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Bobby Woofter's Blog

By Bobby Woofter | Broker in Cambridge, MA

A look at Gentrification in Boston

Gentrification.  I have heard the term thrown around since I have been in Boston and for a long time I did not know exactly what it was.  The word sounded positive.  The "gentile" part of the word just made it sound like it meant improving an area.  The term is thrown around when dealing with up an coming areas, South Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury, and most loudly, Jamaica Plain.

The Whole Foods issue in JP brought gentrification to my attention and I wanted to learn a bit more about the phenomena as I do business and live in Jamaica Plain and I hear the word thrown around a lot.  To start with lets define gentrification.

According to Wikipedia , "Gentrification and urban gentrification are terms referring to the socio-cultural displacement that results when wealthier people acquire property in low income and working class communities.

So gentrification actually is a negative term that means people with lower incomes are priced out of neighborhoods.  So, gentrification happens as a by product of vitalization, or the improvement of an area.

other aspects that follow gentrification:

  • Average Income Increases
  • Average Family Size decreases
  • Industrial Land is repurposed for commercial use and Housing
  • New businesses, catering to a more affluent base of consumers, tend to move into formerly blighted areas

There is also a cultural aspect to gentrification where the people moving in to an area do not share the same heritage or culture and as a neighborhood changes the previous residents become priced out of the area.

In my mind gentrification is an inescapable result of improvement to an area.  Across the nation people have been moving back to city centers for quite some time and as the demand rises for these areas price will continue to rise as well.  Areas will change, this is inescapable and many people have to deal with the housing costs.  I would say that the trade off is well worth it.  A drop in crime, renovation of formerly blighted areas, and city improvements to follow as a result of the higher income tax paid by the residents of the area.  Parts of the city such as Dorchester, South Boston and Jamaica Plain are the next logical places to undergo the vitalization process.  There was a time not so long ago when the South End was considered a dangerous neighborhood, the Fenway had a reputation for seedy and dangerous people in the park, and the Charlestown Navy Yard would never have been considered a nice place to live.  Now those neighborhoods are spectacular places to live full of art and culture.

Were people displaced from these neighborhoods?  Absolutely.  In retrospect I would say it was a change for the good.  I would equate gentrification with growing pains for an area as it counters the urban decay that took place in cities across the US in the 70's.  Ultimately the market will only drive prices so high in an area and I would much rather live in a place with a higher price with better quality, less crime and blighted areas rather than a cheap locale full of trash strewn vacant lots  and boarded up windows.  Look at a place like Detroit, I bet they would love some gentrification.

Check out my website at www.mybostoncondo.com

Comments

By aja.jackson328,  Mon Oct 22 2012, 19:36
Racism, classism, and mere ignorance are the underlying themes in your poorly written article. There are people and families that contribute to the well being of their communities. These families are being forced to leave their homes because they can no longer afford to purchase or even rent an apartment in their own community. As I review the property rates, I am saddened that the moral foundation of the real estate market and the "priveledged" doesn't exist. There are those who work very hard and are indeed a part of the middle class who cannot live in an urban community because the rent or mortgage is outrageously high. There are hundreds of school teachers who cannot live in the area of which they teach because its too expensive. There is no reason why A 850 sq ft condo would cost more than $500,000. I would dare to call gentrification a modern form of segregation. Something has to change.
By Ingrid,  Sun Feb 24 2013, 09:19
aja.jackson328, THANK YOU! Indeed this author is completely ignoring the realities of those displaced... treating human beings with long histories in neighborhoods like the old garbage. If capitalism didn't rely on the working poor, folks (folks of color) would have more opportunities, but the reality is that they do not, and gentrification is yet another process that enforce segretation, castes, homelessness and the new jim crow.

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