Following up on my podcast with Akron’s Jason Segedy, I want to highlight this excellent piece of his from December on gentrification and the Rust Belt. Segedy observes the same thing I do, the rise of an anti-gentrification movement in cities where the real problem is continued neighborhood decline.
While it can be unclear whether the return of middle class and affluent residents to a neighborhood will really do anything to improve economic conditions for the poor, it is an ironclad certainty that a continued lack of socioeconomic diversity, and its concomitant concentrated poverty, will improve nothing and help no one in these cities – the poor most of all.
For 50 years now, people, jobs, and economic opportunities have steadily left our cities for the suburbs. The status-quo in our region is, indisputably, one of widespread, entrenched urban poverty, geographically separated from (predominately suburban) economic opportunity.
Yet, even the earliest signs of neighborhood revitalization, and nascent attempts at building new housing and opening small businesses in these cities are frequently opposed by people who are convinced that they are acting in the name of social justice.
Sincere as these anti-gentrification sentiments might be, I believe that they are harmful, and, if allowed to derail incipient efforts to reinvest in urban neighborhoods, simply serve to ensure that the existing dynamic of socioeconomic segregation will remain unchanged.
In many cases, the very people who claim to be fighting the current unjust system are inadvertently perpetuating it. Gentrification alarmists have yet to come to grips with the fact that their position usually serves to reinforce the existing, highly inequitable, situation.
Many critics of Rust Belt gentrification are holding cities to an unreasonable standard, and placing them in an impossible situation.
If much of the city remains poor and run-down, this is proof that the city does not care, and is not trying hard enough.
If, on the other hand, parts of the city begin to attract new residents and investment, this is proof that the city does not care, and is not trying hard enough.
Heads I win. Tails you lose.
Sometimes, it seems that the only thing that people dislike more than the status-quo, is doing anything substantive to change it.
Click through to read the whole thing.