1. I absolutely loved this article. Well said!

  2. Bravo.

  3. Hannah McAnespie says:

    Thank you! =)

  4. Yes! as one of the risk aware who moved here in 1995, Yes and Yes and Yes!
    Well said.

  5. bettybarcode says:

    “Newcomers who think they’re entitled to just run roughshod, remaking the neighborhood to serve their own narrow band of interests; but also long-timers who think they’re somehow entitled to a world without change.”

    This is very perceptive. Oldtimers have resented difference as represented by newcomers ever since the dawn of neighborhoods. In the past, “different” meant being poorer, browner, blacker, Muslim or Hindu, not knowing English, from some ‘backward’ part of the country, etc. No one gets to monopolize a neighborhood. When those rude & clueless newcomers have put down roots, in 30 years they, too, will have to contend with difference and newcomers that they resent.

  6. Harden A. Carter says:

    Nice article. Very sentimental. But the terror of current day gentrification is like having your space taken away without your permission. Its a raw power struggle carried on by sometimes very nice people. Its sort of a take over on the terms of the new comers. Reminds me of colonialism. The people who came and took over the Americas fit into the same neat categories you listed above. Risk Oblivious, Risk Aware and Risk Averse.

    In the general media, the new comer gets congratulated. The maintainers, do not get rewarded for all their hard work before the place becomes chic. Its about unequal power relationships. Black versus White. Poor Versus Richer.

    Now, you are saying, work hard to get along with your new and privileged new neighbor when their very presence insures that you will not be living where you are in a few years. Getting along with new people is really the easy part. Like, its fun to get along with your neighbors. But, systematic race and economic injustice that continues on and on and perpetuate these unequal power relationships and gentrification is no longer acceptable. Its just a continuation of what has been going on here for the last 500 years.

    • bettybarcode says:

      Just one tiny quibble: when property values rise, don’t “maintainers” get rewarded for all their hard work and struggle by earning a profit when they sell?

      I understand that profit undermines one’s moral integrity, but it sure beats throwing your blood, sweat, tears, and life savings into a house or neighborhood only to end up with a property that is worth less than the day you bought it. Decline, in measurable and subjective terms, has been a corrosive reality in some places for 50 years.

      Because of its wealth-dissolving power, blight (what happens when supply exceeds demand) is far more oppressive than gentrification (what happens when demand exceeds supply). Blight disrupts lives and displaces vulnerable people, too.

      But if you find gentrification intolerable, I know one particularly handsome, well-made city who just doesn’t get the credit it deserves for carefully maintaining some stellar, gentrification-proof neighborhoods in spite of unfortunately allowing other neighborhoods to appreciate: Buffalo, NY. We have several census tracts completely free of hipsters, yuppies, indie coffee houses, frozen yogurt shops, and investment of any kind.

      • BBC
        Thanks for your thoughtful response. I just want to point out that the way we have structured our capitalist economic society, one can be a veteran, regular civic participant, hard working employee and or aged and retired after living in a location for 35 to 45 years, and be taxed out of your home if you own due to increased property values, or if a renter, be priced out of your home.

        Note: Gentrification, as we practice it, is one of many investment paradigms where the more powerful takes advantage of the less powerful in search of personal gain.

      • BuffaloBarbara says:

        The problem with “You get rewarded when you sell” is that people are being forced to sell, whether they want to or not. You’ve got a place that’s yours, that you wanted to live in until you die, that you’ve fixed up just as you like it. Maybe you want to leave it to your kids. But through no action of your own at all, you’re forced into selling it because you can no longer afford the neighborhood. Being paid for it doesn’t make it any less raw coercion.

        The same happens with blight, of course. My family used to live down near Niagara (my great-great-grandmother owned a tavern down there), on Potomac. The houses were full of memories and things they’d built. My grandmother ended up not taking either of the places (her parents’ or her great-grandparents’), but she had friends in the neighborhood and watched it decay into complete blight. Her grandparents’ home, where they lived for decades and raised their children, was taken down as a crack house. The last of the “girls” — the children she played with — finally had to give up, because it’s not safe for an old woman to live there alone.

        There should still be neighborhoods where you can choose to live, where you can go to a bar instead of a microbrewery, not have to apologize for being a manual laborer, and still be safe and build a good life. I’m not sure how we got to the point where not being tony means being blighted. It’s a cultural problem.

        • I think demographic shifts have always been happening and always will.

          As far as being forced to sell, that would only happen if the taxes on your property got so high that you couldn’t afford them. Otherwise, if you hold the mortgage it’s completely up to you if/when you sell. I know my taxes are maybe 20% of my monthly mortgage payment and they would have to triple or quadruple before it became so burdensome that I could no longer afford the house. And if my house sold for four times what I paid for it I’d be quite happy, whether coerced or not.

          I’m not saying you or anyone else is wrong, it’s just that gentrification is a new term to me and I’m trying to understand it. So far I fail to see who the victim is.

          • MrsLopez says:

            Gentrification doesn’t just apply to people who own houses. It affects people who rent apartments and can no longer afford the rent increases, the higher priced groceries, etc. My husband pays $2000 a month for a two & 1/2 bedroom apartment in an up and coming neighborhood that we grew up in.
            I am a student and a stay-at-home mom of three children. We can see the positive side too, more funding for schools and so forth. This is why we struggle to stay. However, there is another problem and that is as the rent increases, salaries do not. This is where things get tricky.

  7. “Independent career woman”? Really? Would you characterize a man that way? “Independent career man”?

    Otherwise! really thoughtful piece on a difficult, complex issue. I wish more people – on all sides – would acknowledge this complexity and struggle with it. Any solutions need to come from a dialectical struggle. Simplifying it into any kind of “us” vs. “them” thing guarantees continued misery all around.

  8. I don’t think Gentrification is as simply as people with some money buying into a neighborhood cheaper than their economic strata, or at least, that’s not the real problem. The issue isn’t so much the ‘entitled running roughshod’, but when developers and builders are offered huge advantages in a neighborhood, over small home improvement loans for median income homeowners. Banks become less likely to give assistance to small owners, knowing it makes better economic sense
    Throw in politicians with their big money allegiances, and their designers and consultants wanting to instill their particular “vision” upon someone else’s neighborhood.
    I keep hearing this notion that Gentrification is a good thing, but I think the term itself “gentrification” is supposed to mean when the growth of a neighborhood is threatened by an imbalanced vision of the realities of city living. There are sacrifices people make to live in the city -cramped space, dirty air, higher crime rates…it seem harder to deal with as apartment rental rates rise up to compare to suburban mortgage payments. Keeping neighborhood going is not just a matter of attracting people with money.

    • I just want to say, one can be part of the gentrification of a neighborhood, or one can integrate a neighborhood. When you participate in the gentrification of a neighborhood you are talking about an unfriendly take-over. Its all about one using our economic system, that already overwhelmingly supports and favors those with more money and less color; giveing you priviledge and hegemony to systematically take advantage of other folks with less power and systemic social and economic support, for your personal gain.

      When you integrate a neighborhood, you join in on a community system that is already in place and work with existing neighbors to maintain and mutually improve the situation on terms negotiated and acceptable to most living there at the time. The intentions are different and so are the results. One is sharing, the other is taking.

      • I think that was part of the point I was trying to make, the naming of things. To say that gentrification is good, in my understanding of the word, is tantamount to saying, “it is good when the ‘integration’ turns bad.”
        I apologize, I wrote my comments hastily and was not as clear as I’d hoped.
        To me Gentrification is when a neighborhood becomes imbalance…in a sense, it is like the opposite end of the spectrum of Blight…when poverty overwhelms the economy around it. Like two sides of a scale, shifting back and forth.
        I myself live in a neighborhood, Lawrenceville in Pittsburgh, PA, and my landlord has decided to not renew my lease, and instead gut out and re-rent my house at an inflated price. Over the years that I’ve lived here, I’ve seen millions of dollars going into the homes around my street. I also see many empty, dilapidated homes and garbage littering the streets.
        Aside from the stress and added costs of us having to move, we are going to be fine. We found a charming, actually nicer home in a nearby neighborhood, across the river, but outside the city limits. That factor is important, because it is a key factor in Gentrification–pushing poorer people outside the borders of the city, in essence making them lose any voting privileged of what happens inside the city’s government.
        My wife and I are not poor; we actually have the money to stay. I simply refuse to pay exorbitant rents for a neighborhood that no longer really caters to me, pouring money towards a home that I do not own. Furthermore, once you step away from the charming fantasy of “City life” and enter the reality, Lawrenceville is loaded with lots of left over dirty manufacturing, heavy tractor trailer traffic, crime, and blighted properties. In fact, someone illegally dumped a pile of rubber tires and rusting propane tanks right out in the back alley of my house. I called the city 3 weeks ago, with no results.
        It’s one thing to balance the benefits and drawbacks of city life over suburbs, but once a place gets gentrified, only a few people can afford to live in it. That being said, by the time it takes for the development to finish, finding out of those who can afford to live there, those who actually still want to live there…that gets trickier. When so much capital goes into a place that the owners must charge more than the market is willing to pay…THIS is gentrification, in it’s truest form.
        At least that’s how I’ve always thought of it. Pittsburgh’s history is full of places that were overdeveloped to the point no one could afford to live in them, and things fell apart.

  9. Great article. One thing I am still trying to understand about gentrification is the concept that those already living in the neighborhood get “exploited.” Did the woman in your story really have to move just because her property taxes increased? That’s a pretty small percentage of a typical house payment. What’s more, she was able to pay cash for her next house. If that’s exploitation then sign me up! The only people I can really see being forced out are renters, but by definition those folks wouldn’t have played much of a role in the gentrification process anyway.

  10. Very thought provoking, some good and some it seems designed to make those without the desire to FIT IN feel justified. I too love my home and my neighbors, I express this often and out loud to all within the range of my voice. I will no doubt meet more new neighbors as we experience the spring thaw. May I suggest to my new neighbors, that in the spirit of FITTING IN or non segregation of race or economics differences that when you socialize at our wonderful neighborhood gatherings that you socialize with a little more diversity in mind. Not just gravitate to those that you just moved away from. I suspect that you will get more of what I TRUST that you came for. I for one can’t wait for warmer weather to meet new people.


  1. [...] Meanwhile, friend of the blog Scott Doyon has the best breakdown of gentrification I’ve seen, as someone who is traditionally considered a gentrifier, yet recognizes the worst sin of gentrification is not the raising of home values, but the decline of…. [...]

  2. [...] One of my favorite recent articles on the subject was written last month by Scott Doyon for his planning firm’s blog, PlaceShakers.  Scott, who has become a friend through an online community of urbanists who check in with each other almost daily, might be described by some as an early-generation gentrifier:  he and his wife bought into a working-class, African American neighborhood some twenty years ago because it was affordable.  At the time, they had good education but almost no money.  Since then, he’s seen the neighborhood attract more and more white, increasingly affluent residents. [...]

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  4. [...] complicated by the fact that, all too often, no one ends up owning the moral high ground. I’ve written before about the failings of both sides in a changing neighborhood, most specifically with [...]

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