urban renewal

Why Does Revitalization Equal Displacement?

Everyone has seen ads for new development within cities, promising new jobs and offering business space. The glitz and glamour widen the eyes of potential tourists and business investors alike as “new markets” would become readily available. Consumers view these types of transitions as laudable, and flock to any of the trendiest new results of this kind of development. There is one small problem with almost all of these developments: residents lived there before the development. Sadly, “revitalization” and “development” are continuing to mean displacement for those who are unable to pay the new prices for the upgrades in their communities.

While development occurs, people are forced to navigate around construction. This is a nuisance for some, but a way of life for others before they are eventually pushed to further margins. In wealthier neighborhoods, the constituents are used to the occasional sidewalk expansion, the sporadic road improvements, sewage updates and the like. The message is clear: these areas are so desirable that nothing drastic would ever have to change, so no one wishes to disturb the euphoria. Areas with little investment full of the working poor live with excessive tension: how long until people discover this area, forcing everyone to move? They know that once discovered, their haven–especially if it is accessible to transit–will become filled with construction, making it even more inconvenient for the current neighborhoods.

In the end, the residents in areas that are “revitalized” enjoy none of the benefits because whether for taxes or the inability to pay the new costs appraised by the giddy appraisal district, almost no one will be allowed to remain. Public and private entities alike smirk as people voice objections at public meetings and send angry missives, but most people who are “reshaping” the communities have never lived there. Most decision-makers live away from areas that can be changed in an instant because someone from the outside “discover” them. None of them have ever seen the small business owners struggle to get loans for improvements, nor have they seen the community members meet to discuss problems and how to address them. Instead, places where people have lived for years are deemed “new and improved,” the improvement being that none of the previous residents can afford to live there.


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