AskDefine | Define gentrification

Dictionary Definition

gentrification n : the restoration of run-down urban areas by the middle class (resulting in the displacement of lower-income people)

User Contributed Dictionary





  1. the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces earlier usually poorer residents

See also

Extensive Definition

Gentrification, or urban gentrification, encompasses a number of processes of change in demographics, land uses and building conditions in an area, accompanied by rapid increase in a neighborhood's property prices and influx of investment and physical remodelling and renovation. In many cases, the lower-income residents who originally lived in the neighborhood move out of the neighborhood because they can no longer afford to live there.
Proponents of gentrification focus on the benefits of urban renewal, such as investment in physically deteriorating locales, improved access to lending capital for low-income mortgage seekers as their property values increase, increased rates of lending to minority and first-time home purchasers to invest in the appreciating area and improved physical conditions for those renters able to afford the rising rents. Gentrification has been linked to reductions in local property crime rates, increased property prices, increased revenue to local governments from property taxes, increased tolerance of sexual minorities, and certain kinds of community activism.
Critics of gentrification often cite the human cost to the neighborhood's lower-income residents, as well as the reduction in diversity of productive landuses such as light industry and cultural activities such as live music venues due to reverse sensitivity issues. The increases in rent often result in the dispersal of communities whose members find that housing in the area is no longer affordable. Additionally, the increase in property taxes (due to increased property values) may sometimes force or give incentive for homeowners to sell their homes and move to less expensive neighborhoods. While those who view gentrification positively cite local reductions in a neighborhood's property crime rate, its critics argue that overall crime rates have not actually been reduced, but merely shifted to different lower-income neighborhoods.
Because gentrification and neighborhood revitalization often go hand in hand, gentrification can be "a double-edged sword" with both positive and negative impacts.


"Gentrification" of neighborhoods is frequently controversial. Gentrification often brings to the fore issues of housing affordability. Opponents of gentrification often claim that continued residence in a particular neighborhood is a right and that "society" owes its members housing deemed by them to be affordable to them.
Demographic changes associated with gentrification in addition to a significant rise in average incomes in such neighborhoods include a decline in the proportion of ethnic minorities, a reduction in the size of the households, and the replacement of low-income families by singles and childless couples. In American cities, the new, wealthier demographic of the neighborhood can sometimes resemble the original populace for which the neighborhood was constructed. In these cases, gentrification represents the reversal of the white flight phenomenon, although this fact is seldom addressed in the ensuing controversy.
Gentrification often brings with it a change in culture and character.
Property owners can also feel the effects of gentrification through increases in property taxes. Property taxes are typically based on a percentage of a property's assessed value. As property values increase in a given neighborhood, municipalities will typically reassess the values of properties within gentrifying communities resulting in higher property taxes for the neighborhood's long-term owners. Owners who do not wish to pay the tax increases often sell orpass the increases on to tenants in the form of higher rent.


The root of "gentrification", "gentry", derives from the Old French word genterise (a varient of gentilise), meaning the people of gentle birth, good breeding, or high social position, as in the landed gentry. Sociologist Ruth Glass coined the term in 1964 to mean the influx of wealthier individuals into cities or neighborhoods who replace working or lower-classes already living there. She defined it by using London districts such as Islington as her example:
''One by one, many of the working class quarters of London have been invaded by the middle-classes—upper and lower. Shabby, modest mews and cottages—two rooms up and two down—have been taken over, when their leases have expired, and have become elegant, expensive residences [...]. Once this process of 'gentrification' starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.'' Glass, R. (1964). London: aspects of change. Londen: Macgibbon & Kee.
Her use of the term "invaded" reflects the attitude that often accompanies the current use of the term, i.e., that gentrification is morally wrong, rather than a reflection of market economics.

Theories on gentrification

Urban renewal

Increasingly, locations in city centers have attracted affluent post-baby boomer professionals and/or their empty nester parents. This New Urbanist movement may be more or less socially driven. If a depressed urban area has a transportation hub, pedestrian accessibility and social interaction, it may be considered more desirable than the sprawl and car-dependent lifestyle of the average suburban community.
For the average urban working-class renter, buses and trains are vital to their livelihood. The ideal is different for the wealthy newcomers, who like the advantage of a car for longer commutes, but walk or use public transportation when traveling to the closer shops, cafes, and boutiques.

Production-side theory

Early explanations of gentrification saw a conflict between production-side and consumption-side arguments. The production-side argument, which is associated primarily with the work of geographer Neil Smith, explains gentrification through economics and the relationships between flows of capital and the production of urban space. Smith argued that low rents on the urban periphery during the two decades after World War II led to a continuous movement of capital toward the development of suburban areas. This caused a "devaluation" of inner-city capital, resulting in the substantial abandonment of inner-city properties in favour of those in the periphery, and a consequent fall in the price of inner-city land relative to rising land prices in the suburbs. From this, Smith put forth his rent-gap theory, which describes the disparity between "the actual capitalized ground rent (land value) of a plot of land given its present use and the potential ground rent that might be gleaned under a 'higher and better' use".
Smith believed that the rent-gap theory was the fundamental explanation for the process of gentrification. He argued that when the rent-gap was wide enough, developers, landlords, and other people with a vested interest in the development of land would see the potential profit to be had in reinvesting in inner-city properties and redeveloping them for new inhabitants. Such redevelopment effectively closes the rent-gap and leads to higher rent, mortgage and lease rates.
The de-industrialization of the inner-city is seen as a prerequisite, precipitating a decline in the number of blue-collar jobs available for the urban working class and thus a loss of investment capital available to maintain the physical stock of urban neighborhoods. De-industrialization is often coupled with the growth of a divided white collar employment sector, one part of which is engaged in professional/managerial positions which follow the spatial centralization of capital. This is a product of corporations requiring spatial proximity to reduce decision-making time.

Consumption-side theory

The consumption-side theory, on the other hand, has gained more force as an explanation for gentrification (Hamnett, 2000) Supporters of this argument generally view the characteristics of gentrifiers themselves to be of greater importance in the understanding of gentrification. The post-industrial city, as defined in the Dictionary of Human Geography, is one with an "employment profile focused on advanced services…, [with a] profile that is materialized in a downtown skyline of office towers, arts and leisure sites, and political institutions. Its middle-class ambiance may be reflected in a distinctive politics charged with a responsible social ethos…the demand for more amenities, for greater beauty and a better quality of life in the arrangement of our cities" (616).
David Ley has been one of the foremost thinkers in purporting this idea of a city that is becoming more and more influenced by the emerging "new middle class". Ley defines as a subset of this sector a "cultural new class," made up of artists, cultural professionals, teachers, and other professionals outside of the private sector (1994, 56). And, although not particularly dwelt upon in Ley’s articles, these are the first stage gentrifiers who prepare the way for the embourgeoisment of the inner city (and, in effect, the more bourgeois politics) that often follows them—bourgeois politics which often lead to decreased funding for affordable housing, stricter laws dealing with the homeless and other people affected negatively by their original displacement by the creative class. This sentiment can also be found in Sharon Zukin’s "second-wave" observations in the artist’s lofts in Manhattan, who, when her building went "co-op" in 1979, "bade good-bye to the manufacturers, an artist, and several residents who could not afford the market prices at which our lofts were sold," residents who were replaced by lawyers and accountants, retailers and investment bankers (1989, xiv). This same process can be seen still today, as "artists move into otherwise undesirable buildings, usually make significant improvements to their spaces and their surrounding areas. Everyone benefits from these tenuous and uneasy…arrangements. Then landlords, becoming aware that they are sitting on gold mines, rush to cash in" (Cash 2001, 39).
Whereas Smith and other Marxists often take a structural approach in their explanations of gentrification, Ley’s work instead frames gentrification as a natural outgrowth of the rise of professional employment in the CBD and the predilection of the creative class to an urbane urban lifestyle. Ley, when studying this class through case studies of Canadian cities, concentrates instead on the diversity of this class, especially the liberal ideas that often find voice in its politics (see Ley’s 1980 article "Liberal Ideology and the Post-Industrial City" which describes then deconstructs the TEAM committee’s strive to make Vancouver a "livable city"). Ley’s work, and that of Rose, Beauregard, Mullins, Moore, and others who have built upon Ley’s theories by arguing that "gentrifiers and their social and cultural characteristics was of crucial importance for an understanding of gentrification," has been criticized by Chris Hamnett, however, as not going far enough, and not incorporating the "supply of dwellings and the role of developers/speculators in the process" (Hamnett 1991, 186, 187).


A concept that has received much consideration is the idea of globalization and the city’s role in this new economic environment, where urban centers are ranked by their ability to function in a climate where national borders are becoming less and less important. Some academics have theoretically and empirically studied the products of globalization such as de-industrialized global cities and economic restructuring. John Friedman, who laid down a hypothetical framework on which to build a study of global cities, used as one of the components to his seven part theory the emergence of a bifurcated service industry in major cites, which is comprised of "on the one hand, a high percentage of professionals specialized in control functions and, on the other, a vast army of low-skilled workers engaged in … personal services … [that] cater to the privileged classes for those whose sake the world city primarily exists" (1986, 322). That the last three components of his theory deals with the increased immigration to fill this demand, the class and spatial polarization that results from this, and the inability of the global city to deal with these rapidly growing "social costs" is no mistake (1986, 323-328). Friedman places his vision of the global city squarely in a class context, a context that has been expanded on by Sassen and others. This polarization inherent in increasingly global cities can illuminate the theory that concerns itself specifically with the causes of gentrification. Indeed, a 2006 analysis found increased spatial polarization (segregation) by income across U.S. metropolitan areas, with middle-income neighborhoods in decline relative to low- and high-income areas (Booza et al 2006).
Gentrification cannot be separated from the economic climate in which it occurs. The advent of the new economy outlined above has led to substantial growth and centralization of high-level work in producer services: a "new urban economic core of banking and service activities that comes to replace the older, typically manufacturing oriented, core" (Sassen 1995, 65). This new core sees older, middle-class retailers "replaced by upmarket boutiques and restaurants catering to new high-income urban elites" (Sassen 1995, 66).

Demographic shifts

The emergence of a "service sector" class, that is, a group of people—generally between the ages of 25 and 45—with a high disposable income and post-graduate education with professions in fields such as law, medicine, finance, media and the arts in the urban core that they want to be close to, is one of the primary tenets of the consumption-side theory of gentrification. This is not to be confused, however, with service jobs such as being a janitor, day-laborer, housekeeper, nanny, or working in a fast food business, which are also technically services, but require few skills and little education, and get paid low wages. This emergence is partly a manifestation of the shift in much of the Western world from a manufacturing-based economy to a post-industrial, service-based economy.
Demographically speaking, Western cities are seeing a growing percentage of 25–45 year-olds in the inner-city (urban) core. Other demographic shifts are occurring as well; there is a lessening of gendered divisions of labour, and people are waiting longer to get married and have children (c.f., the Double Income No Kids syndrome). Additionally, urban researchers are seeing an increase in the number of single women professionals living alone in gentrified areas.
This also leads to the lack of affordable housing in these areas for residents who are not in a high-income bracket, and leads to several generations of a low-income family living in the same dwelling because youths who would have moved out upon graduating high-school can't afford to live on their own unless they're in the market for luxury condominiums. See the Freeter phenomena.
In the UK, ever-rising house prices have meant that many middle-class people under age 40 either inherit or simply receive a substantial amount of money from a parent—enough to buy a house outright in the sort of area traditionally vulnerable to gentrification. Gentrification, as an aspect of gender studies discourse, has not been studied extensively, but researchers have discovered that women and gay men have had at least some impact on the gentrifying process in older, inner-city neighborhoods. Moreover, women are seen to be gentrifying in response to different patriarchal structures; they are seen as being potentially forced by oppressive class relations related to their gender into moving into the inner-city, as opposed to deciding on moving there as a result of locational preference. The breakdown of traditional gender roles as higher education becomes more accessible to women has also contributed to the movement of single women into the inner-city.
In London, a large proportion of gentrified housing originally was built for middle class occupants. Occupation by working class people mainly came about between the two World Wars, when the middle classes left for the suburbs. In Islington, four story houses are much more common than two story cottages.
Gentrification usually increases property value in an area. This is a positive development for city officials (by raising tax revenue, which is often dependent on property values), the middle class, as well as existing resident owner-occupiers. Unfortunately this same rise in property value can be devastating to those in lower income groups, when children of such residents find they can no longer afford to live in certain neighborhoods. As a result, there tend to be very strongly opposed views on gentrification, with some seeing it leading to healthier, more vibrant cities, and others seeing it as destroying poor communities.

The role of certain social groups

The urban middle-class typically does not begin to occupy new neighborhoods all at once. In many cases, more economically marginal subgroups of "trend-setters"—often referred to in popular literature as "urban pioneers" (Smith 1996, 26) although that term carries with it racist aspersions (Smith 1996, 13)—are the first to arrive in gentrifying areas. Although these groups may not have high incomes, their high educational or occupational status (i.e., high cultural capital) qualify them as marginally bourgeois. In many cases, these individuals are young and live in non-family households, and thus have a higher tolerance for perceived urban ills (such as crime, poor-quality schools, lack of amenities like shops and parks, and the presence of disadvantaged racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups) that may dissuade middle-class families.
As the number of "trend-setters" grows, they create amenities valued by the bourgeoisie, particularly service establishments such as new bars, restaurants, and art galleries that serve the gentrifying group's demographic. Residents with a similar outlook and greater amounts of capital may then follow. This group, in turn, further adds amenities and investment to the area, increases local property values, and paves the way for more risk-averse investors and residents. The first newcomers, priced out of their newly fashionable neighborhood, move on to adjacent areas, where the process often begins anew. In this theory, the classic sector model of urban residential succession—essentially that neighborhoods "trickle down" from one socioeconomic group to another, with the wealthiest residents moving linearly outward from the central business district—works in reverse, but the "invasion-succession" process proceeds in a remarkably similar fashion.
Gentrification does not require these intermediary steps, but such a succession greatly facilitates the process. In other instances, as with the London Docklands and other CBD-adjacent urban renewal projects, or in instances of comprehensive public housing redevelopment (as at Cabrini-Green in Chicago), government and large developers can invade the area with sufficient capital to attempt to skip the steps entirely. In still other recent instances, a Community Development Corporation has been so successful at stabilizing an urban neighborhood that it becomes desirable for the middle class; examples include Roxbury, Massachusetts; Near South Side, Chicago; and Harlem, New York City.

Artists, bohemians, hipsters

The method by which an urban "artist colony" is transformed into an affluent neighborhood has been well documented for many years. Artists and subcultural students (more recently nicknamed "hipsters," but also including the hippies of earlier years) often seek out devaluated urban neighborhoods for their low prices and for their sense of authenticity or "grit" (Lloyd, 89). As the bohemian character of the area grows, it appeals "not only to committed participants but also to sporadic consumers" (Lloyd, 104); eventually, those "sporadic" consumers edge out the earlier arrivals. Christopher Mele described the process with hippies in New York City's East Village in the 1960s:
''By the early 1960s, the Beats' enclave of Greenwich Village had been... commercialized by middle-class onlookers... Between 1964 and 1968, dozens of specialty shops that catered to the hippies had opened along St. Mark's Place... In addition to students and hippies, the neighborhood's countercultural atmosphere attracted copywriters, editorial workers, fashion designers, and commercial artists... Although the youthful movement criticized middle-class values and lifestyles, its members, nonetheless, were of largely middle-class origin living in one of the poorest working-class districts in the city.'' (Mele, 159-169)
Through the 1960s and 1970s, lofts in SoHo were converted en masse to house artists, hippies, and others (Zukin 121-3). As those neighborhoods continued to escalate in price and social status, the artists moved on to Park Slope, Brooklyn and Hoboken, New Jersey, and today (and their followers, the hipsters) to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Emerging areas where hipsters are being displaced to run along the BMT Canarsie Line () and IND Crosstown Line () of the New York City Subway system due in large part to their proximity to Williamsburg.
Similar examples can be found in many cities around the world with large numbers of jobs in media, fashion, and other creative trades.

Gay men

Manuel Castells's seminal work on gay men as "gentrifiers" in San Francisco has revealed a pattern replicated, to some degree, in other North American cities, as "many [gays] were single men, did not have to raise a family, were young, and connected to a relatively prosperous service economy" (Castells, 1983, p. 160). Many gay and lesbian people leave their towns and neighborhoods of origin to start a new life and form a new community after coming out.
The PBS documentary Flag Wars outlined the tension between an urban African-American community in the old silk stocking district of Columbus, Ohio, and the mainly white gays and lesbians moving in, who were accused of gentrification and racism. The new residents, in turn, accused the existing community residents of homophobia.
In 2006, a Washington, D.C. church congregation in the historically black neighborhood of Shaw opposed the granting of a liquor license to a gay bar that was about to open across the street.
Real estate trends can push out poorer gay people, as in San Francisco's Polk District; radical queer activists saw the value of an impoverished neighborhood as a refuge for the economically, sexually and socially marginalized, while others saw renovations and increased real estate values as signs of improvement in the neighborhood.

Attempts to control gentrification

Community organizing

In many cases, existing residents of gentrifying neighborhoods have organized into grassroots groups to develop political and social strategies to retain affordable housing in their communities. Many such organizations arose in the 1960s, particularly using tactics inspired by Saul Alinsky. Some, like the Young Lords street gang active in Chicago's then-heavily Puerto Rican neighborhood of Lincoln Park, used direct action techniques like sit-ins and occupation of vacant land. In the Liberty City section of Miami, Florida, the local organization Take Back the Land seized control over land and built rustic dwellings for the homeless in a shantytown which became known as Umoja Village. In many other neighborhoods, neighborhood institutions have founded community development corporations to give the community an active role in neighborhood development. In many cases, though, even a well-organized community cannot muster enough resources to counter gentrification.

Direct action and sabotage

When wealthy individuals move into working class or low income neighborhoods, class conflicts can result. Vandalism and even arson attacks against the property of new arrivals sometimes occurs. During the late 1990's, during the dot-com boom gentrification of San Francisco's predominantly working class Mission District, an effort called the 'Mission Yuppie Eradication Project' allegedly engaged in various forms of widespread property destruction as part of a strategy against gentrification. This drew a hostile response from the San Francisco Police Department, from real estate interests, and from work-within-the-system housing activists.

Inclusionary zoning

Cities have responded to gentrification in different ways. Inclusionary zoning is an increasingly popular method of stemming gentrification, employed by cities, in an attempt to create affordable housing units in urban areas. Through inclusionary zoning, developers are either required or provided with incentives (such as higher build-outs) to develop a certain percentage of affordable housing units. Because inclusionary zoning is relatively new concept, there have been few studies regarding its effect on limiting gentrification. In Los Angeles, inclusionary zoning seems to have accelerated the pace of gentrification as older, lower rent buildings have been torn down and replaced with higher rent buildings tempered by a small percentage of "affordable housing", resulting in a net loss of affordable units.

Zoning ordinances

In addition to the gradual exclusion of poorer residents from gentrifying neighborhoods, another detrimental aspect of gentrification can be the impact on non-residential uses, such as entertainment and industrial uses with effects contrary to the expectations of upmarket residents moving in. Often a neighborhood will become popular because of its nightlife and live music scene, or because of the presence of light industrial or arts and crafts activities. But newer residents may complain about levels of noise from such activities. Planning authorities then make noise mitigation or operational requirements that can place severe limitations or financial burdens that force such uses to move out. In New Zealand, this issue is referred to as reverse sensitivity, and a novel approach has been developed whereby the land use zones can be used to identify likely reverse sensitivity issues. The onus is then placed on developers wishing to build projects in such areas to construct dwellings in such a way to mitigate the impacts of new uses on existing residents.

Community land trusts

Since gentrification is exacerbated by speculation in land prices, removing land from the open market can effectively keep property prices from rising and thereby prevent displacement. The most common formal mechanism for doing so is a community land trust; many inclusionary zoning ordinances are now written to place the "inclusionary" units into a land trust. Many linguistically isolated urban neighborhoods are able to keep out speculators informally, simply by not advertising available properties on the open (primary language) market and instead trading properties only by word of mouth.

Rent control

In response to gentrification pressure, some cities pass rent control ordinances. Rent control allows existing tenants to remain, but does not directly affect the overall increase in underlying property prices. For example, the formerly downscale southwestern section of Santa Monica, California and the eastern section of West Hollywood, California became gentrified despite rent control. This preceded changes to the law that forbade extending rent control prices from one tenancy to the next. Since many forms of rent control allow landlords to set higher prices for newer residents while forcing them to keep prices low for long-time residents, this may encourage landlords to rent to residents they hope will leave sooner. Another unintended consequence is landlord harassment, where the owner or manager of a property makes living conditions uncomfortable for long-term residents in the hope that they will vacate voluntarily, thus avoiding costly legal expenses. Without rent control, a neighborhood undergoing gentrification may change rapidly because landlords could quickly raise rents on long-time residents and displace them from the neighborhood, although this argument ignores the creation of a black market for housing under rent control. Rent control often causes "black markets" to develop in which units are withdrawn from the market and their listings are made available for those who pay additional fees or bribes to landlords, greatly hurting the less affluent and speeding up gentrification. Despite the claims of some that the 1994 abolition of rent control in Boston, Massachusetts and some surrounding suburbs (via statewide ballot) sped up gentrification in that area, strong economic growth in the following years was probably more of a factor.
Many low-income whites in East Coast cities have moved to working-class suburbs or other, more heavily white neighborhoods within the same city. This often leaves senior citizens who have often lived in a particular community for a very long time as the only white residents in neighborhoods that have otherwise seen complete "white flight". When these seniors die or move to retirement communities, the process of white flight is complete.
In New York City and the surrounding counties, rent regulation protects over 1 million units and tenants from rapidly increasing rents. There are two kinds of rent regulation: rent controlled housing and rent stabilized housing. Rent increases for rent stabilized housing are set annually by the Rent Guidelines Board, and tenants protections include the right to renewal leases, the right to essential services and repairs, and the right to pass on their apartments to close family members.
In New York, rent stabilized units can be deregulated by "vacancy decontrol"- when the legal rent of an apartment is $2000 or more and it becomes vacant, the owner can de-regulate the apartment and charge market rents. This has resulted in harassment of tenants in regulated housing by unscrupulous landlords. Recently the New York City Council gave tenants the right to take landlords who are harassing them to housing court. A citywide coalition of tenant leaders and housing advocates is mobilizing around the repeal of vacancy decontrol, to reduce the incentive to harass tenants and preserve New York's affordable housing stock.

Attempts to amplify gentrification

Sharon Zukin refers to a somewhat contradictory "Artistic Mode of Production" wherein patrician capitalists seek to revaluate (that is, gentrify) urban space through the recruitment and retention of artists; that is, by subtle or overt means of encouraging artists to occupy, say, former industrial facilities (1989, 176). This has become public policy in some cities. In UK cities like Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Liverpool, the actions of regional development agencies, in tandem with private speculators, have attempted to artificially stimulate the process of gentrification. In Jackson, Michigan, the city council has approved the redevelopment of a long-closed 19th century state prison by approving the construction of low rent housing within its walls and making artists loft space available in adjacent abandoned industrial buildings. Property developers have noticed that taking a building they eventually wish to re-develop and offering it cheaply to artists for a few years can impart a 'hip' feel to the surrounding area.
In the US, municipal governments tend to use tax incentives such as "tax increment financing" (TIF), or, such as in the "Paducah Artist Relocation Program" of Paducah, Kentucky, municipal governments will partner with non-profit organizations and Public Private Partnerships to offer to artists subsidized home loans at a discounted interest rate if they move into gentrifying neighborhoods. Under a TIF program, economic activity in a target blighted area will be jump started with government spending, usually on physical infrastructure. Property values, and therefore property tax revenues, are then expected to rise. Under TIF's, all increased tax revenues, for a set number of years, go to the TIF administration entity, and can only be spent on additional improvements within the TIF district. Often TIF funds will be provided as direct subsidies to private sector developers. Infrastructure improvements, subsidies, and rising property values all combine to encourage additional private sector investment.

Case study of gentrification

Darien Street, Philadelphia

There are several case studies done on areas undergoing gentrification. Gentrification Amid Urban Decline: Strategies for America's Older Cities, by Michael Lang, contains a story about Darien Street. This case study is done to show the process and impacts of gentrification.
Darien Street is a small alley street in Bella Vista, a densely populated neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Most of the houses on the street date back to 1885 and were built for artisans, or craftsmen, that lived in the area. Darien Street was considered a “back street,” because it did not (and still does not) connect to any main streets in the city, and it was not even paved for most of its existence.
In its early days, Darien Street housed only Italian families. After World War II however, there was talk of a crosstown expressway, and the Italian families moved out. These low-rent homes then were inhabited by poor African American families. By the early 1970s, Darien Street was at its lowest point, and the houses were worth hardly anything. Many of the houses were abandoned, because of broken heaters and caved-in roofs. The houses on Darien Street were very small—about wide and deep. Each home was three stories tall, with one room on each floor. The largest yard is deep. Even with its decay, Darien Street held a unique charm with European echoes. The houses all had some different features to give the street more character. The street was also safe for children to play on, since there were no passing cars. The nearness of all the homes made for a potentially close-knit atmosphere. Darien Street was located just south of the center of the city, giving it great location; it was also inexpensive and would not have been hard to renovate.
Thus, the first home was rehabilitated in 1977; it was a corner home and was sold to a school teacher. He completely redid the home and moved in. In the next few years, mostly white middle-class men began to move into the abandoned houses. In 1979, the first displacement occurred. Two years later, five of seven families had been displaced. The two remaining families were renting their homes, and they expected to be displaced soon.
Gentrification Amid Urban Decline went in to great detail about Darien Street, but it was published in 1982, so that is where Darien Street’s story ends. Lang gives statistics to show his final findings on Darien Street: in five years, the street changed from seven black households and one white household to two black households and eleven white households. The average rent rose 587%—from $85 to $500 a month. Homes previously sold for $5,000 were sold in 1981 for $35,000. Of the five black households displaced, Lang informs his readers that three families found better houses within two blocks, one family left the state, and one family moved five blocks away into a public-housing project.
The benefits of the gentrification of Darien Street include increased tax flow and improved housing. The drawbacks of gentrification were the worry of the displaced.



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  • Zukin, Sharon. Loft Living. Rutgers UP, 1989. ISBN 0-8135-1389-8 (originally published 1982)

External links

gentrification in Catalan: Ennobliment
gentrification in German: Gentrifizierung
gentrification in Spanish: Aburguesamiento
gentrification in French: Gentrification
gentrification in Italian: Gentrificazione
gentrification in Georgian: გენტრიფიკაცია
gentrification in Dutch: Gentrification
gentrification in Norwegian Nynorsk: Gentrifisering
gentrification in Portuguese: Gentrificação
gentrification in Serbian: Гентрификација
gentrification in Serbo-Croatian: Gentrifikacija
gentrification in Swedish: Gentrifiering
gentrification in Chinese: 士紳化
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