Is Gentrification A Myth?: Answering the Question through First Hand Experience

Someone brought to my attention an article titled The Myth of Gentrification: It’s extremely rare and not as bad for the poor as you think by John Buntin on Slate. I would like to begin by saying that Mr. Buntin and Slate are the progenitors of one of the biggest piles of bull excrement I have laid my eyes on in a while. Mr. Buntin do not know what the hell he is talking about and he is apparently speaking from a place where he never experienced gentrification but I have firsthand and in the not too distant past. But prior to me relating the aforementioned experience I will define the term that John Buntin thinks represents a mythical concept and or practice.

MarsBarthenandnowAccording to the 2012 Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged gentrification is “a process by which middle-class people take up residence in a traditionally working-class area of a city, changing the character of the area”. This definition seems simple enough yet it horribly lacking in what actually occurs in a neighborhood that is going through gentrification. Many just look at gentrification as if all is going on is urban renewal. Some generous benefactors or humanitarians out of the kindness of their hearts decided to spend millions of dollars to renovate a rundown neighborhood with some White people moving in afterwards. This is fantasy and the description found in the Urban Dictionary provides a definition that parallels the reality of what actually occurs during gentrification. Gentrification is:

“When “urban renewal” of lower class neighbourhoods with condos attracts yuppie tenants, driving up rents and driving out long time, lower income residents. It often begins with influxes of local artists looking for a cheap place to live, giving the neighbourhood a bohemian flair. This hip reputation attracts yuppies who want to live in such an atmosphere, driving out the lower income artists and lower income residents, often ethnic/racial minorities, changing the social character of the neighbourhood.

It also involves the “yuppification” of local businesses; shops catering to yuppie tastes like sushi restaurants, Starbucks, etc. . . . come to replace local businesses displaced by higher rents.”

The above is not theoretical I have lived through it. Back when I formerly resided in Houston Texas and the areas I lived began gentrifying way back in 1998. What many fail to relate is that gentrification is not something that occurs within a short period of time. It is slow moving and if you blink you will find that it has covered much ground. It is reminiscent of lava in that respects, slow moving at times but just as deadly. It begins when you see young(ish) White people that is not considered “White trash” start frequenting the neighborhood when normally they would try to avoid it at all cost. Next thing you know they are moving into an old abandoned house that they will eventually renovate.  When they learn that contrary to what “mom and dad” told them Black people are not thinking about harming them their friends start arriving and doing the same thing.Condo_construction

By this time the White developers (Sometimes they are Asian, Arab or Indian but the developers are generally White) and real-estate agents notice that White people are interested in that neighborhood. Then this is when all hell breaks loose. Property is being bought and sold throughout the neighborhood. Buildings that was once the dens of crack heads and prostitutes that the neighborhood residents tried to get the city to do something about all of a sudden is demolished. Merchants soon learn of the White invasion so they in turn start to raise their prices to sell to the new residents with incomes that exceed $100,000 (Also there will be new businesses popping up all over). Their concern is no longer for the people that lived there for decades and kept them in business. Then the city wants to get in on it and declare the neighborhood commercial in place of residential to raise taxes almost overnight.

All of the things mentioned is systematic, when there is White interest in an area people know money follows so they are going to try and get as many in there as possible but to do that all the undesirable leftovers have to be removed. They are “leftovers” because all the others was bought out or they bought out the owners of the rental properties and made all the tenants move. For many low income Black families they cannot afford to pay higher grocery prices, rent and if they own some form of property higher taxes.

My mother was one of the leftovers and things got so bad she couldn’t afford to literally live in the neighborhood anymore towards the mid to latter aspect of 2014. I had moved shortly before that and when I learned of the situation I had to return to Houston and locate a new place to live for my mother. I had to spend a lot of time searching the city and sad thing was that the entirety of the inner aspect of Houston proper was being gentrified. All the White people that ran to the adjacent suburbs, towns and hidden subdivisions wanted to move into the inner city and the wards at that time.

Blog8_1_ElderWhile combing the city I ran into others that was looking as well as a consequence of gentrification in their neighborhoods. As the weeks went on people started to resemble refugees. Gentrification hits the elderly the hardest. In many instances all they knew was that house, apartment and neighborhood and to relocate against their will or because of circumstances is devastating.

Also you have those house or property flippers that look at the entire situation as a business venture that will eventually pay them 2-3 times what they put in. They will go into Black neighborhoods and specifically find apartment complexes and rental homes and purchase them. They will allow the tenants to remain there until some developers eventually arrive wanting the property in order to build condos and lofts worth $2-400,000. In the meanwhile when the flipper procures the property they will have the renters to sign a documentation declaring that they are “leasing” the house or apartment on a monthly basis and they could be asked to move at a moment’s notice. This is so the flippers can start profiting from their venture in advance of the developers arrival. When they finally do arrive the flipper then tells the leaseholders they have a month to three months to vacate the property depending on how long it takes to close the deal with the developers.

The whole thing is heartless in nature and the people (Read: White people) that cause it could not have a care in the world because they are acquiring what they desire since they have the power and wealth to do so. The whole experience of gentrification etched into my mind even more so the need for me to build and to grasp wealth, power and influence for myself so that me, my loved ones or my people would never have to experience such things again.

~A.O.

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Is Gentrification A Myth?: Answering the Question through First Hand Experience

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