Admittedly, the first time I really saw anything about gentrification was in the show “Shameless.”
For anyone who doesn’t know, the show is about a large low-income family living on the Southside of Chicago. The show portrays each character’s progression through life, as well as the progression of the neighborhood they grew up in.
In school, I never really knew what gentrification was; I had only ever heard the word.
The other day, I happened to be at a coffee shop on the south side of Indianapolis. This specific shop was in a rougher area of town, similar to what the south side of Chicago might look like.
Next door was the shop of two women from HGTV called Two Chicks District Co. Being a fan of HGTV, I was intrigued by the shop. I asked the barista inside the coffee shop about it, and her response was not very enthusiastic.
To me, it was a seemingly cute shop owned by women. However, to the lower income area it was encapsulated by, it was like a wrecking ball to their lives.
The barista told me that the houses they were flipping were running upwards of $400,000. In an area where most houses are less than $100,000, this is a problem.
I soon realized what she was referring to: gentrification.
By building these expensive homes, these women are driving up the cost of living, which in turn, kicks people out of their homes. An area that was previously affordable for low-income people is now no longer.
The process begins with building nicer homes. Then, more expensive businesses move in, like pricey coffee shops or yoga studios, which attracts people with more money.
Because of the attraction, the people with more money buy these homes and the lower income people can no longer live in an area that charges $8 for a price of coffee.
Instead of a city providing money to repair and area, such as providing a playground or an after-school program, they rely on gentrifiers to revamp the area and do the work for them.
If these women specifically want to flip houses, why not do it in a nicer area and make even more money?
Many times, gentrification leads to homelessness. Because these people are displaced from their homes, they have nowhere to go.
Often, their homes were an easy commute to work or maybe close to something like a grocery store. If they have to move all the way across town, they might not be able to make it to work anymore.
The homeless population in the U.S. is astronomical and instead of fixing the issue, like providing the homeless with the far exceeding number of empty houses available, we instead further the issues by doing things like gentrification.
Gentrification can also be a race issue.
Many times, these areas are home to African American people. When that area is gentrified, those people obviously move out; thus, getting rid of the black population.
A study done regarding the east side Indy area of Holy Cross found a 56% reduction in the population of African Americans within a 14-year period. The people who took that place tended to be more white, educated people.
There is housing for homeless and lower income, but certainly not enough. Areas of land can actually be bought to control the rent so that people in poverty can continue living and not be displaced.
There are obviously homeless shelters, but those aren’t places that someone can have privacy and make a home for themselves.
I think there can be common ground between improving an area and keeping the community still living there.
Of course I want to see rundown areas fixed up, but I don’t want to see people scooted out of their homes for half the price—if that—of what the house may sell for. I believe safe and affordable housing is a human right.