Revitalization or Gentrification?

Eric Garland Economic trends, Social trends Leave a Comment

Two pieces of news caught my eye yesterday. I saw this piece about Sister Empress Phile, who will be going to the United Nations to talk about the human rights violations inherent in the gentrification of North Philadelphia. There is no doubt that many urban neighborhoods in America are blighted. Most people would agree that nicer buildings and street lights that work and properly paved roads are a step in the right direction. But what happens when that throws long-time residents onto the street, with nary a care as to where they might live?

“In the very near future, we are going to ask for accountability from our elected officials,” Phile said yesterday. “Questions have to be answered: How did this development occur? And what representatives within the community were contacted or notified?”

Phile said the federal Centers for Disease Control, as part of its Healthy Community Design Initiative, found that gentrification and displacement can have “negative consequences” on the health of some populations: the poor, women, children, the elderly, and members of racial/ethnic minority groups because of stress and the loss of social networks.

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These are absolutely vital questions as we build the infrastructure of the 21st century. Which leads to our second piece of news: Sarah Kendzior, the anthropologist-turned-social-critic who has gone viral innumerable times with her pieces about understanding the dynamic between powerful and powerless, will be dealing with this exact subject in her presentation at Transition Economics 2014. Yesterday she told me that her focus will be how to manage urban redevelopment so that it does not become another gentrification project that casually throws people onto the street, a subject she is studying in depth through recent projects.

Our challenge is not just understand the problem, but to determine active steps to change things for the better.

How would you handle this conundrum?