eating a maple bacon donut on a Citi Bike en route to Whole Foods, yoga
August 1, 2015 8:02 AM   Subscribe

"Gentrifiers are people with medium or high incomes moving into low-income neighborhoods, attracting new business but raising rents, and often contributing to tensions between new and long-term residents. Sociologists coined the term, which alludes to the European gentry—and which has only become more loaded at a time of skyrocketing rents and profound demographic changes in American cities. But are you a gentrifier?" [SLSlate]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (142 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I took the test and it said I was too poor to be a gentrifier. Fine by me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:06 AM on August 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


I like how, according to this calculator, I'm not a gentrifier right now because I make a few thousand dollars less than the average earnings of a single person household in my neighborhood, but I'd be a gentrifier as soon as I earned that much money and continued to live in the zip code where I've lived for the past four years. Income CAN'T be the sole indicator of a gentrifier, that's bullshit.
posted by palomar at 8:11 AM on August 1, 2015 [24 favorites]


I'm a gentrifier now but I wasn't when we bought our house. OK then.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:14 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ha... actually, I just realized that with the itty bit of extra money that lands in my account every quarter thanks to my student loans and the tax refund that I'll get from education credits while I'm enrolled in school, I technically am a gentrifier. Isn't that great? I work a full-time job that pays thousands of dollars less per year than the average single person household earns in my immediate area, but the money I'll have to pay back to the government for letting me better myself through education makes me a gentrifier. Yes, that makes TOTAL sense.
posted by palomar at 8:15 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of good points to make about gentrification. This particular article and online calculator quiz thing is not one of them.
posted by hippybear at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2015 [36 favorites]


I'm also slightly too poor for it to consider a gentrifier but I imagine the doctor that has lived in the house across the street for like 12 years (and I do live in a gentrifying neighborhood) would be counted as one.

It's almost like the term has no meaning on an individual basis.
posted by ghharr at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I didn't need a test to know that I was a gentrifier, though it didn't hurt to remind me how big the income difference is. I wish it wasn't so.
posted by wotsac at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


"your neighborhood is too wealthy to be gentrified"

Damn I knew I was lowering the tone around here.
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 AM on August 1, 2015 [27 favorites]


I got that I am a gentrifier, but I don't think this thing works for college towns. I'm not sure that it's possible to be an adult with a full-time job here and not qualify as a gentrifier according to their formula.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:28 AM on August 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


The formula is a little too simple: If your neighborhood’s median income is lower than the median income of your city, and your income is higher than your city’s median, you’re a gentrifier.

The fact that it figures out neighborhood through the proxy of ZIP code, means that some areas get confused. In Columbus, OH, we have a ZIP code that is half middle class neighborhood and half student rentals. What this means is that you can go from "gentrifier" to "non-gentrifier" just by having kids. This changes the median income you're compared to quite a bit. Good news for your grandkid-hungry parents!
posted by demiurge at 8:31 AM on August 1, 2015


I got that I am a gentrifier, but I don't think this thing works for college towns. I'm not sure that it's possible to be an adult with a full-time job here and not qualify as a gentrifier according to their formula.

Why not? I mean, it might not be the case where you are, but it's certainly happening in college towns. The Northside neighborhood, a historically African American neighborhood just north of campus in Chapel Hill is certainly undergoing gentrification. Ditto the Weinland Park neighborhood just east of Ohio State University.
posted by damayanti at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2015


The high income people are late-stage gentrifiers. First you need the early gentrifiers, often artists, long before the people with the money arrive.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:33 AM on August 1, 2015 [31 favorites]


1. I clicked "Non-family" at first because I live with my girlfriend, but then I was like "Wait, what does Family, No Kids mean? Maybe we're a family with no kids?" If we're a non-family, we're gentrifiers. If we're a family with no kids, we're not.

2. The zip-code I live in has neighborhoods that show stereotypical signs of gentrification, and other neighborhoods that really, really don't. A zip code is waaaaaaaay too big of an area to be provide meaningful data.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:36 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm gentrifying the neighborhood where I've lived my whole life
posted by shrieking violet at 8:43 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that there's no such thing as gentification in college towns, damayanti. I'm saying that the average income in college towns is pulled down by the presence of students. I'm a single university staff-member who lives in the same zipcode as a lot of students. I don't think that necessarily makes me a gentrifier, even though my income is higher than the $25,000-a-year average for my zipcode. I might actually be more of a gentrifier if I moved to one of the far-out neighborhoods where the average income is higher but there are more non-students and families.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:44 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have lived in my neighborhood for 15 years, and have nearly doubled my income since then. I... don't know what that means in the context of this quiz. I wasn't a gentrifier when I moved in, but now I am, despite not having moved? How does that work?
posted by suelac at 8:54 AM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm a single university staff-member who lives in the same zipcode as a lot of students. I don't think that necessarily makes me a gentrifier, even though my income is higher than the $25,000-a-year average for my zipcode.

And:

Ha... actually, I just realized that with the itty bit of extra money that lands in my account every quarter thanks to my student loans and the tax refund that I'll get from education credits while I'm enrolled in school, I technically am a gentrifier. Isn't that great?

Are interesting juxtaposed with each other. You're right that student incomes are weird, because it's hard to tell between "Middle/upper class kid who's technically 'poor' right now but has a social safety net/likely will get a good job when they get out through connections" and "Someone working their butt off and barely making ends meet".

So, some neighborhoods could have more of the former, but clearly, there are neighborhoods with more of the latter. And there can be a cycle of gentrification: low income students can take over neighborhoods formally occupied by minorities, better-paid faculty and staff can take over student neighborhoods (which will end up hurting some students more than others), etc. If more staff members like ArbitraryAndCapricious move into a neighborhood, they could very well end up displacing somebody like palomar.
posted by damayanti at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a gentrifier, but I'm also a renter. Is profiteering now defined as "not living strictly paycheck to paycheck?"
posted by oceanjesse at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


And for what it's worth, I get "yes, you are a gentrifier" for every zipcode within the limits of my town. In order to get "no, you're not a gentrifier," I had to enter a zipcode that covers a portion of the metro area that until very recently was rural, where developers are buying up farms and converting them into condo developments. There are no students out there, but that's a dynamic that brings its own issues.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2015


Does not include Canada. Zzzzzzz.
posted by Kitteh at 9:01 AM on August 1, 2015


It doesn't have "St. Louis" or "Saint Louis" MO in its dropdown, so it refuses to go any further.
posted by Foosnark at 9:01 AM on August 1, 2015


Maybe it might help people to think of "gentrifier" in the same framework as "privileged".

That is, "This label does not mean I am a bad person. This label means, simply, that I might have benefited from various underlying systems of housing patterns and prices that have not benefited others. I repeat, this does not mean I am a bad person".

And those underlying systems can include things fueled by racism, town/gown relationships, your income growing more rapidly compared to your neighbors for some reason, etc., etc. This doesn't mean that you, personally, have created those systems and are morally responsible for them; just that you have benefitted in some ways than that those around you have not.
posted by damayanti at 9:02 AM on August 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


#NotAllGentrifiers
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:07 AM on August 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm apparently a gentrifier in MeFite darling Takoma Park, but try telling that to the city inspector who's periodically posted notices to us to clean up the piles of unsightly crap in our driveway or else (paraphrase) and surely sees us as PWT-ifiers if anything. I think a better metric would be what percentage of your household income have you (or your landlord) spent on home improvements in the past decade. "If more than 25% of your current residence has been stripped-to-the-studs remodeled, you just might be a gentrifier."
posted by drlith at 9:08 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe it might help people to think of "gentrifier" in the same framework as "privileged".

But that's not what gentrification means. Nothing about what the linked article/calculator is about what gentrification means. It has a specific meaning, which is that wealthy people move into downtrodden areas because they are cheap and renovate properties, either housing or businesses, and in the process drive up property values and rents and drive out old-time residents and long-established businesses because they can no longer afford to be in the place they've been since before the wealthy people arrived.

Just having a higher income in a specific neighborhood doesn't mean you're a gentrifier. (I'm not sure that was even a word before.)

If this article/calculator was going to do anything at all useful, it would include questions like "how long have you lived there", "where did you live before you moved there", "how close is where you live to where you work", "how much have you spent on renovations in the past X years" and other such things.

Simply living in a place while you improve your life and income and finding that you are doing better than your neighbors doesn't make you a gentrifier. It makes you a neighborhood success story, and an example of what everyone wants to see happen in long-established neighborhoods.
posted by hippybear at 9:10 AM on August 1, 2015 [38 favorites]


I'm a gentrifier because I make more money now than when I moved into my place 35 years ago. I was a gentrifier before it was cool!
posted by SPrintF at 9:13 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The thing is, damayanti, I'm not objecting to the idea that I could be gentrifier. I have in the past been a gentrifier. I'm saying that this formula doesn't work for the place where I live, for several reasons, one of which is that zip code isn't a stand-in for neighborhood in a place as small as my current college town. The whole town is covered by a few zip codes, and all of them are extremely economically and socially diverse. The same zip codes contain stable student neighborhoods and stable non-student neighborhoods. The biggest change is not in urban neighborhoods but in rural areas that are being converted to residential. The biggest concerns downtown have to do with single-family homes being converted into group houses for students.

I understand that none of this makes sense if your entire perspective is shaped by big cities, but not everyone lives in a big city.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


If this article/calculator was going to do anything at all useful, it would include questions like "how long have you lived there", "where did you live before you moved there", "how close is where you live to where you work", "how much have you spent on renovations in the past X years" and other such things.

Exactly. Basing this on income alone is useless.

In order to get "no, you're not a gentrifier," I had to enter a zipcode that covers a portion of the metro area that until very recently was rural, where developers are buying up farms and converting them into condo developments.

So in order to not be considered a gentrifier by the calculator, you'd need to move to an area that's currently undergoing the first wave of gentrification. Huh.
posted by palomar at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2015


Just having a higher income in a specific neighborhood doesn't mean you're a gentrifier. (I'm not sure that was even a word before.)


That's not what the calculator is calculating. From the article:

For the purposes of this calculator, Ellen suggested this formula: If your neighborhood’s median income is lower than the median income of your city, and your income is higher than your city’s median, you’re a gentrifier.

So it's not just if you have a higher income for your neighborhood; it's if you have a higher income both for your neighborhood *and* for your metro area.

And yes, you can add on more questions, but according to at least one urban planner, consulted for the article, the calculator can give a rough proxy/indication. FTA:

The calculator does have limitations—there might be several neighborhoods of varying affluence in a single ZIP code—but it should nevertheless help you understand how you fit into your area socioeconomically.

And for some reason, people are flipping out about this.
posted by damayanti at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


The neighbourhood we moved into earlier this year was listed as "upcoming" in our mortgage company's appraisal report. I suppose that's true. Our street are houses that have obviously been renovated and landscaped to have more curb appeal, intermixed with the houses of very long term residents that are slightly down at heel but nothing one would consider unsightly. The starkest reminders that our 'hood has a ways to go are blocks of rowhouses with cheap siding and piles of garbage on the tiny porches. I don't blame the residents but the slumlords who rent them for cheap and then don't care what happens after. Honestly, even our house is a bit of a state. I cannot figure what the plan was for the landscaping in the yard and the strips of grass around the house and as a result, it looks unruly and wild. I cannot be arsed to do anything about that this year. If we wanted to match our house to the renovated standards of our well-to-do neighbours--and my husband's income is pretty decent, but mine is not--we'd re-side the house, repave the driveway, figure out to make the flowers and plants running rampant look nice, and maybe build a side porch. I care but sort of don't care. Check with me in a year about whether the neighbourhood came up and I did anything about what I listed.
posted by Kitteh at 9:18 AM on August 1, 2015


"Flipping out"? Gross. Don't be that guy.
posted by palomar at 9:20 AM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not flipping out at all, damayanti. I'm explaining that it doesn't work for where I live. You're the one who seems to be making this oddly personal, accusing me of being in denial rather than accepting that I might just live in a place for which this calculator doesn't work.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:21 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fine, maybe not flipping out, but there's been a lot of "this is bullshit, this is wrong".

Yes, everybody has a lived experience that complicates their story, and yes, not every checklist will take into account everything. But in some cases, a single variable (race, income, gender, neighborhood, whatever) can be useful for thinking about inequality. I think jumping to "This calculator doesn't match my lived experience because it doesn't take into account XYZ, therefore, it's wrong and stupid" is a bit much.
posted by damayanti at 9:22 AM on August 1, 2015


You're the one who seems to be making this oddly personal, accusing me of being in denial rather than accepting that I might just live in a place for which this calculator doesn't work.

ArbitaryAndCapricious, I've specifically said that this might not be the case for your neighborhood, multiple times. I've just pointed out that, in some college towns, it might be.
posted by damayanti at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2015


Huh, what I've actually seen in the thread is people saying that basing this on income alone is not useful. I wonder what thread you're reading.
posted by palomar at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm definitely privileged, but the point I'm trying to make is there are grades of gentrification, and I am without a doubt closer to the precariat side as a low asset petit bourgeoisie, and I think it can be a bit "fight over crumbs" to forget about the much larger renter/rentier dichotomy that controls the markets and rules of the game when we talk about how bad we are for being gentrifiers.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:24 AM on August 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Bullshit. gentrifiers are corporate entities who take advantage of the popularity of a low rent area by moving in and bringing 'conveniences', driving up desirability and property values at the same time.
Starbucks replacing the family owned coffee shop, urban outfitters replacing mom and pop.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:27 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Bullshit. gentrifiers are corporate entities who take advantage of the popularity of a low rent area by moving in and bringing 'conveniences', driving up desirability and property values at the same time.

We have no Starbucks or Urban Outfitters or any other national chain in my neighborhood (not allowed by zoning!) and YET I can get a maple-bacon donut three blocks from my house, no kidding. It doesn't require large corporations to gentrify a place. /yesIamagentrifiertooduh
posted by rtha at 9:30 AM on August 1, 2015 [23 favorites]


And yes, you can add on more questions, but according to at least one urban planner, consulted for the article, the calculator can give a rough proxy/indication. FTA:

"The calculator does have limitations—there might be several neighborhoods of varying affluence in a single ZIP code—but it should nevertheless help you understand how you fit into your area socioeconomically."

And for some reason, people are flipping out about this.


I'm no urban planner, I'm just a guy who understands how median averages work. If you have a zip code with several neighborhoods of varying affluence, that's going to really screw up the meaningfulness of the rough proxy/indication for that zip code, regardless of what one urban planner says.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:30 AM on August 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, sure, I'm a "gentrifier" per this article....which, to be clear, says "if you make more than MEDIAN income for your city, and live in an area where people typically make LESS than MEDIAN income, you're a gentrifier."

That's a pretty loose definition, and as others have noted, it doesn't take into account things like income when you moved in (for you or the neighborhood).

The whole premise of the article is playing on fears of "am I privileged/racist/otherwise inadvertently offending?" (big surprise, it's Slate).

More importantly, the notion that any of the people labeled as "gentrifiers" are some sort of invading force trying to drive people out is somewhere between absurd and offensive. I just wanted a place to live that was affordable, and I bought my home from a family who wanted to sell it. I'm white. They were black. Is that a big deal? Should it be?

Where are people allowed to live? I don't think a free society should limit any group of people, by law or culture, to certain neighborhoods.
posted by Jinsai at 9:39 AM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm no urban planner, I'm just a guy who understands how median averages work. If you have a zip code with several neighborhoods of varying affluence, that's going to really screw up the meaningfulness of the rough proxy/indication for that zip code, regardless of what one urban planner says.


Yes, and I don't disagree; I do disagree with the premise that because the calculator doesn't work for all zip codes or people that means it's useless. It's a rough proxy, which the planner and the article admits. It'll work some places, it'll won't work for others.
posted by damayanti at 9:40 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm no urban planner, I'm just a guy who understands how median averages work. If you have a zip code with several neighborhoods of varying affluence, that's going to really screw up the meaningfulness of the rough proxy/indication for that zip code, regardless of what one urban planner says.

You appear to not understand what rough proxy/indication means though.
posted by srboisvert at 9:40 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


What I want to know is: why do I have to select my metro area if I already tell you my zipcode. What kind of monkeys write your widgets, slate?!
posted by dame at 9:46 AM on August 1, 2015 [26 favorites]


"The fact that it figures out neighborhood through the proxy of ZIP code, means that some areas get confused. In Columbus, OH, we have a ZIP code that is half middle class neighborhood and half student rentals."

I ran into a similar thing. I live right on the border between two zip codes, one of which encompasses many of the poorest areas in Peoria, the other of which encompasses all of the richest areas. I entered my actual ZIP first, and I was like, "WHOA, that is not even CLOSE to the average income for my neighborhood!" It was like 1/4 of what it actually is (because of course I know the average income of most census tracts in Peoria, duh)! - before realizing it said "neighborhood" but used zip code. Then I popped in the other zip code, which was closer to my neighborhood's median but too high by around 30%.

It was sort of interesting, anyway, and now I feel like I should redirect more of my shopping into the lower-income zip code.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:48 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do not eat your maple bacon doughnut while riding a bike. You might drop some bacon and it will take you more than 5 seconds to pick it up and then you will have a quandary and have to stop and post a question on ask.
posted by srboisvert at 9:49 AM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Oh, obviously I'm gentrifying according to the widget if I use my actual ZIP code, although I'm not totally sure that's a meaningful idea for Peoria at present. I'm trying to think if there are bits that are gentrifying or not.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2015


hm. i guess i need to get on being more hip. THANKS SLATE/THLATE
posted by beefetish at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


If it is taken as bad to be a gentrifier, the distribution that minimizes it is for people to band together around their incomes. That's not how I want to live.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


this is so hilariously terrible

"Your neighborhood is too wealthy to be gentrified."

ok tell that to all the people in my building who get meals on wheels and who are being forced out of their apartments so the landlords can charge 8k a month for them
posted by poffin boffin at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


also lbr in the US anyone who isn't white CAN'T gentrify a neighborhood no matter who they are or where they live or how much they make.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:57 AM on August 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


Since were talking zip codes now, this thing is entirely useless outside of cities. My zip code contains all of the town I live in and huge swaths of country, including a trailer park, university and the mcmansions around the country club golf course outside of town. The nearest metro area is 2 hours away and completely unrelated to my town. It pretty much acknowledges that you need to be near a metro area for it to work, but boy would it be nice if those of us outside major cities could ever be included in discussions of pretty much anything. We actually do have a gentrification problem of sorts, conversion of private homes to student rental properties. There's a slow wave moving out from the university, and it is getting very very hard for the elderly and the town's hispanic population to find housing. Rents have gone up about 20% in the time I've lived here, and there's no good place to build more.
posted by neonrev at 9:58 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Apparently not yet! I can keep smugly haranguing people more bougie than I am, at least until the end of my postdoc (and, depending, maybe afterwards).
posted by en forme de poire at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2015


What is a healthy alternative to gentrification?
posted by aniola at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Jinsai: More importantly, the notion that any of the people labeled as "gentrifiers" are some sort of invading force trying to drive people out is somewhere between absurd and offensive.

It's also not a notion that's been put forth by the link in the FPP, nor by anyone commenting here as far as I can tell. I think everyone is aware that no mathematical formula can possibly divine the intent behind why someone chooses to live in a certain neighborhood, and I'd go father to say that a vast majority of people who qualify as gentrifiers under this or any income-based criteria are doing so with nothing but the best of intentions.

Of course, that's precisely the problem. It's a classic tragedy of the commons scenario, and while nobody should be chastised for wanting to live in a certain area, it's also not too much to ask for folks to be aware of how their choices affect those around them.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just walked by a local hippy coffee house and a sign on the door said "barista wanted." Then I walked farther to the Dunkin' Donuts and it said "help wanted." I get so tired sometimes of remembering what vocabulary to use in what situation.
posted by Melismata at 10:07 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I dunno; in general I find picking on people for being "gentrifiers" to be meanspirited and kind of pointless. People live in neighborhoods where they can afford to live. That white people fled cities and then realized they are kinda badass and came back is an interesting historical blip; that we live in a selfish, mean, and tightfisted time, where many people make less than their parents and still want to have some roots somewhere is deeply unfortunate. I wish people spent more time trying to articulate strategies for structural change than attempting to make individuals feel guilty about where they live.

But what do I know? I bought a condo in Bushwick in 2006 (because that was where I could afford it — if someone wants to find me a comparable place in the East Village or whatevs, I am open) and now people in my building are selling for twice what they paid. To me that money is imaginary because I have no intent to leave — in fact my fiancé and I share 450 sq feet of studio and that's it — but yeah we make a lot more than people who own full houses they bought 20 years ago when the neighborhood was more of a shithole. Then again, it was super middle class through the 50s, so are we just retro? Who knows! Let's talk about basic incomes tho or something that might make a difference.
posted by dame at 10:11 AM on August 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


× Caucasian
× Lesbian
× Disabled
× Unable to afford apartments of a similar size in non-immigrant communities
× Doesn't speak the language
× Owns vehicle
× shops at box stores (costco/target/etc) in lieu of small general stores.

Yup. Income aside, I'm a gentrifier. One of the early waves, having been priced out the previous neighborhood community by wealthier white people who realized it wasn't a bad place to live. Not the target market. A precursor.

We try to do our part though. Groceries and restaurants tend to be local. Never involve city officials or police (vague hypothetical life threatening exceptions apply). Dislike of certain community practices becomes examining privilege ending with awareness that we chose to live here.

Still gentrifiers though.
posted by bindr at 10:13 AM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Depending on how I run the calculator (family w/ bf's income, or single w/out), I can be a gentrifier or not, but I don't think this is a super useful tool because it's based on income alone.

However, I would say that I absolutely am a gentrifier in my neighborhood by virtue of being a young, white, college educated person originally from out of town who recently made it into the ranks of the full time salaried. It's not that I could easily afford to live in a richer neighborhood--I couldn't really-- but by living here I'm adding to the population of folks who at least occasionally support the nicer restaurants and hipster bars and coffeeshops that are popping up and making the area more desirable to middle class renters and buyers. Not to mention that the rental agency I rent from has the stated goal of "reviving" the neighborhood and keeps pushing the boundaries of the 'desirable' area further and further out.

That said, on an individual level I think it's a lot to ask to tell people like me not to move to this kind of neighborhood. My choices for not being part of a gentrifying force would be to either a.) live in a more expensive neighborhood and live paycheck to paycheck; b.) live in a neighborhood that was cheap but not at all gentrified so that I wasn't adding momentum to an existing process (but deal with the things that come with living in those neighborhoods like being in a food desert and higher property crime and police presence); or c.) live in a wealthier area with lower rent rates further away from the city center (and my job and my friends).
posted by geegollygosh at 10:16 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I live in a *mixed income* neighborhood, which has been both racially and socioeconomically diverse for decades. This is a very good thing - neighborhood diversity is good for both the higher and lower-income people in my opinion.

My household income is above the median. That does not make me a gentrifier.

Gentrification is a complex dynamic - it describes a neighborhood that transforms in such a way that previous residents and businesses are pushed out because of high rents. It is not taking place in all mixed-income neighborhoods.

*If* gentrification is happening in your neighborhood, then it becomes meaningful to compare your income to your neighbors, most especially neighbors who have lived in the neighborhood longer than you. But income is not the only factor. When people with more social capital (artists, educated people) move in, it paves the way for people with more economic capital to find the neighborhood more desirable.

It is also useful to think about how long someone has lived in a neighborhood and what kinds of relationships they have with their community. A teacher at the local school who frequents mom-and-pop establishments is not a force for gentrification in the same way as a real estate developer who only eats at the trendy new cafes.

Ideally you could have neighborhoods where mom-and-pop establishments and trendy cafes could coexist and there could be a healthy mix of incomes. But, this being America, that is rare.
posted by mai at 10:16 AM on August 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


also lbr in the US anyone who isn't white CAN'T gentrify a neighborhood no matter who they are or where they live or how much they make.

I'd be interested in hearing about your reasoning on this, poffin boffin. Is it related to the "non-white people can't be racist" line of thinking?

Because I live in an area that was traditionally 95% and upwards working class Catholic white. It was actively hostile and violent to non-white people twenty years ago, when my Puerto Rican boss who grew up in the city knew that he was in for a fucking beating if he got off at the subway station and didn't run for it. So when I told him where I was, he was like YOU CHOSE TO BUY THERE? INTENTIONALLY?

But the hipster coffee shops and CrossFit studios and places selling carefully curated crystals on artisanal deerskin thongs or whatever have brought in a lot of middle class non-white people. Like, we live on a block of brand new yuppie housing, built on an empty lot that used to house a textile factory that employed white working class Catholics from the neighborhood -- and the development has two mixed-race couples, a black family, and an East Asian family. A mixed-race couple I know just moved in two blocks from us into a building that used to be the office for a local factory. He's an artist; she is a fancy corporate type. The corner store and local ice cream joint opened in the past five years, and are run by Middle Eastern folks. One time I was in there, the proprietor was by the till and asked me if he stocked fancy black rice that went for $16 a pound, would I buy it there?

So yeah, in the neighborhood I live in, non-white people strolling around are usually a sign of gentrification, rather than not. It's a bit of an unusual situation, I know, and doesn't match the pattern in most gentrifying areas in my city -- but I'm not 100% sure that the idea of non-white-people-can't-gentrify-a-place matches up to my experience.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:32 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


what's the opposite of gentrifier? we live in a place that, i think (but may be wrong, as i am a clueless immigrant) is in slow decline. our neighbours are rich old bitches that complain about crime rates and suspicious (ie poor) people in the street. the wealthy middle aged with families have moved further east, into the suburbs.

edit: oh, joyceanmachine, is that area "irish" (is "catholic" a euphemism for "irish", which itself seems to be a euphemism for "poor")? as an interested spectator i am fascinated by the culture wars over whether they are "victims" in america or not, and the way that colour (and gender) has overtaken wealth as the arbiter of who is deserving. because goodness me, we can't be marxists because communists are the suxor. etc.
posted by andrewcooke at 10:38 AM on August 1, 2015


Wow, our household income is straight-up half the median for our neighborhood. We're lucky to live here because my mother-in-law inherited the house from her older sister, who had it built in 1939 when this was the northwest edge of town.

One by one, the modest bungalows around us are getting knocked down or "renovated" (ie we left one wall up) into zero-lot-line 10,000 square foot monstrosities & they're being bought & sold repeatedly as short-term investments.

We are actually about to become the gentrified.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:43 AM on August 1, 2015


It doesn't have "St. Louis" or "Saint Louis" MO in its dropdown, so it refuses to go any further.

Foosnark, it does work, but you have to type slowly and make sure to include the period in St. Louis. It didn’t work for me at first, but I typed a few variants slowly and got “St. Louis, MO-IL Metro Area” to come up.


We have no Starbucks or Urban Outfitters or any other national chain in my neighborhood (not allowed by zoning!) and YET I can get a maple-bacon donut three blocks from my house, no kidding.

Maple-bacon donuts are not a measure of gentrification. I can get a caramel-bacon long john at the North County donut place my family has gone to since I was little, in a completely non-gentrified neighborhood. That's about food trends, not gentrification. Whereas the fact that this local donut place now has an outpost far out in St. Charles County in the St. Louis area does indeed say something about housing trends, white flight, etc.


What I want to know is: why do I have to select my metro area if I already tell you my zipcode. What kind of monkeys write your widgets, slate?!

Perhaps there are some ZIP codes that encompass areas both inside and outside, technically, of the boundaries of a metro area, and so using just that alone could be inaccurate or misleading? See also: neonrev’s comment.
posted by limeonaire at 11:09 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huh. I live where I live because at my age, I didn't want any more roommates unless he's my guy, but I couldn't afford to live on my own in any other part of NYC, except maybe way the fuck out in Queens. I've already lived in Hollis/St. Albans, and it's just not a place for single people who can't drive to the F train at 179th Street. There's nothing to do out there. There's nothing to do in my current neighborhood either, unless your idea of entertainment is to go shopping at Family Dollar. I may be technically a gentrifier, but my presence has brought nary a Starbucks, much less some artisinal hipster stuff.

My neighborhood is mainly six story apartment buildings built in the 1920s, a few leftover Victorian houses from the Leonard Jerome era and a high street that's mostly storefront Chinese restaurants, "99 cents and up" stores and Kennedy's Fried Chicken joints. There is good, close train service where I am now and it was the tipping point for me to pick this place.

My neighbors are mostly coupled, have children and cars, and are mostly recent arrivals or first generation from the Dominican Republic. I'm mixed-race like they are, but I'm an childless, single American from WI, so that kind of makes me a stealth gentrifier around here. I've seen a very few Brylcreemed and bearded young white hipster fellows at my train station in the morning over the last 6 months, and I've seen the side-eye that they get from just about everybody else on the platform.

I was definitely surprised at what the median income is for my zip code, because it's super low. My current income wouldn't be enough to support me anywhere else in the city with any decent quality of life without 5 roommates, but it's almost 3 times higher than that median! There are wealthier and poorer areas within this zip code, and while I live in a better-off area, it's still not a block that my Manhattan or Brooklyn friends (some of whom make several times more than I do) would willingly come to after dark, though. Does that make me a poor gentrifier?
posted by droplet at 11:29 AM on August 1, 2015


Yeah, in my area, it says I'm not a gentrifier, but the fact that I don't qualify via its income-based criteria is probably just a quirk of circumstance, since my husband has been sick and currently isn't working, so we make less. But I've also lived in the same apartment since college and have increased my personal income since the days right after college when I was cobbling together half of the rent from part-time service jobs. I eat out more than I used to (more than ever right now, since I'm the only one actually eating food, and because I started working from home last year), but I also get meals from locally owned places as much as possible. Does the very act of having a little disposable income and using it to eat out make me a gentrifier? It seems like it has to be more complex than that.

Like in places such as Hoboken, N.J., where an entire generation of students moved there and stayed and are now raising their kids there, becoming more senior in their jobs and making more and thus spending more, being able to afford nicer and larger apartments, etc.—is that gentrification? But I thought it was a good thing to stay in a neighborhood long-term and get to know its ways, introduce your kids to its ways, support its businesses, etc. Isn't this ideally the middle ground between letting an area become a burnt-out, hollowed shell where no one lives or works and making it a bereft desert landscape of chain stores and restaurants where people live but the money doesn't stay local?


Bullshit. gentrifiers are corporate entities who take advantage of the popularity of a low rent area by moving in and bringing 'conveniences', driving up desirability and property values at the same time. Starbucks replacing the family owned coffee shop, urban outfitters replacing mom and pop.

I think this is the deal. My neighborhood also has gotten more chain restaurants in recent years, and there's a block of condos slated to be built on the site of an old school nearby, blocking the great view of the sunset and city hall that we currently have from a nearby parking lot. Those seem like signs of gentrification. But they're not the only things happening here—it feels like a battle is occurring between the forces of localization and the forces of gentrification.
posted by limeonaire at 11:33 AM on August 1, 2015


droplet, rent control might be a possible explanation for that low median income.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:34 AM on August 1, 2015


I'm a gentrifier, but I didn't need to do the Slate thing to know that. I bought a house (condo) in Austin east of I-35. Even south of the river and close to Ben White in what has been a largely student-apartment area, that makes me a gentrifier.

What's driving the gentrification of this area and the whole east side is largely commercial and municipal changes in the last 20 years or so, mostly those surrounding the change of Austin's municipal airport from the old location east of the freeway and well north of the river to the old air force base just east of town on Ben White/71. The old airport land that became available drew developers and the open land around the air force base, now the airport, drew developers. Businesses came in, including the one where my husband works, and new housing stock followed. And now it's breaking up traditional neighborhoods on the east side where they redlined folks to in the last hundred years or so. And yeah, it sucks for many of my neighbors that the Super Burrito is being replaced by the 20th or so P Terry's. But short of being aware of my privilege, supporting small businesses financially and politically, and not calling the cops on my neighbors ever, I'm not sure what I as an individual gentrifier can do. The overall trends on the east side of Austin predate my arrival here and are way bigger than I am.
posted by immlass at 11:36 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whites genrtrified this continent
posted by Postroad at 11:40 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


When people with more social capital (artists, educated people) move in, it paves the way for people with more economic capital to find the neighborhood more desirable.

This is a great encapsulation of the dynamic, though in many cases property developers and speculators play a significant role as well.

Neighborhood change is usually neither linear nor easy to predict, also. We bought our house from someone who mistimed the gentrification cycle -- they spent a lot of money rehabbing it in the expectation of riding the gentrification elevator, but instead the neighborhood stayed the way it was and I suspect in the end they lost a lot of money. Like a lot of people commenting here, we live where we do because it hits the sweet spot of location, cost, and amenities, and it didn't necessarily feel like there were a lot of other good options at the time.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2015


Urban gentrification is the soft, invisible and ugly racism of white Western liberals. It's the racism of people who fight racism on the internet.

We don't need to spray people with firehoses when we can just raise their rents and make them leave "on their own".
posted by Avenger at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm with a few people above--i don't remotely understand gentrification as a concept defined as something that "we" should avoid doing to "them." Surely the ideal - especially given our ridiculous national practice of funding schools via property taxes- is a preponderance of mixed income communities. The enemies of that are both white flight and historical segregation, not gentrification, which, in a limited amount, must actually be a necessary piece of the process, in that privileged people have to be willing to move places they would once have considered off limits. What you want to prevent is poorer people being displaced from their homes, but that requires government action (things like rent control, decent jobs, eadily available low income housing); it's not something you affect on an individual level. Move wherever you want and then get responsibly involved in city politics, don't just sit around feeling guilty, making self-deprecating fun of your donuts, and sneering at the people who are a little bit richer than you. That's just a distraction and a waste of time.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:03 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


We don't need to spray people with firehoses when we can just raise their rents and make them leave "on their own".

I agree with you when it comes to landlords. I don't know if I'd describe those people as "liberals" though, personally, or why you'd assume that they're the people who "fight racism on the internet".
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:07 PM on August 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Huh. The guy who sold us the house said, "YOU'RE going to live there?" At closing. We're in the northern part of a ZIP code that in the southern part was poor forty years ago when I lived there and is affluent now. The northern part of the code where I live now has a huge swath that has just been acquired by the city by eminent domain to tear down for public housing. I'm a gentrifier.
posted by Peach at 12:30 PM on August 1, 2015


But that's not what gentrification means. Nothing about what the linked article/calculator is about what gentrification means. It has a specific meaning, which is that wealthy people move into downtrodden areas because they are cheap and renovate properties, either housing or businesses, and in the process drive up property values and rents and drive out old-time residents and long-established businesses because they can no longer afford to be in the place they've been since before the wealthy people arrived.

I'm in a pickle. i just got a job in a city that has an incredibly low rental vacancy rate. I'm a "young professional", white, liberal. Love diversity but am also the type to complain about disruptive neighbors. People are flocking to this city in droves. Massive developments are goin up all over. Prices everywhere are much higher than i want to pay. Looking at my housing options, i see:

1. move into a minority neighborhood and be in the first wave of gentrification by making developers install housing and services targeting me and more people like me.
2. Move into an "up and coming" diverse neighborhood and contribute to gentrification by supporting rising housing costs, and proving the developers who installed that housing to be right, making them do it even more.
3. move out to the white suburbs (am on a waiting list for an apartment in "Rentwood") and contribute to segregation.

Honestly, i dont know what to do. I feel like, because of who i am (white, middle class) there is no morally correct option for me. Id love to hear Metafilter's opinion!
posted by rebent at 12:31 PM on August 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


The discussion that comes out of this type of thing always feels to me like some serious large-scale cultural gaslighting. Like, the phenomena are real, and people are being affected by the real results, so...it's not really relevant how you personally feel about being identified as a gentrifier (though of course the silly calculator in the OP encourages this), and the sum weight of people stridently denying such definitely feels more than a little #NotAllGentrifiers.
posted by threeants at 12:38 PM on August 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Northside neighborhood, a historically African American neighborhood just north of campus in Chapel Hill is certainly undergoing gentrification. Ditto the Weinland Park neighborhood just east of Ohio State University.

Neither of those cities is a stereotypical "college town." Columbus is the state capital and the largest city in Ohio. Chapel Hill city limits may be small, but is a constituent of a 2 million person metro area. What we're talking about are the 'cloistered from the world' research universities where roughly half the population is attending classes at the local university.

For example, Corvallis has a population of 55k, and home to Oregon State University, which has an enrolled population of 56k. We have a grant total of four zip codes for the city. One is dedicated to the university. Another is on the edge of town, and home to the muni airport and almost exclusively zoned light industrial. The two residential zip codes are not sufficiently split between student / townie to make any inference of gentrification possible by zip. It doesn't really matter which zip code I choose, the fact that I work for the university and earn a non-student raises rents across the board. I live in an apartment complex, across the street is a subdivision of single family homes. According to the income relative metric, I am a gentrifier because I rent here rather than own across the street. Of course I don't have the money for a 20 downpayment on a 400k house, and as a single guy it makes very little sense to increase the square footage I reside in.

Gentrification in my college town situation isn't so clear. Who are the gentrifiers, exactly? Are they the middle class, who've put a considerable fraction of their wealth in their home, and consistently vote against new construction that might jeopardize their nest egg? Is it the students, who take on ever growing student loan and credit card debts to make ends meet before taking jobs in the high tech industries? Is it the university administration's effort to enroll more and more students, mandate freshmen live on campus and student wage policies? Is it the union members threatening a strike unless they get a COLA bump greater than the DoL's published inflation numbers for the area and a $15/hr minimum wage? Is it the small fraction of recent graduates choosing to stay in town in one of the two rennovated historic residential buildings in downtown? Is it the people replacing single family homes with multistory high density housing? Is gentrification even possible in a town where half the population is replaced within five years, and has no historically disadvantaged communities?
posted by pwnguin at 12:44 PM on August 1, 2015


Yes rest assured, all your anecdotal evidence has proven you're not a gentrifier. Rest easy.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel like being a gentrifier can't have much moral weight either way, though it sort of feels like it does to some people

I seem to be a backwards gentrifier, though, in that I've been getting priced out of neighborhoods for a decade now because I've never had the capital to buy
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


unless people are arguing that it's morally wrong to move to an apartment you can afford in a neighborhood you want to live in, because as a result, third parties over whom you have no control will then choose to do shitty things like raise rent on existing tenants?

this needs to be solved on a structural level (i.e. RENT CONTROL). so we can argue until the cows come home about how this person or that person should or shouldn't feel bad, but the problem won't be solved as long as rents keep going up and people keep getting displaced as a result (and they are going up nearly everywhere, it is STRUCTURAL, not the fault of the people getting priced out of their neighborhoods)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:56 PM on August 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Because of my age, we did not have gentrification back then. We simply moved to suburbs and left urban housing to minorities. Now demographics suggest people moving to cities, and so we do the same thing, but in reverse, though minorities might not be able to move to the burbs.
posted by Postroad at 12:58 PM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also part of the problem is the economic predation Ta-Nehisi Coates was talking about in his articles that were posted on the blue a while back about redlining and predatory lending practices. In a world where POC (black and Latin@) renters on the east side of Austin actually owned their homes and business, they'd be reaping the profits of selling to "gentrifiers". Because they rent, they're being forced out (as, in turn, in most gentrification cycles, artists and other "creative" types are). Instead it's landlords and developers who are making the money.

Everybody is doing the thing that makes the most individual economic sense for them, but the incentives, or at least where they go, are screwed up because of structural racism. And as a white (liberal or otherwise), your choices are to live segregated or "gentrify" your new neighbors out of their homes. It's not that we're not participating in and receiving the benefits of structural racism so much as trying to figure out what we as individuals can do to help fix the structural inequities.
posted by immlass at 1:08 PM on August 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


Honestly, i dont know what to do . . . I feel like, because of who i am (white, middle class) there is no morally correct option for me.

The correct moral calculus in buying a home is whether the home you're thinking of acquiring is within your financial means and meets the needs of you and your family.

Since it is a systemic phenomenon, the only thing you can do w/r/t housing disparities and the fallout of gentrification/white flight is support systemic solutions i.e. fair housing and re-distributive policies in general.

Don't forget that people who turn this into a personal moral issue 1) aren't going to help you buy an "appropriate" home that isn't gentrifying some area; and 2) probably live in the suburbs themselves.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 1:11 PM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I agree with you when it comes to landlords. I don't know if I'd describe those people as "liberals" though, personally, or why you'd assume that they're the people who "fight racism on the internet".
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:07 PM on August 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


Landlords raise rent because white, educated progressives move into town and fall in love with the Quaint Ethnic Enclave. You didn't personally raise rent on people of color, but your physical, material presence in a neighborhood has contributed to it.

The great angst on display in this thread is the result of educated white progressives suddenly realizing that they, too, are apart of this big problem, and that people of color may have good reasons to not desire the wonderful, enlightened presence of Good Whites On Fixie Bikes in their neighborhoods.
posted by Avenger at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, "this is a structural societal problem therefore my personal choices are absolved of moral impetus" is the clarion call of the Good White Person who doesn't mean to be racist but sorta doesn't mind slumming it once in a while, if you know what I mean.
posted by Avenger at 1:17 PM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes rest assured, all your anecdotal evidence has proven you're not a gentrifier. Rest easy.
I think the point here is less that I am not personally a gentrifier than that this calculator assumes the universality of experiences that are not actually universal. Specifically, this calculator assumes, I think, that the people using it live in major metropolitan areas. That may be true of most of Slate's readers, but it would be cool if they'd at least acknowledge the assumption. And I don't think that you have to deny the existence of gentrification in order to criticize the methodology of this particular dumb widget.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:19 PM on August 1, 2015


I'm a gentrifier 50 miles from downtown DC, in a neighborhood of very similar homes that were built in the early 2000s on what was a dairy farm. If anything, this is a reverse-gentrified neighborhood. We are all still here because the real estate crash took all our equity.
posted by COD at 1:22 PM on August 1, 2015


Also, "this is a structural societal problem therefore my personal choices are absolved of moral impetus" is the clarion call of the Good White Person who doesn't mean to be racist but sorta doesn't mind slumming it once in a while, if you know what I mean.

So what is the non-racist option? If there are choices, what are they? If gentrification has nothing to do with intent but rather with physical presence, where should those physical presences be/stay? Where can I, someone of mixed race, live without "slumming it" (something I would never say, by the way)?

"LOL hipsters and their fixies!!! bacon maple doughnuts!!! they think they're "slumming it"!!!" is all well and good when you want to make racism about some white people's perceived aesthetic choices, but it isn't actually an argument that those white people can actually afford to live elsewhere.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:30 PM on August 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


I really am curious to hear the solution because it sounds like the options here are 1) Move into a mixed-income/ethnicity neighborhood and be part of the problem or 2) Live around only other people just like me, which is also a problem (and seems boring).
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


(And yes, you're right, whether a white person feels bad about it or doesn't intend it doesn't make something not-racist. But the assertions that people move into neighborhoods where most people's household incomes are lower then theirs are de facto making a racist choice, complete with you putting offensive words in their mouth like "quaint ethnic enclave" and "slumming it" are strawmen in the discussion of whether gentrification is racist or not. Those people would be saying and doing racist shit REGARDLESS of whether it resulted in gentrification.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:34 PM on August 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


Landlords raise rent because white, educated progressives move into town and fall in love with the Quaint Ethnic Enclave.

Well, but this framing seems to then absolve landlords and developers of guilt, even when they do things like quadruple the rent or Ellis Act long-term tenants who have rent-control and wouldn't be able to afford a non-rent-controlled apartment. I don't think it's wrong to say that people need to be aware of how their housing choices impact their neighbors, but I think it's also important that this awareness then translate into advocating policies or supporting community actions (or both) that protect the people who are vulnerable to gentrification's ill effects, and not just end with "well, I didn't move to Bushwick/the Mission so I'm not part of the problem, bie." It seems to me like there are some similarities to avoiding ecological catastrophes, in that yes, there are absolutely things that individual people can do to help, but at the same time, the changes that really need to happen are not things most individuals could hope to address just by changing what products they buy or where they spend money.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:39 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


is the clarion call of the Good White Person who doesn't mean to be racist but sorta doesn't mind slumming it once in a while, if you know what I mean.


The reason there is so much anxiety in this thread is because people are asking the wrong question. "Where can I move that isn't racist" isn't the right question. "Where can I move that is best for me and my family?" is the right question.

Furthermore, I'm not saying his choice of home doesn't have racist implications, I'm saying those implications are the result of systemic and historical forces that can't be addressed by one's choice of location when buying/renting a home (as noted by others, there's no "correct" choice), so it doesn't matter. Therefore, one might as well make that choice free of guilt & anxiety.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 1:42 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I also kind of disagree with that, though, because I don't think people are entitled to not feel guilty or anxious about the housing choices they make, just because they're the best thing for them and their families. It's just that merely feeling guilty (or conversely, feeling smug) about your housing choices doesn't really help the people who are really suffering and doesn't rein in the people who are acting in the most actively predatory ways (for one thing, some people are apparently not very susceptible to shame). I mean ultimately a lot of us are complicit with a bunch of really shitty systems that hurt people; just because we didn't invent them, though, doesn't mean that we can't or shouldn't try to reduce the harm we cause people and try to help organize behind the people who have borne the brunt of these harms.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:55 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's up to local, state, and national government to use taxes, rent control, and zoning to make sure everybody is treated fairly and not bulldozed by opportunistic developers. It's up to everyone to vote for such controls. Make transitions gradual enough to absorb the shocks for long-time residents who otherwise wouldn't make it. But don't hold it against someone for wanting to move into a new neighborhood. I like gentrifiers (often single mothers, LGBTs, artists, etc.).
posted by pracowity at 1:56 PM on August 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Gentrification is getting a bad rap. The people who oppose it don't necessarily think their neighborhoods are in perfect order. They want less crime, more jobs, more people taking care of their homes, less abandoned properties, better schools. Those are the things that are generally only possible when the neighborhood has a higher average income level. Opposing gentrification doesn't leave many options - the end game is urban renewal or abandonment.
posted by RalphSlate at 2:10 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


doesn't mean that we can't or shouldn't try to reduce the harm we cause people and try to help organize behind the people who have borne the brunt of these harms.

I don't disagree, but if you can't reduce harm by your choice of housing - and you can't - then that isn't the right thing to feel guilt or anxiety over, is my point. It's the wrong analysis.

Liberals get caught in this circular way of thinking: do I gentrify, or do I flee to the suburbs??? that is both pointless, because there's no good choice, and self-centered, because it 1) makes SWPLs the problem and problem solvers both, and 2) strips the affected groups of agency and even ignores their existence, except as people to be acted upon.

The thing to feel guilt over is where other people can't live, or about where they do actually live which are terrible. But the gentrification/white flight analysis substitutes thinking about addressing the real problems: poverty, racism, zoning, taxation, the things pracowity mentioned - with a couple weeks of ruminating and fretting over where to live, IMO.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 2:12 PM on August 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


19130 in Philadelphia is at least 8 different economic zones. If you make $50k a year, you're a 1 percenter at 19th and Girard, but a hobo at 18th and Green.
posted by 256 at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Urban gentrification is the soft, invisible and ugly racism of white Western liberals. It's the racism of people who fight racism on the internet."


I live in a neighborhood that is undeniably undergoing gentrification -- the North Oakland/Berkeley/Emeryville area, recently dubbed "NOBE" by a realtor, much to the annoyance of the existing residents.

When my wife and I (both white) bought our comparatively expensive house, an Af-Am couple bought an identical house across the street for the exact same price. As nearly as I can tell, the economic impact of our respective purchases was the same. In fact, they likely contributed even more to the increase in rents because the renters who had occupied their house had to be evicted, whereas our house had been vacant for some time when we bought it.

Would you say we're gentrifiers because we're white, while they're not gentrifiers because they're not white?

I should add that I've lived in this same neighborhood for 25 years. When I first moved here, I literally had about $200 to my name. I moved into a shitty studio apartment for $300/month, and I had to put most of my expenses on a credit card. I rented for 21 of those 25 years, and it's only in the last 8-9 years or so that my income has been above the median.
posted by mikeand1 at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2015


I don't disagree, but if you can't reduce harm by your choice of housing - and you can't -

Mm, I think there are some situations where you can reduce harm at least a little by choosing different housing -- for instance, you can decide to not rent units that are available because of a no-fault eviction (e.g.). Of course, that's after-the-fact: it would make a much bigger impact to help people fight economically-motivated, no-fault evictions in the first place. But those aren't mutually exclusive.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:41 PM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Starbucks replacing the family owned coffee shop, urban outfitters replacing mom and pop.

There are mom and pop stores for selling USB vinyl record players and bobble-head ironic Jesuses?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:12 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Airbnb and renting out house rooms have also played a large part in changing city demographics. While this article is based on owning property or renting, the shifts in where people congregate have changed dramatically, and then you add Uber to the mix, and it's starting to become one big dense mishmash. Overpopulation - that's the problem.
posted by locidot at 3:22 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]




There are mom and pop stores for selling USB vinyl record players and bobble-head ironic Jesuses?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:12 PM on August 1
[+] [!]


HI, welcome to Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission District!
posted by rtha at 3:50 PM on August 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Does not include Canada. Zzzzzzz.

Nous ne sommes pas les embourgeoisateurs.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:28 PM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Would you say we're gentrifiers because we're white, while they're not gentrifiers because they're not white?


I would say that it's more about class than race. Certainly white people, due to various socio-political and historic factors, do tend to be more economically successful than the minorities living in the neighborhoods that are being gentrified, and thus make up the vast majority of gentrifiers, but certainly economically successful middle class people of all races (African-American, Asian, Hispanic, etc.) can be gentrifiers when they move into said neighborhoods as they're more likely to share similar interests (yoga studios, cold brewed coffee, fancy restaurants, etc.) than the poor minority that are priced out of those areas.
posted by gyc at 4:36 PM on August 1, 2015


Urban gentrification is the soft, invisible and ugly racism of white Western liberals. It's the racism of people who fight racism on the internet.

Because it's racist to buy a house that you can afford in a neighborhood that you want to live in?
posted by theorique at 5:12 PM on August 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I understand the effects of gentrification but the alternative seems at least as problematic. Everyone moving to neighborhoods where most people are at the same socioeconomic level (when we know that socioeconomic status correlates fairly strongly with race) leads to ipso facto segregation and ghettoization.
posted by Justinian at 5:20 PM on August 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Simply living in a place while you improve your life and income and finding that you are doing better than your neighbors doesn't make you a gentrifier. It makes you a neighborhood success story, and an example of what everyone wants to see happen in long-established neighborhoods.

Of course it makes you a gentrifier. You'll spend your money on more expensive things in your neighborhood, which will attract more expensive businesses. You'll spend more money on your house (or you'll be willing to move in the neighborhood to rent a nicer place). The end result is that your poorer neighbors are driven out.

The idea purported by comments like this is that people who live in a neighborhood first have some kind of moral right over people who move in later. And why should they?

Being poor sucks for a lot of reasons, including that you might be forced to move because of gentrification, or to find work. Is there a way to make things less bad for people vulnerable to gentrification? It seems impossible to stand up to the charging mass of economic forces, so something else has to be done. Maybe make it easier and cheaper to move. Maybe make it so that a family who rents can have some of the benefits of buying without buying a whole house, for example, by buying an index fund indexed to property value.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:28 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe make it so that a family who rents can have some of the benefits of buying without buying a whole house

I'd rather remove the benefits to buying; for example completely eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction is a no brainer. It's terrible policy, virtually every economist on the planet would agree, and the only reason it sticks around is blatant pandering to voters.
posted by Justinian at 5:33 PM on August 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


You didn't personally raise rent on people of color, but your physical, material presence in a neighborhood has contributed to it.

The Slate calculator say my husband and I are gentrifiers which is fine, but our neighborhood was never Hispanic. It was rural when our house was built in the 1930s, then built up in the 1950s when the population boomed here, and has been mostly aging white folks and college students since the 1970s. My husband bought the house by himself 20 years ago, then eventually I moved in which raised the household income, and we've both been working for a long time and moved up the pay scales at our jobs.

The neighborhood doesn't have a businesses to go hipster, or even any hipsters. Mostly med school students, and university students, and people like us who work on campus. We're not spending more on our house than the flippers who have renovated, or the moms and dads who buy houses for their kids to live in while in school. We spend our money at the businesses around campus, just like most everyone else who lives in our neighborhood.

What is different about us is that we didn't take our money and move to the suburbs to live in a big house in a "safe" quiet neighborhood. We decided to live within walking distance of our jobs (no small thing in this sprawling car-centric craphole of a city) and stay put during the housing boom when houses all around us were flipping every few months, or getting remodeled into mini-dorms.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:42 PM on August 1, 2015


Because it's racist to buy a house that you can afford in a neighborhood that you want to live in?

I think this puts too fine a point on the concept. Gentrification isn't buying a house, it's more like what kinds of jobs are created and what those economic shifts mean for established neighborhoods, residents and cultures.
posted by rhizome at 5:45 PM on August 1, 2015


MetaFilter: because of who i am (white, middle class) there is no morally correct option for me.
posted by hippybear at 5:55 PM on August 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Just to be clear: I'm not white. I still am a gentrifier who refuses to have structural problems be made into my own personal failing.
posted by dame at 6:44 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


PS: you can be black and not poor
posted by dame at 6:45 PM on August 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


> What I want to know is: why do I have to select my metro area if I already tell you my zipcode. What kind of monkeys write your widgets, slate?!"

It's even worse than that: you can give it a zip code that is nowhere near the metro area you selected, and it will still give you an answer. They've got a median income lookup by metro area and a lookup by zip and never bothered to associate the two or do any error checking. *headdesk*

["Geography" is also a valid metro area, with a NaN median income that makes any zip gentrifiable. Probably the header from the source data table. It's just embarrassing.]
posted by Westringia F. at 7:02 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I might be a gentrifier except no other people actually lived in my industrial neighborhood until my neighbors and I signed commercial leases and then just moved in. Now, my DTLA address is trendy, but it used to be empty.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:31 PM on August 1, 2015


if you rent, you are not a gentrifier. capitalism is, by definition, driven by owners and financiers, and facillitated by the REALTORS (TM), the bureaucratic handmaidens of displacement.

Do not kid yourself, that you have some kind of consumerist power as a renter!

can you be an ignorant pawn in the capitalist scheme to turn housing from a human right into a commodity? totally.

If you really had power, you could STOP PAYING SO MUCH DAMN RENT, it's fucking things up for the rest of us! californians, new yorkers, stop coming to new orleans and paying $1300 a month for a half a termite-infested shotgun! it's insane. it's beneath you. get a union!

At least in New Orleans, the major factors of displacement are

1) scumlords like Pres Kabacoff / HRI properties, Bayou District Foundation, Sean Cummings, etc that take CDB Grants and build high end housing in the old housing projects--people who personally and professionally advocate for the displacement of poor and homeless new orleanians for the sake of profit. These are the millionaires that banked off the movement against public housing.

2) racial disparities in Road Home grants.

2) owners that buy housing stock just to AirBnb. Measured in Person-nights, There are now more rental properties in AirBnb than successful renters in New Orleans. Major problem. and people are moving to JP and the East in response. Owners are keeping properities off the market, because short term rentals don't require improving the housing stock, and make up to an order of magnitude more money.

Of course, racial demographics play a huge role...but it's not driven by renters, but owners. owners are turning Treme into Mid City, and Gentilly into "Lakeview."

Transplants of the world, unite! you've got about $500-$1000 a month to gain!
posted by eustatic at 7:49 PM on August 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


also, see Changing the Channel, 1977, for lessons on displacement in new orleans during the oil boom.

Profiteers would have everyone believe that displacement is an inevitable result in improvements to the housing stock and public amenities. because if it's some inevitability of the "market" rather than a deliberate planning effort by owners, the public will not try to pass anti-displacement policies, like rent controls, renter's rights, and regulation of leases.

And that's what using the world "gentrification" confuses.

We don't need to displace the poor, or black people, or the elderly to improve the housing stock. If we took measures to stop displacement, owners would still make money, but just not as much money.

And owners do renovate housing (and profit from it) all the time without displacing communities.

New people move into neighborhoods all the time and become part of old communities.
posted by eustatic at 8:06 PM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


if you rent, you are not a gentrifier.

Wrong. Renters constitute demand, which drives up prices the same as owners.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:07 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


But who sets the rent? not the renters. to say otherwise is insane market religion.
posted by eustatic at 8:10 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


According to this, I'm a gentrifier, which, okay, fine. But the reported income of my neighbors is probably skewed because, like, half of them are undergraduates.
posted by thivaia at 9:28 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


But who sets the rent? not the renters. to say otherwise is insane market religion.

But to deny that the demand side of the equation has any effect on rent prices is equally insane anti-market religion. If nobody wants to move somewhere the rent prices will below. If everybody wants to move somewhere the rent prices will be high.

You also seem to be under the impression that widespread rent control primarily benefits the poor. That's probably true when rent control is first enacted. Over time, however, it tends to act as a wealth transfer from the young and poor to the old and wealthy.
posted by Justinian at 9:36 PM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


(relatively wealthy, obviously, since the truly wealthy probably don't rent.)
posted by Justinian at 9:37 PM on August 1, 2015


I'm a gentrifier, but as a renter in Silicon Valley, I'm still relatively poor and getting poorer the longer I stay here. Hmmph.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:59 PM on August 1, 2015


Rent control enacted in the late 70s in SF. Moved here at 18 in 2001. Live in a rent controlled apartment now. If I didn't I couldn't live in SF. It has benefited me tremendously and I am neither old nor wealthy.
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 11:34 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


> if you rent, you are not a gentrifier.

Gentrification is not just about housing; it's about cost of living generally, including the availability & expense of the services provided by businesses that support -- and are supported by -- the immediate neighborhood. To take a simple example from the post title: if wealthy people move into a neighborhood and patronize an expensive/distant Whole Foods rather than the inexpensive local IGA, that can cause the cheap local grocery to go under, to the detriment of those who relied on it. Similar demises can befall coin-op laudromats, small hardware stores, &c. That's all part-and-parcel of gentrification, and it has nothing to do with whether the gentrifiers -- the people whose consumption choices drive those changes -- rent or own.
posted by Westringia F. at 11:47 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


So one for-reals answer for why people who got to a neighborhood earlier should be privileged over people who got to a neighborhood later is that moving sucks. Like, really, really sucks. It especially sucks if you've been systematically denied resources your entire life, and if as such the only resource you have are your friends and family who grew up in the same place as you.

Also, aside from that, moving sucks. It's expensive. It's an expense that typically falls entirely to renters.

In an ideal world, renters would gradually acquire equity in places we rent. Because this type of land reform will not happen here in the foreseeable future, rent control operates as a reasonable half-measure.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:06 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gentrification is a by-product of a society in which property values can rise, in such a way that somebody who lives in the neighborhood can become priced out, or in such a way that their children may have to move elsewhere, and their immigrant peers may have to settle in elsewhere, for economic reasons.

Renters can gentrify a neighborhood. Minorities can gentrify a neighborhood. Students can gentrify a neighborhood. University staff can gentrify a neighborhood.

It's also a little weird that most talk about gentrification fixates on situations in which communities are displaced by stereotypical hipsters. Why skip around situations like, say, Flushing, Queens, in which buyers and developers price out the previous occupants of an area, but with nary a hipster in sight? The real estate development is more organized and more total. The purchasers there are far wealthier than your average donut-noshing hipster, buying up properties that are often far more expensive than what you'll find around artisanal cheese stores. The conspicuous consumption is often more subtle, to the naked eye of the passerby - no Whole Foodses sight - and the restaurants are often still quite cheap - but the effect is often the same, if not faster.

I say this not to attack or defend Flushing - as a matter of fact, I work in Flushing, in real estate, and I wish everybody well - but rather to point out that gentrification as a topic tends to do a bunch of curlicues around some of its most important aspects. The money aspect governs the identity aspect, not the other way around. People cling to the idea that gentrification is when, say, Bob the Trust Fund Hipster moves into Bed-Stuy, thereby putting the bodega out of business while also installing a Hipster Bike Shop. Some people like the idea that gentrification is just a big wet blanket of Feckless Whiteness that slaps over urban areas. It's a simple mental image. However, the process is more pervasive and involved than that, and you can't tag yourself out just because you're not white. ("Sorry you and your family can't live here any longer, but I'm not white. Therefore, this isn't a thing that people talk about.")

Or, if what happened to, say, Flushing isn't gentrification, then what is it? If gentrification really is only a topic about Whiteness displacing non-white people, then we need to broaden our horizons - the fixation on whiteness comes off as navel-gazing by white people, as opposed to concern for people who get priced out of the neighborhoods in which they live. Ultimately, it presents a series of broad questions about economics, priorities, policy, and so on.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:10 AM on August 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I dunno; rent control is one of the main reasons I left the Bay Area, You Can't Tip a Buick. I think in normal-ish markets, it may make sense, but moving to SF in 2010 and back out in 2014 — I just couldn't see staying someplace where wanting to move in with a partner, wanting to get a bigger place, wanting to have my housing keep up with my lifestyle was pretty much impossible. I got the studio I got and I could never move and better pray the landlords didn't decide to pull some shit — that was the final outcome of rent control. And meanwhile the owners of the companies I worked for had $700 North Beach two-bedrooms merely for the luck of being older than me?

I wish there were better options, and maybe the problem is just the outsizeness of what is going on in SF. But rent control did seem to cause as many problems as it solved. But I don't think having the luck to have your family settle somewhere you like should be compounded, damn the people who moved to get what they want. But also I don't want people forced off to sadness. I feel like we should come up with better options but lord knows I can't think of any. Sigh.
posted by dame at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2015


So one… answer for why people who got to a neighborhood earlier should be privileged over people who got to a neighborhood later is that moving sucks.

A lot of the time the people who "got to a neighborhood earlier" just displaced someone else. Even if you were the first to live in SF, you displaced the natives, right?

In an ideal world, renters would gradually acquire equity in places we rent.

I suggested the option to buy an index fund. Whatever it is, the renter would have to actually pay for it on top of their rent. Otherwise, if they acquire the equity without paying for it, then it will simply drive rent up (and everyone pays for it). Also poor renters are bound to sell that equity as they go, which doesn't solve anything.

Because this type of land reform will not happen here in the foreseeable future, rent control operates as a reasonable half-measure.

Rent control ends up being a kind of "weird equity" whereby you are cashing out interest in the form of lower rent. It's also a kind of equity that can vanish the moment the landlord wants to move into your apartment.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:45 AM on August 2, 2015



[T]here’s no way out of being a gentrifier, if you happen to have the social or economic capital that causes gentrification. Regardless of whether you say hi to people on the street or forge cross-cultural social ties, your presence in a non-white, non-affluent community will, in fact, make it easier for other liberal arts graduates to move in; to open businesses that cater to you, and not the previously existing residents; to induce landlords to renovate or redevelop their properties to attract other new, wealthier residents who want access to those businesses; and, if your city restricts housing supply (it does) and doesn’t have rent control (it probably doesn’t), to ultimately create an economically segregated neighborhood of the privileged.

Similarly, living in a neighborhood where market and regulatory forces have already pushed out the low-income means you are helping sustain the high cost of living there, and therefore helping to keep the area exclusive. You can’t escape the role you play in displacement any more than a white person can escape white privilege, because those are both systemic processes that have created your relevant status and assigned its consequences. Among the relevant classes, there is no division between “gentrifiers” and “non-gentrifiers.” You don’t get to opt out.
[...]
In the case of gentrification, I think that means moving beyond the narrow issue of displacement – which I suspect dominates the conversation partly because it fits the narratives of personal guilt we find so fascinating – and to the more fundamental problem of economic segregation. That is, the fact that people get priced out of homes they already live in is only half the problem: the other half, which affects an order of magnitude more people, is that folks can’t move to neighborhoods they’d like to move to, and are stuck in neighborhoods with worse schools, more crime, and less access to jobs and amenities. That problem is easier to ignore for a variety of reasons, but it’s no less of a disaster.

posted by akgerber at 11:46 AM on August 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


An interesting issue is that the more "visible" signs of gentrification are also some of the least influential or powerful. A "hipster" who opens a small business catering to his tribe (wagering a couple hundred thousand dollars to do so) is probably on the sharp (and risky) end of gentrification.

By the time the luxury condo developers, Chipotle/Starbucks/Trader Joes/Whole Foods, and other corporate entities decide that a neighborhood is "up and coming", the little guy may have been the gentrification foot-soldier for many years, and may himself be priced out by the corporate entities.

It's not clear that there's an obvious good guy/bad guy here. The hipster entrepreneur may not be able to afford to set up shop in an already-expensive neighborhood. The corporate chains are in the business of giving a broad spectrum of people what they want and the placement of their locations is the end product of a very complex cost-benefit analysis.

Regarding rent control: don't some cities have programs where a fraction of units of certain buildings are reserved for income-contingent renters? The tenants under such programs pay a fixed 30% of their income for rent; because of income caps on the programs, 30% of their income is generally well below market rate rent. So it's not that that rent is locked in at an absurdly low rate for one person or couple (who may well be able to afford much more), but rather that it's pro-rated to income. Which seems more fair, if the social-political goal is to mix lower-income people in among the tenants of otherwise expensive buildings.
posted by theorique at 3:00 PM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Which seems more fair, if the social-political goal is to mix lower-income people in among the tenants of otherwise expensive buildings.

It doesn't sound fair to me. It sounds like a lottery for some people at the expense of others. Why not spend the lost property tax revenue on public transportation?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:13 PM on August 2, 2015


It doesn't sound fair to me. It sounds like a lottery for some people at the expense of others. Why not spend the lost property tax revenue on public transportation?

Good point. What I meant was that it was potentially a little more fair than only older, upper-class (or politically connected) citizens inhabiting their apartment at 1970s prices (traditional "rent control") and never giving them up. But at its heart, the income-contingent rent is still a means of allocation of scarce, valuable, resources to people. If we don't use money as a means of allocation, we'll use some other means. More people want to live in Manhattan or San Francisco than can currently live there.

The pure market solution ("let the MARKET set the PRICE") is viewed as too heartless or libertarian; the pure controlled economy ("the STATE will assign you a living space, CITIZEN") is viewed as too limiting on personal freedoms. I certainly don't claim have a perfect solution that will satisfy everyone.
posted by theorique at 5:05 PM on August 2, 2015


The pure market solution ("let the MARKET set the PRICE") is viewed as too heartless or libertarian; the pure controlled economy ("the STATE will assign you a living space, CITIZEN") is viewed as too limiting on personal freedoms. I certainly don't claim have a perfect solution that will satisfy everyone.

Exactly.

What I don't like are solutions that privilege a set of "lucky" people. If we're going to make social investments, they should focus on fair redistribution in my opinion. So, I would rather "let the market set the price" along with "devote taxes to mitigate the negative effects of poverty". For example, improved mass transit so that not everyone has to live in SF. Improved schools and police protection in poorer areas. Removing costs and obstacles for people being forced to move. It's just too hard, in my opinion to stand in the way of the market.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:24 PM on August 2, 2015


Right, but in a political climate where we will never actually do the fair redistribution thing right, you've got to do what you can to try to help people right now. The advantage that things like rent control and zoning policy have is that they can be set at the municipal level where policies are more responsive to the needs of people in poverty, (even if the budgets might not allow them to be as responsive as any of us might want.) But when you're talking about an income redistribution scheme that could actually change the game in the way you've described, municipalities simply don't have enough resources to make that happen, and you're talking about state and federal involvement, which means nothing happens.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:19 AM on August 3, 2015


Why not just tax the hell out of rental income and earmark those tax dollars for infrastructure? Wouldn't that force the market to adjust. landlords who don't want to pay high taxes keep their rents low, high demand/high rent areas help to float the needed infrastructure -- does no city do this?
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:42 PM on August 3, 2015


Why not just tax the hell out of rental income and earmark those tax dollars for infrastructure?

Property tax already works like this, in the sense that rental property value is tied to rental income. How property taxes are allocated is a political process, of course. And fairly local; school districts fund themselves via mill levy, but the resource pooling stops at city limits, or district limits, typically. Hence well funded suburban districts and underperforming urban core schools.

landlords who don't want to pay high taxes keep their rents low, high demand/high rent areas help to float the needed infrastructure

I don't think you've thought this through all the way. You're proposing a situation in which a landlord is taxed so much they choose to reduce income. You might think it's plausible, until you reverse the situation. Imagine a landlord in a low rent situation, who chooses not to increase rents because it would mean an even greater increase in taxes. This also means the marginal tax rate would be over 100 percent. Assuming politicians don't nuke your proposal from orbit as socalist agiprop, it would lead to a complete stop in building more rental units, or even repairing them. Most would be sold off or otherwise structured to prevent punitive rental classification, further reducing the available housing stock to credit impoverished renters.
posted by pwnguin at 5:52 PM on August 3, 2015


landlords who don't want to pay high taxes keep their rents low

That's not how taxes work; you don't keep more money by reducing your income. You may keep a higher fraction of your income but you still keep less money in absolute numbers. If anything it would encourage landlords to raise rents as high as possible to maximize their take home.
posted by Justinian at 5:53 PM on August 3, 2015




Weird, I came here to post that article, tmotat.

The idea purported by comments like this is that people who live in a neighborhood first have some kind of moral right over people who move in later. And why should they?

Because those people have invested in the community. They've invested by keeping a stable population in the neighborhood. They've invested in supporting local businesses, even if they were limited. They've invested by working in the neighborhood. They are the keepers of the neighborhood's history. They've created neighborhood traditions. They've invested by growing their families and creating a home in a community. They may be the reason there's cable and Internet service. And all the while there's a good chance that the people living there first were underserved by the police and fire departments, by schools and libraries, and access to heathy food options.

Poor people aren't caretakers, here to keep underdeveloped neighborhoods from going completely to shit until some developer decides they want to build condos there.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:40 PM on August 3, 2015


Poor people aren't caretakers, here to keep underdeveloped neighborhoods from going completely to shit until some developer decides they want to build condos there.

There seems to be a commonly-held moral sense among many people that this is the case. How many movies have we seen where the antagonist is an "evil real-estate developer" who wants to steamroll over locality, tradition, community, and heritage, in order to increase his already-immense pile of wealth?

Without economic or legal power, the residents of a poor neighborhood are at the mercy of such developers. Renters, as always, are most precarious. Community land trusts as described in the article might be one way for communities to push back against free-floating capital that identifies their locale as the next "up and coming neighborhood".
posted by theorique at 9:27 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why not just tax the hell out of rental income and earmark those tax dollars for infrastructure? Wouldn't that force the market to adjust. landlords who don't want to pay high taxes keep their rents low, high demand/high rent areas help to float the needed infrastructure -- does no city do this?

This will make it more expensive to rent and cheaper to own — the opposite effect of what you want.

Because those people have invested in the community…

Yes, I agree.

The situation is that when property values appreciate, the owners take the whole benefit. When they depreciate, the owners bear the entire cost. Their investment (and risk) in the community is their capital. When the neighborhood gentrifies, the renters just pay more, and if the neighborhood turns into a slum, the renters just move somewhere else with one month's notice. No risk, no reward.

If you want to transfer some of the neighborhood's appreciation to the renters in return for their humanist investments, then the question is how much does each person get? Is everyone's contribution equal? Maybe a "renter's gentrification tax deduction" would translate to some extra dollars where they are most needed.

Ultimately, the person taking the risk is going to get the lion's share of the appreciation, or else the risk won't be taken in the first place. More people would rent; potential owners would invest their money elsewhere.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2015




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