yet gentrification straightforwardly reverses each of those regrettable trends.”

CityLab: The Complicated Link Between Gentrification and Displacement — “Displacement is becoming a larger issue in knowledge hubs and superstar cities, where the pressure for urban living is accelerating. These particular cities attract new businesses, highly skilled workers, major developers, and large corporations, all of which drive up both the demand for and cost of housing. As a result, local residents—and neighborhood renters in particular—may feel pressured to move to more affordable locations.”

CityMetric: Have Big Cities Hijacked The Gentrification Debate? — “The word, in many ways, is tinged with negativity. And for good reason. In tight real estate markets, it can lead to development that privileges profits over community and shuts people out of neighborhoods they have lived in for decades. But what about cities struggling to overcome the threat of bankruptcy like Hartford? How does gentrification look in New South cities like Austin and Nashville, where midcentury urban planning destroyed residential communities and left downtowns largely unoccupied?”

Here’s the story of America’s big cities now. A low-income neighborhood struggles along for years. One day, the hipsters, the young up-and-coming, the middle class families begin to move in. For the people who were already there, there are upsides. New shops open, property values rise. But some neighbors, old friends move out. Spin-class studios and latte bars replace the newsstand and barber shop. This hour, On Point: The story of gentrification. The good, the bad, the anger and the hope. –Linda Wertheimer. 

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