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Gentrification is not a new process. Very much have been said in regard to gentrification but still, there exist some variations in its discussions. For this reason, it is a concept that has drawn a lot of attention from different directions, each party having the need to have a deeper understanding about it.
Gentrification can be defined as the process of buying and renovating of buildings/ houses located in the depreciated urban neighbourhoods by the upper and middle income individuals and families. This is aimed at improving property values although it has a negative effect of displacing the poor or the low income families and small businesses.
It could also be termed as “ the process…by which poor and working-class neighbourhoods in the inner city are refurbished by an influx of private capital and middle-class homebuyers and renters….a dramatic yet unpredicted reversal of what most twentieth-century urban theories had been predicting as the fate of the central and inner-city.” (Slater 2002). This piece of work looks at the aspect of gentrification with much emphasis being given to the different perspectives that have been brought forward in regard to gentrification.
Different Perspectives of Gentrification
There are various perspectives of gentrification. Gentrification has been associated with an increase in the average level of income per individual and an average decrease in family size in the society. All in all, the process of gentrification does not adhere to the principle of equality between the poor and the rich but rather tends to widen the gap between them.
For this reason, the following aspects are linked with gentrification; poor living standards of the low income earning people thus they are unable to sustain themselves, for instance, through paying increased rents and taxes. Displacement is however the main negative effect of gentrification.
A positive contribution of the process of gentrification is that it enhances economic development which in turn helps in the reduction of poverty and crime levels, increase in the prices and values of properties as well as an increase in revenues collected from tax (Atkinson and Bridge 2005).
Urban gentrification is associated with bringing about change in the nature of culture characterization. It brings about a more economically homogeneous society eliminating the character of culture heterogeneity. Over the years, the aspects linked with gentrification have significantly changed.
The changes are attributed to a variety of factors some of them being, urban consolidation that have been brought about by compact city policies, economic streamlining and state intervention in various issues for instance the development of brown field sites through the housing demand of the new middle class (Freeman 2006).
In order to understand the concept of gentrification in a better manner, it is good to look at the various perspectives or approaches that, in one way or the other, tend to bring about the origin and causes of the spread of gentrification. Some of the perspectives that I will look at include; the socio-cultural, the political and economic, the demographic and ecological, the social movements as well as community networks perspectives.
The social-cultural perspective of the process of gentrification is based on the argument that aspects like beliefs, values, attitudes, choices and opinions are most suitable in the explanation and prediction of human behaviour as opposed to populations’ characteristics such as demographics.
This approach therefore emphasizes on the changes in lifestyles and attitudes of the upper and middle class of the late 20th century. These individuals became more urban oriented and thus avoiding the rural lifestyle. There were therefore movements into the cities as they were viewed to be more favourable. This led to formation of inner city. Criticism of this perspective is that the existing values determine people’s decisions to live as opposed to the changing values (London and Palen 1984).
The demographic and ecological perspective explains gentrification through the demographics which includes technological advances, population and social structure and the environment. This perspective focuses on the increase in the number of people of (25-35 years) towards the end of the 20th century.
Due to the increase in population, there was a rise in the demand for housing. As a result, cities were restructured to cater for the demand. This generation was relatively different in terms of demographics, for instance, they did not get married early and they opted for few children. Women were also involved in men-related jobs. This lifestyle promoted living in the cities to be closer to job areas (Lees 2000).
The other approach of gentrification is the political-economic perspective. This is divided into traditional and Marxist views. The traditional view is based on the fact that political and economic attributes contributed greatly to the invasion of the inner-city.
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Political changes led to gentrification of neighbourhoods. Another aspect that led to the invasion of cities is the insufficiency of rural land and increase in housing cost. Marxist approach tends to disagree with the traditional view. It states that interests groups became interested with the cities once they realized they would gain something from it; revenue. This led to the displacement of the poor.
Community network is the other perspective of gentrification. The community is regarded as a powerful and interactive social unit capable of initiating changes. According to London and Palen (1984), there is the community lost and community saved perspectives. The community lost point of view states that small-scale and less powerful local community is replaced with large-scale powerful societies.
The difference has been brought about by advancement in the telecommunication sector as technological advancement is witnessed. The community saved on the other hand asserts that revitalization of neighbourhoods as a result of gentrification results into an increase in community activity.
The social movements approach centres on ideologically founded movements particularly with respect to leader-follower ties. The approach argues that the individuals who are more into gentrification do that due to encouragements they get from leaders to revitalize the inner city. Those who do not support gentrification on the other hand are the poor and less powerful and hence oppose gentrification practices in an effort to gain some powers and voice (Bounds and Morris 2006).
From the above discussion, it is evident that the issue of gentrification is very wide and complex. This has led to a lot of controversy in the way the issue is discussed with some individuals and groups supporting it fully while others are against it, stating that it is disadvantageous.
There are different perspectives of gentrification each bringing about different but related ideas. The variability of the processes involved has for instance led to lack of a commonly agreed definition of gentrification. The issues involved are related to economic, social, political as well as cultural concepts.
Atkinson, R and Bridge, G. 2005. Gentrification in a Global Context: The New Urban Colonialism. New York: Routledge
Bounds, M. and Morris, A. 2006.Second Wave Gentrification in Inner-City Sydney. Cities, Vol. 23, No. 2, p. 99–108
Freeman, L. 2006. There goes the ‘Hood: Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up. Philadelphia, PA, Temple University Press
Lees, L. 2000. A Reappraisal of Gentrification: Towards’ Geography of Gentrification. Progress in Human Geography 24, 3 (2000) pp. 389–408
London, B. and Palen, J. 1984. Gentrification, Displacement, and Neighbourhood Revitalization. New York, SUNY Press
Slater, T. 2002. What is Gentrification? [Online] Web.