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Several years ago in an upscale comedy club located in a relatively downscale Los Angeles neighborhood, the owner gave an impassioned speech about how gentrification was affecting the Hispanic culture that once thrived there. The overlying, tear-filled message was that nothing could be done to preserve the integrity of her home and that LA was losing its heritage. When businesses push up the cost of living, it inevitably drives out both renters and owners without the income to support it. We'll look at what can be done to stem the tides.
Is Gentrification Inevitable?
This answer is not exactly straightforward, but it's certainly not easy to stop. When money talks, the natural response for everyone is to take more when it's offered. We've seen this nearly everywhere with a name-brand business, and the efforts to end it haven't exactly blown anyone away.
However, there's also no reason to accept gentrification as fact either. One of the smartest ways to fight it is for everyone to band together and raise their collective voices. Most notably, we saw this in NYC when the Amazon announcement was made. The objections raised were enough to make a nearly $1 trillion company think again.
Cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are struggling with a homelessness crisis that stems, in part, from failing to recognize how average salaries compare to average housing costs. If officials continue to assert that housing is affordable when it's anything but, the goal is to force them to confront the problem before entire neighborhoods are transformed.
Doing the Work
Cities impacted by big business can quickly become transient areas. People come to see their fortune, but ultimately plan to settle in a more unassuming area. This mindset is fertile territory for gentrification because it leaves big gaps in those willing to fight for long-term change.
If people in the neighborhood are paying an exorbitant amount in rent, it's not going to end if it's not brought to anyone's attention. There needs to be some unity, regardless of motivating reasons, if there's going to be any changes.
For example, many people have pointed to dilapidated bank-owned property as a potential source of gentrification. These abandoned homes become dens for criminal activity, causing law-abiding residents to leave and leaving room for developers to bulldoze whole blocks. Forcing cities to penalize banks who leave these properties can go a long way to preserving the neighborhood.
Gentrification is a big topic that won't be solved by just a few dissenters. Unfortunately, it may not even stop with many dissenters. Still, there's enough evidence to show that collective action can make a difference.