Gentrification is a broad term that typically describes the arrival of wealthy and usually white newcomers into existing urban neighborhoods and districts. It has begun to be used more widely in the last couple of years as more and more people want to live in the city instead of the suburbs. Cities that were once viewed as unsightly, terrible places to live or raise a family have become the main prospects for people wanting to settle down and raise a family.
Yet, gentrification cannot be talked about without discussing suburbanization as gentrification is the reversal of suburbanization.
Suburbanization. A term coined to describe the influx of families, predominantly "baby boomers" who moved to the suburbs following World War II. Suburbanization was caused by a couple of things: the making as well as the manufacturing of the automobile and the development of the interstate highway system. It was also cheaper for families to live in the suburbs as a house could be built for a family of 4 for a fraction of the price.
People liked living in the suburbs. They were away from the commotion and crime of the city. They could own a home that was not only large enough to fit their current family, but they could also own a home that was large enough to fit their growing family. People liked the suburbs because it gave them peace of mind. Families knew their neighbors, children grew up together, but ultimately, the suburbs gave people a sense of having their own community. They lived in their own world.
Gentrification can sometimes be fast paced or it can be slow paced, depending on the city, but there is no particular year or time period when gentrification started, it's almost as if it came out of nowhere. For many of the inhabitants within various cities across the United States, many say it was almost as if these newcomers came out of nowhere. With gentrification, it only takes a couple of bold souls who decide to move into these urban neighborhoods and following those bold souls, more of them decide to come.
Similar to suburbanization there a couple of reasons as to why people decided to move back into the cities that they once wanted to move away from. One of the main reasons you see this growing number of people wanting to live in the city is because of age and by age I mean millennials. Millennials also referred to as Generation Y have very different values and goals from their parents, especially their grandparents. They are generally saddled with mountains of student loan debt and, for the most part, cannot afford a home. Millennials are also not driven by wanting to have a family or settle down. Research shows that millennials are actually starting families a lot later than their parents and grandparents and are more focused on their careers and helping others.
Another reason for the cause of gentrification is jobs. Any and everyone is going to move to a city with more jobs, but also better jobs and with more people obtaining bachelor degrees they are more likely to want to move to a city that is able to suit their degree or whatever city has better opportunities so they may use their degree. For example, San Francisco is currently going through a tug of war with it's established residents of the Mission District, who have lived in this neighborhood for years versus newcomers who are migrating and pushing into this neighborhood because of the technology boom in Silicon Valley.
A lot of people say what is so wrong with gentrification? If anything it helps the neighborhood, it improves crime, it creates better housing units, it creates more economic opportunities.
But gentrification also has another effect, the negative effect people generally associate with gentrification. The negative effect that needs to be talked about and represented more because gentrification does more damage to a neighborhood.
When gentrification starts to take hold the neighborhood starts to change to fit these newcomers that are moving in. Upscale lofts, condos, and townhomes start to appear as the neighborhood tries to accommodate the growing number of people wanting to move into these neighborhoods. Yoga studios start to flex themselves into the shopping centers that have been built. Organic grocery stores and ice cream shops, upscale boutiques, and high-end restaurants start to decorate and make up the neighborhood. After a couple of years, the neighborhood has been redone and painted over to fit those who have decided to move there. The inhabitants that once made and grew up in these neighborhoods barely recognize where they once lived because where they once lived has now become a shadow, a figment of their imagination. A neighborhood they don't think truly exists anymore as what created those neighborhoods, the people, and their memories have now been pushed out and priced out by these newcomers.
That's the effects of gentrification. The one people need to talk about.