A Commentary on Gentification

There are two definitions for the word “gentrification”.

1. The process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.

2. The process of making a person or activity more refined or polite.

While sometimes this trend is inevitable, gentrification is an endless cycle that has been repeating itself for decades. For various reasons, a given area has money flow into it either from many or a couple of sources. The prior existing population is then pushed out and forced to find a life somewhere else.

The draw to these “undiscovered” places for the outside crowd could be (initially) lower rent, an “edgy” feel, or more space. As of late, many are flocking to small towns across the United States for unique career opportunities. Intimate downtowns can serve as a cozy niche for business owners, especially in hospitality industries.

While this growth can be seen as a positive on the front end due to an increased tax base and economic expansion, this process leaves many behind. The more people that crowd in, the more prices of rent, food, and other necessities go up. As demand goes up, so does price.

What then is to happen to the residents who can no longer pay for housing in the gentrified neighborhood or community? What is happening in Oxford, Mississippi is a prime example. The small college town is growing quickly, and there is only so much space. Riverside Place, a public housing complex in Oxford, is soon to be dissolved due to the condition of the apartments. The housing contracts will not be extended and they end February 27. This leaves residents little time to make other arrangements.

This is where the problem lies with gentrification, and perhaps where the definitions of the word prove to be true. Gentrification can be credited with bringing about new movements of prosperity, but at what cost to natives? The process of making things more “refined” and “polite” help some, but hurt others.

Displacement is the result. Displacement can have different affects, depending on what level of town one is being displaced from. Sometimes it means leaving a place of safety and comfort for a more uncertain area of town, just to be able to pay the bills.

This certain chain of events leads to a widening of the gap between classes, based on environmental amenities. When an area of town becomes gentrified, a place that might not have been considered posh or upscale suddenly transforms. New buildings are built, much money is invested into projects, and everything is pristine. The lower-income population is pushed to an area that most likely lacks in renovations, facilities, and resources.

A larger collection or jobs and opportunities also exist in the gentrified area. Lower-income individuals who wish to work in the community but cannot afford to live there have to pay for transportation. This is an additional financial stress.

The solution to the gentrification of small towns is uncertain. However, only so much conforming and refining can take place. The cycle of gentrification pushes forward indefinitely, and cannot easily be broken.